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USING IDIOMS 活用成語

Hernan Cortes orders the scuttling of his ships (1519), Rafael de Monleon y Torres, 1887.
《艾爾南‧柯提斯下令將其艦隊鑿沉(一五一九年)》。拉菲爾‧德‧孟雷恩‧伊‧托雷斯作。一八八七年。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese practice

破釜沉舟;焚舟破釜;過河拆橋

destroy the cooking pots and sink the boats;

burn the boats and destroy the cooking pots;

cross the river and dismantle the bridge

(po4 fu3 chen2 zhou1; fen2 zhou1 po4 fu3; guo4 he2 chai1 qiao2)

古羅馬軍隊行軍常在離開時把橋樑燒毀,以切斷敵人的對外聯繫,也是撤退的手段,但這同時也讓他們沒有逃脫的餘地。這做法傳達給部隊這樣的訊息:在這險境,你不是戰勝,就是滅亡。在古代,把船燒掉的做法也很常見,亦出於相同的原因。西班牙征服者艾爾南‧柯提斯一五一九年四月在今墨西哥韋拉克魯斯州附近海域,將其艦隊鑿沉,以避免他登陸揮軍特諾奇蒂特蘭前發生兵變。有兩個中文成語跟這做法直接相關:「破釜沉舟」(把飯鍋打破、把船鑿沉),以及「焚舟破釜」(燒毀船隻、打破飯鍋)。

第一個成語「破釜沉舟」,典出《史記‧項羽本紀》。項羽的兵力遠不及敵軍,於是他命令士卒將退路摧毀,以激勵軍心:「項羽乃悉引兵渡河,皆沉船,破釜甑,燒廬舍,持三日糧,以示士卒必死,無一還心」(項羽便率領全部軍隊過河,把船隻全部弄沉、把鍋碗全都砸破、把軍營全部燒毀,只帶了三天的軍糧,以此向士卒展現一定要決死戰鬥,毫無退還之決心)。現今的成語「破釜沉舟」,是以「沉舟」一詞替換了「沉船」。

第二個成語「焚舟破釜」,源自古中國軍事論著《孫子兵法》。在〈九地〉一章,作者描述了戰技高超將領的做法:「易其事,革其謀,使人無識,易其居,迂其途,使人不得慮。帥與之期,如登高而去其梯,帥與之深,入諸侯之地而發其機。焚舟破釜,若驅群羊,驅而往,驅而來,莫知所之」(變更作戰部署,改變原定計劃,〔將帥〕使敵人無法識破真相;不時變換駐地,故意迂回前進,讓敵人無從推測其意圖。將帥給軍隊作戰任務,要像使其登高而抽去梯子一樣。將帥率領士卒深入敵方諸侯國土後,才會現出底牌的實力。將帥把船焚毀、把煮飯鍋打破,對待士卒要能像驅趕羊群一樣,趕過去又趕過來,使他們不知道要到哪裡去)。

「破釜沉舟」和「焚舟破釜」都是表示完成任務的決心。英文成語「to burn one’s boats」(把自己的船燒掉)和「to burn one’s bridges」(燒掉一座橋)也表示沒有回頭路,但其意通常是負面的,例如「be careful not to burn your bridges」(小心別燒掉你的橋樑),是用來勸人小心謹慎,或是警告。

「to burn one’s bridges」的意義,反倒類似中文成語「過河拆橋」──過了河之後,就把橋給拆了。此語典出《元史》的〈徹里帖木兒列傳〉。元朝最後一位皇帝元順帝下令取消科舉制度,大臣徐有壬表示反對,徐有壬他自己便是通過科舉才做了官的。廢除科舉的詔令頒布時,徐有壬被安排跪在官員最前面,備受羞辱。他知道自己不能忤逆皇帝,只好默認這廢除科舉的政令。在場的治書侍御史普化看到了,便譏諷徐有壬說:「參政可謂過河拆橋者矣」(你是通過科舉考試才飛黃騰達的人,現在卻要廢除科舉制度,可說是過了河,就把橋給拆了)。這便是成語「過河拆橋」的由來,比喻人不念舊情、忘恩負義。

(台北時報林俐凱譯)

他宣布參選市長,同時辭去議員的職務,展現破釜沉舟的必勝決心。

(He announced his intention to run for mayor, and at the same time resigned his position as city councilor, to demonstrate his resolve to win.)

英文練習

don’t burn your boats/ bridges

Ancient Roman armies on the march would often burn bridges behind them in order to cut off their enemy’s lines of communication and means of retreat, but also to deny themselves the possibility of escape. This denial sent a message to the troops: either be victorious or perish in hostile lands. The practice of burning boats was common in ancient times, and for the same reason. The Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes, too, scuttled his fleet off the coast of the present day Mexican state of Veracruz in April 1519 to prevent a mutiny before he led his forces inland to Tenochtitlan. There are two Chinese idioms that refer directly to this practice: 破釜沉舟 (destroy the cooking pots and sink the boats) and 焚舟破釜 (burn the boats and destroy the cooking pots).

The first, 破釜沉舟, derives from the xiangyu benji (Annals of Xiang Yu) of the shiji (Records of the Grand Historian), in which the outnumbered general Xiang Yu galvanizes his forces’ resolve by having them destroy their means of escape. The text contains the sentence 項羽乃悉引兵渡河,皆沈船,破釜甑,燒廬舍,持三日糧,以示士卒必死,無一還心 (Xiang Yu then had his entire force cross the river, and then made them sink their boats, destroy their cooking pots and stoves, burn their shelters and carry with them only three days’ worth of provisions, to demonstrate that they would not be returning). In the modern idiom, the characters “沈船” are replaced by “沉舟.”

The second comes from the ancient Chinese military treatise the sunzi bingfa (Sunzi’s the Art of War), where, in the section jiudi (Nine Situations), the writer describes the characteristics of the skillful general, saying 易其事,革其謀,使人無識,易其居,迂其途,使人不得慮。帥與之期,如登高而去其梯,帥與之深,入諸侯之地而發其機。焚舟破釜,若驅群羊,驅而往,驅而來,莫知所之 (By altering his arrangements and changing his plans, [the general] keeps the enemy without knowledge. By shifting his camp and taking circuitous routes, he prevents the enemy from anticipating his purpose. The leader of an army acts like one who has climbed up a height and then kicks away the ladder behind him. He carries his men deep into hostile territory before he shows his hand. He burns his boats and breaks his cooking pots; like a shepherd driving a flock of sheep, he drives his men this way and that, and nobody knows where he is going).

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