Traces of Wenzhou by Zhu Ziqing ~ 朱自清 《温州的足迹》 with English Translations


朱自清 《温州的足迹》


试想在圆月朦胧之夜,海棠是这样的妩媚而嫣润;枝头的好鸟为什么却双栖而各梦呢?在这夜深人静的当儿,那高踞着的一只八哥儿,又为何尽撑着眼皮儿不肯睡去呢?他到底等 什么来着?舍不得那淡淡的月儿么?舍不得那疏疏的帘儿么?不,不,不,您得到帘下去找,您得向帘中去找——您该找着那卷帘人了?他的情韵风怀,原是这样这样的哟!朦胧的岂独月呢;岂独鸟呢?但是,咫尺天涯,教我如何耐得?我拼着千呼万唤;你能够出来么?







Traces of Wenzhou
Zhu Ziqing

This is a very small horizontal scroll, just over a foot wide, painted by Ma Mengrong. In the left-hand top corner a long and flimsy green curtain is suspended at a slant; it occupies one third of the vertical and two thirds of the horizontal space. In the centre of the curtain is positioned a yellow hook, shaped like the spout of a teapot—this would be what they call a ‘soft gold hook’, I imagine. From the bend of the hook hangs a pair of tassels, stone grey in colour; their threads are somewhat awry, as if they are being pulled by a breeze. on the right is a full moon, which is shedding its pale bluish light over the whole of the surface of the painting. The moon is pure, soft and peaceful, like the face of a sleeping beauty. Sloping downward from the top edge of the curtain is a branch of a flowering crabapple. The luxuriant flowers and leaves are evenly spaced, there being five sprays along the length of the branch. Some are dense, some are sparse, but all are dainty and pleasing. The green leaves are so succulent that at a pinch the sap would flow; depending on how much moonlight they catch, there is a slight difference in their shade of green. The flowers are in full bloom, their red so gorgeous that it nearly brims over; the yellow stamens stand out sharply and brightly, the green background enhancing their attractiveness. The branch bends upwards like the raised arm of a fair maid. A pair of mynah birds sit on it, facing the curtain, with their backs to the moon. The one on the higher perch has its eyes half shut, as if, still hankering after something, it is reluctant to go to sleep. The one lower down is turned to face the other bird, and is already asleep, its head drawn in. The space below the curtain is empty, free of all trace of the brush.

We may wonder why, given the soft light of the full moon, and the lush and captivating beauty of the crabapple, these sweet birds perch together but dream separately. In the hush of night, why is the mynah on the higher part of the branch fighting to keep its eyes open? Whatever can it be waiting for? Is it loath to forsake the pale moon? Is it fascinated by the flimsy curtain? No, no, no. You must look for the answer below the curtain, you have to go behind the curtain—you have found the person who rolled up the curtain, haven’t you? What charm and refinement, no wonder! We should have realized that the moon and the birds were not the only ones to be retiring. But so near and yet so far: how can I restrain myself? I call with all my might: will you come out from where you are?

This painting sets its scene so economically, its colours are so soft and vivid, that no one could not be struck by its brilliance. Though its canvas is tiny, its resonance is powerful enough to turn your bones to jelly. When I saw this painting I was transfixed, and could not tear myself away. Hence I have described my impressions in some detail in order to record the encounter, though I am a layman when it comes to painting, and the experts will laugh up their sleeves. Well, let them get on with it.

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