Mon, Jan 01, 2018 - Page 9 News List

USING IDIOMS 活用成語

La Recolte Des Foins (the Hay Harvest) by Julien Dupre.
《收割乾草》,朱利安·杜培作。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese Practice

未雨綢繆

(wei4 yu3 chou2 mou2)

before the rains, bind with silk

英格蘭作家約翰‧海伍德(約西元一四九七~一五八○年)一五四六出版的《英文諺語全集》中,有一首韻詩寫道:

Whan the sunne shinth make hay. Whiche is to say.

Take time whan time cometh, lest time steale away.

這詩在現代英語中的意思是:

在出太陽時曬乾草。此即謂,

機會來了就要把握住,以免錯失良機。

都鐸王朝時期的英格蘭沒有現代的機器,農人得要花好幾天的時間才能夠把草曬乾,做成飼料用乾草,而且要預測天氣很難。農人不希望割下的乾草被打濕,因為水氣會讓乾草裡的養分流失。因此,趁出大太陽的時候製作乾草飼料是很重要的。此即為諺語「make hay while the sun shines」(趁有陽光時曬乾草)的由來。這也就是說,當條件合適的時候,應好好把握時機,不要等到後來情況有所改變。

這也是《聖經》〈箴言〉第十章第五節的概念──雖然我們無法確知這是否為該英諺的出處:

「夏天聚斂的,是智慧之子;收割時沉睡的,是貽羞之子。」

這就是說,在適當的時機執行作業是牢靠的;錯失能成事的完美條件是可恥的。

的確,在下雨前做好充分準備這個概念,可見於一部比《聖經》更古老的書──中國古經典《詩經》(年代為西元前十一至前七世紀)。《詩經.豳風.鴟鴞》中以一隻鳥的自述語氣寫道:

迨天之未陰雨、徹彼桑土、綢繆牖戶。今女下民、或敢侮予。

(我趁著天未陰雨,啄取那桑樹根的皮,在我的窩巢用樹皮緊緊編築成窗門。現在你們樹下的人,還有誰敢欺負我。)

戰國時期哲學經典《孟子》中的〈公孫丑上〉一章,也引用了這首詩。現今所用的成語「未雨綢繆」,則出現在西元一七三九年清代印行的《明史》卷二五八,字面意義為「在下雨前,用絲綢纏縛」。

(台北時報林俐凱譯)

因應人口老化的趨勢,政府應未雨綢繆,及早規劃配套措施。

(The government should prepare now for the aging population problem, and put measures in place as soon as possible, before it’s too late.)

趁現在把房子修繕好是未雨綢繆,以免颱風來襲時造成嚴重損失。

(It makes sense to renovate the place now, otherwise it might get seriously damaged when the typhoons come.)

英文練習

make hay while the sun shines

In John Heywood’s 1546 collection of English proverbs, A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, there appears a rhyme:

“Whan the sunne shinth make hay. Whiche is to say.

Take time whan time cometh, lest time steale away.”

In modern English, this is:

When the sun shines, make hay. Which is to say,

Take time when the time comes, in case the time goes away.

In Tudor England, before the availability of modern machinery, the task of making hay for livestock feed would have taken farmers several days, and it would have been difficult to predict weather days in advance. They would not have wanted the cut hay to get wet, as moisture can leach out many nutrients. It was important, then, to get to work making hay when the sun was shining. This gives us the proverb “make hay while the sun shines.” That is, when the conditions are right, make good use of the time; don’t wait until circumstances have moved on.

It is a concept that is found in — although it is by no means certain that the English proverb is derived from — Proverbs 10:5 of the Bible:

“He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.”

In other words, doing tasks at the proper time is prudent; allowing the perfect conditions for a task to pass is shameful.

Indeed, the idea of making adequate preparation before the rains arrive is found in a book older still than the Bible: The ancient Chinese classic the Book of Poetry or shi jing, which dates to the 11th to 7th centuries BC. In the Odes Of Bin of the Lessons from the States section of the shi jing there is the poem chi xiao, written from the perspective of a bird:

迨天之未陰雨、徹彼桑土、綢繆牖戶。

今女下民、或敢侮予。

“Before the heavens were dark with rain,

I gathered the bark from the roots of the mulberry trees,

And wove it closely to form the window and door of my nest;

Now, I thought, ye people below,

Perhaps ye will not dare to insult me.”

The poem was also quoted in the Gong Sun Chou I chapter of the Warring States philosophical text the Mencius, and appeared in the form of the modern idiom 未雨綢繆, literally “before it rains, bind around with silk,” in chapter 258 of the History of Ming, printed in 1739 during the Qing Dynasty.

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