(zi4 shi2 e4 guo3)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
to eat one’s own bitter fruit
「Malisoun generally may be seyd every maner power of harm. Swich cursynge bireveth man fro the regne of God, as seith Seint Paul. And oft tyme swiche cursynge wrongfully retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a byrd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest」（詛咒可能有各種害處。正如聖保羅告訴我們的，咒詛會使人遠離上帝的國度。詛咒常會回到發出詛咒的人，就像一隻鳥會回到牠的巢）。
教士說詛咒會回到詛咒者，「就像一隻鳥回到牠的巢」（like a bird returning to its nest）這個比喻，及其衍伸義──所做的任何壞事都會在日後回過頭來到做壞事的人身上，在一三九○年喬叟動念要寫此書時，已是眾所周知的概念。兩世紀之後，一五九二年的戲劇《The Lamentable and True Tragedie of Master Arden Of Feversham in Kent: Who Was Most Wickedlye Murdered, By the Meanes of His Disloyall and Wanton Wyfe》（肯特郡費弗舍姆阿登少爺哀傷的真實悲劇：被他不忠、淫蕩的夫人極其惡毒地謀殺）（此劇被認為是莎士比亞所作），重新審視了詛咒回到發出詛咒者的概念，雖然用了不同的比喻：
到了十九世紀，英國浪漫主義詩人羅伯‧邵塞（一七七四～一八四三年）一八一○年的詩《克哈馬的詛咒》，其扉頁題詞為「Curses are like young chicken: they always come home to roost」（詛咒就像小雞一樣：牠們總是回到雞棚休息）。
完整的說法「curses are like chickens; they always come home to roost」現今在北美仍很常見，另一略為縮短的版本「chickens always come home to roost」也廣為使用。簡短版裡沒有「curse」一字，因此「chicken」指任何將來會以某種方式反撲的壞事。
(I’ve been dragging my feet. Now the vacation is almost over, and I’ve realized how much work I have to do: I will never get it done. I only have myself to blame.)
chickens always come home to roost
Geoffrey Chaucer’s Middle English work The Canterbury Tales, written between 1387 and 1400, is a set of stories related by a group of pilgrims, travelling from London to Canterbury, as part of a story-telling contest. One of these, the Parson’s Tale, is a solemn, formal sermon on the renunciation of the mundane world, spelling out the noble ways — among them penitence, contrition, confession, giving alms, doing penance and fasting — as well as the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lechery. In his discussion on anger, he turns to the matter of “cursing,” saying how this comes from an “angry heart.”
In the Middle Ages in England, cursing had consequences. It was not just seen as rude or uncouth, as it is today: it was seen as a sin, and harmful to both the person giving the curse and the person receiving it. As the parson says, “Malisoun generally may be seyd every maner power of harm. Swich cursynge bireveth man fro the regne of God, as seith Seint Paul. And oft tyme swiche cursynge wrongfully retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a byrd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest. (Cursing may be said to have all manner of harm. Such cursing takes man away from the Kingdom of God, as St Paul tells us. And cursing often comes back to the curser, like a bird returning to its nest.”
The parson’s reference to the curse returning to the curser, “like a bird returning to its nest,” and by extension any bad deed coming back to haunt a person later on in life, was a known concept when Chaucer committed the idea to writing in 1390. Two centuries later, in the 1592 play The Lamentable and True Tragedie Of Master Arden Of Feversham In Kent: Who Was Most Wickedlye Murdered, By The Meanes Of His Disloyall And Wanton Wyfe (thought to have been written by William Shakespeare), the idea of curses returning to harm the curser is revisited, albeit with a different metaphor:
“For curses are like arrowes [arrows] shot upright,
Which falling downe light on [hit] the suters [shooter’s] head.”
In the 19th century now, in 1810, the title page motto for English Romantic poet Robert Southey’s (1774-1843) poem The Curse of Kehama was “Curses are like young chicken: they always come home to roost.”
Here we have the curses being compared to chickens specifically, and not just birds in general, coming home to roost, but the idea is the same: Curses said, or ill deeds committed, now will come back to harm you in an unspecified future.
The full phrase “curses are like chickens; they always come home to roost” is still common in North America, and another, slightly truncated, version, is used more widely: “chickens always come home to roost.” In this case, with no “curse” mentioned specifically, the “chickens” can mean any bad deeds that will rebound on you somehow.
In Chinese, a similar idiom is 自食惡果, literally “to eat one’s own bitter fruit,” meaning to suffer the consequences of your own actions.
(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)
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