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USING IDIOMS 活用成語

Fall, by Jan Josef Horemans the Elder.
《秋收》,老揚‧約瑟夫‧霍雷曼斯作。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese practice

水到渠成;瓜熟蒂落

where water flows, a canal is formed; when the melon is ripe, it falls

(shui3 dao4 qu2 cheng2; gua2 shou2 di4 luo4)

水流過的地方,會形成一道溝渠。之後流過的水便會自然而然再沿著這溝渠路徑流過,因為這樣的阻力最小。北宋詩人及政治家蘇軾在一封信中便運用此概念,寫下「水到渠成」一語──字面意思是「有水湧入,自可成為溝渠」──表示一旦準備好了,其他一切都會相應地進行。「水到渠成」已是現今常用的成語,意為「當條件成熟時,便自然而然地會成功」。

蘇軾在〈答秦太虛書〉這封信中,對友人秦太虛說,他被貶到黃州,沒有薪水,很擔心無法養活家人。蘇軾告訴秦太虛說,他仿效朋友賈耘的做法,來掌握其財務狀況。

蘇軾說他每個月從積蓄中拿出四千五百錢,並將這些錢幣分成三十袋,每袋一百五十枚,然後把這些袋子懸掛在屋樑上。每天早上,他會叫人用一把乾草叉挑取一袋,然後再叫人把叉給藏起來。這袋錢便是當天的開支,若有用剩的,就都放在竹筒裡,用來做招待客人的費用。如此一來,蘇軾估計他的儲蓄可以用一年。至於之後呢,他說,會有其他安排,因為畢竟:「至時,別作經畫,水到渠成,不須預慮。以此,胸中都無一事」(至於一年多以後,再另作打算,反正水到渠成,現在不必太早去考慮。有了這樣安排後,心中為之一寬,我便不再焦慮了)。

「水到渠成」可能是因為蘇軾的作品而成為成語。但它也出現在禪宗佛教史書《景德傳燈錄》中,該書由僧人釋道原所著,出版於西元一○○四年,即蘇軾出生前數十年。第十二卷中記載:「僧問。文殊是七佛師。文殊有師否。師云。遇緣即有。曰如何是文殊師。師豎拂子示之。僧曰。莫遮箇是麼。師放下拂子又手。問如何是妙用一句。師曰。水到渠成。」(一位僧人問道:「文殊菩薩是過去七大佛的老師;那文殊菩薩有老師嗎?」師父答道:「若遇到緣份就有。」又問,「文殊菩薩的老師是誰?」師父豎起了拂塵。僧人問:「難道就是這支拂塵嗎?」師父放下拂塵,叉手當胸。僧人說:「請老師給一句話。」師父說:「水到渠成。」)

在蘇軾寫信給秦太虛的數世紀前,南朝梁畫家及作家張纘作了〈瓜賦〉這篇文章,描述瓜類生長過程所經歷的改變。文章末尾,張纘寫道:「潛湫獨熟,墮莖落蒂。芬馥酷烈,氣暢雲際」(瓜在低溼狹小的地方慢慢成熟後,瓜蒂就會從莖部自然脫落,然後散發出一股濃郁的香甜氣味,散佈在空氣中)。由此句我們得出了成語「瓜熟蒂落」(當甜瓜成熟了,它就會掉下來),比喻問題會在時機成熟時解決。同樣的概念也可用英文「the time is ripe」(時機成熟)來表達。這是出自威廉‧莎士比亞的《亨利四世第一部》(第一幕第三景),劇中伍斯特伯爵說:「When time is ripe, which will be suddenly, I’ll steal to Glendower and Lord Mortimer.」(時機會忽然成熟,到時我會悄悄地到格倫道爾和摩提默侯爵那裡去)。

「the time is ripe」和「瓜熟蒂落」,都意指當前有最佳條件可以採取某種行動;但「水到渠成」則是意味這些條件之所以具備,是因為已經做好準備了。

(台北時報林俐凱譯)

有些改革若強行推動,會造成民眾反彈。只要改善經濟,再加上合適的社會氛圍,便能水到渠成。

(Forced reform sometimes meets with public resistance. Only an improved economy in combination with the right social atmosphere will bring about change in due course.)

這一年多來,我們的團隊不斷努力、精益求精,勝利的果實終於瓜熟蒂落。

(For the past year our team has been working hard putting the final touches to this project, and we are now seeing our efforts coming to fruition.)

英文練習

the time is ripe

When water flows, it cuts a channel. When the path of the channel is established, subsequent flows will naturally take that route, following the path of least resistance. The Northern Song Dynasty poet and statesman Su Shi used this idea in a letter, writing 水到渠成 — literally “where water flows, a canal is formed” — to suggest that, once preparations are in place, everything else proceeds accordingly. The phrase is still used in the modern language, as an idiom meaning “when conditions are right, success will follow naturally.”

Su was writing to a friend of his, Qin Taixu. He had been exiled to Huangzhou and, denied a salary, he was anxious about how he would support his family. In the letter, he told Qin of the system he had set in place, inspired by the example of another friend, Jia Yun, to ensure that he was able to control his finances.

Every month, he would take 4,500 coins from his savings and divide these among 30 bags of 150 coins each. These individual bags he hung from the rafters of his house. In the morning, he would have someone bring him a pitchfork, which he would use to bring down one bag of coins, before having a family member conceal the pitchfork again. He would have to make sure that money was sufficient for the day’s expenditure. Any money left over for that day was put into a bamboo holder, and would be used for entertaining guests. This way, he anticipated his savings would last for a year. By that time, he said, he would have made alternative arrangements. After all, he wrote, 至時,別作經畫,水到渠成,不須預慮。以此,胸中都無一事: “Until then, there’s no need to make plans. When water flows, a channel forms; there is no need to concern oneself ahead of time. Because of this, I am no longer anxious.”

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