《天演论》的第一段

作者: 阮一峰

日期: 2005年9月14日

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严复所译《天演论》(1898)的第一段,是中国翻译史中最有名的段落之一。

赫胥黎独处一室之中,在英伦之南,背山而面野。槛外诸境,历历如在几下。乃悬想二千年前,当罗马列大将恺彻未到时,此间有何景物。计惟有天造草昧,人功未施,其借征人境者,不过几处荒坟,散见坡陀起伏间。而灌木丛林,蒙茸山麓,未经删治如今日者,则无疑也。怒生之草,交加之藤,势如争长相雄,各据一抔壤土。夏与畏日争,冬与严霜争,四时之内,飘风怒吹,或西发西洋,或东起北海,旁午交扇,无时而息。上有鸟兽之践啄,下有蚁蝝之啮伤。憔悴孤虚,旋生旋灭。菀枯顷刻,莫可究详。是离离者亦各尽天能,以自存种族而已。数亩之内,战事炽然,强者后亡,弱者先绝。年年岁岁,偏有留遗。未知始自何年,更不知止于何代。苟人事不施于其间,则莽莽榛榛,长此互相吞并,混逐蔓延而已,而诘之者谁耶?

原文如下(Huxley, Thomas Henry, Evolution and Ethics,1894):

IT may be safely assumed that, two thousand years ago, before Caesar set foot in southern Britain, the whole country-side visible from the windows of the room in which I write, was in what is called "the state of nature." Except, it may be, by raising a few sepulchral mounds, such as those which still, here and there, break the flowing contours of the downs, man's hands had made no mark upon it; and the thin veil of vegetation which overspread the broad-backed heights and the shelving sides of the coombs was unaffected by his industry. The native grasses and weeds, the scattered patches of gorse, contended with one another for the possession of the scanty surface soil; they fought against the droughts of summer, the frosts of winter, and the furious gales which swept, with unbroken force, now from the Atlantic, and now from the North Sea, at all times of the year; they filled up, as they best might, the gaps made in their ranks by all sorts of underground and overground animal ravagers. One year with another, an average population, the floating balance of the unceasing struggle for existence among the indigenous plants, maintained itself. It is as little to be doubted, that an essentially similar state of nature prevailed, in this region, for many thousand years before the coming of Caesar; and there is no assignable reason for denying that it might continue to exist through an equally prolonged futurity, except for the intervention of man.

1971年,科学出版社出过一个白话译本,名字换成了直译的《进化与伦理》(未署译者)。其中,第一段是这样翻译的:

可以有把握地想象,二千年前,当凯撒到达不列颠南部之前,从我正在写作的这间屋子的窗口可以看到整个原野是一种所谓"自然状态"。也许除了若干突起的坟墓已在几处破坏了连绵的丘陵的轮廓以外,此地未经人工修葺整治。薄薄的植被笼罩着广阔的高地和峡谷的斜坡,还没有受到人的劳动的影响。本地的牧草和杂草,分散在一小块一小块土地上的金雀花,为了占据贫乏的表面土壤而互相竞争着;它们同夏季的烈日斗争,同冬季的严霜斗争,同一年四季从大西洋或北海不断吹来的狂风斗争;它们尽其最大可能来弥补为各种地上和地下动物所造成的破坏。年复一年,在本地植物中不停的生存竞争,在不平衡的状态下,维持了它们自己的通常种群数量。无可怀疑,凯撒到来之前的几千年,在这个地区主要的是类似的自然状态占优势;除非由于人的干预,也没有可以申明的理由来否定它能够经过同样长的将来继续生存下去。

(完)

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留言(4条)

看罢严复译本再看原文,竟觉不堪一读。中文实在奇妙。

第一句英文,严复的译文,难为雅言,也不合周秦古文之绳。白话译文,好似民国初期鬼魂之遗作,不象70年代活人的普通话。早于十年前顷还魂的启明老人,已不写欧化的国语了。

下面是我写的:

无疑可以认定,我书房窗外,这片乡土景观,两千年前,於恺撒未踏入英国南部时,可称为‘自然’。
IT may be safely assumed that, two thousand years ago, before Caesar set foot in southern Britain, the whole country-side visible from the windows of the room in which I write,was in what is called "the state of nature."

引用药茶的发言:

下面是我写的:
无疑可以认定,我书房窗外,这片乡土景观,两千年前,於恺撒未踏入英国南部时,可称为‘自然’。

译得好!

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