Snow falling lazy on the water made 11 P.M. look like twilight or an eclipse. Overhead every few seconds a horn sounded off to warn away anything on collision course. But yet as if there were nothing on the roads after all but ships, untenanted, inanimate, making noises at one another which meant nothing more than the turbulence of the screws or the snow-hiss on the water. And Profane all alone in it.
Some of us are afraid of dying; others of human loneliness. Profane was afraid of land or seascapes like this, where nothing else lived but himself. It seemed he was always walking into one: turn a corner in the street, open a door to a weather-deck and there he'd be, in alien country.
But the door behind him opened again. Soon he felt Paola's gloveless hands slipped under his arms, her cheek against his back. His mental eye withdrew, watching their still-life as a stranger might. But she didn't help the scene be any less alien. They kept like that till the other side, the ferry entered the slip, and chains clanked, car ignitions whined, motors started.
The party, as if it were inanimate after all, unwound like a clock's mainspring toward the edges of the chocolate room, seeking some easing of its own tension, some equilibrium. Near its center Rachel Owlglass was curled on the pine floor, legs shining pale through black stockings.
You felt she'd done a thousand secret things to her eyes. They needed no haze of cigarette smoke to look at you out of sexy and fathomless, but carried their own along with them. New York must have been for her a city of smoke, its streets the courtyards of limbo, its bodies like wraiths. Smoke seemed to be in her voice, in her movements; making her all the more substantial, more there, as if words, glances, small lewdnesses could only become baffled and brought to rest like smoke in her long hair; remain there useless till she released them, accidentally and unknowingly, with a toss of her head.
"The colors. So many colors." His eyes were tightly closed, his forehead resting on the bowed edge of one hand. "The trees outside the head shaman's house have spider monkeys which are iridescent. They change color in the sunlight. Everything changes. The mountains, the lowlands are never the same color from one hour to the next. No sequence of colors is the same from day to day. As if you lived inside a madman's kaleidoscope. Even your dreams become flooded with colors, with shapes no Occidental ever saw. Not real shapes, not meaningful ones. Simply random, the way clouds change over a Yorkshire landscape."
She was taken by surprise: her laugh was high and brittle. He hadn't heard. "They stay with you," he went on, "they aren't fleecy lambs or jagged profiles. They are, they are Vheissu, its raiment, perhaps its skin."
"You mean soul don't you. Of course you do. I wondered about the soul of that place. If it had a soul. Because their music, poetry, laws and ceremonies come no closer. They are skin too. Like the skin of a tattooed savage. I often put it that way to myself -- like a woman. I hope I don't offend."
"It's all right."
"Civilians have curious ideas about the military, but I expect in this case there's some justice to what they think about us. This idea of the randy young subaltern somewhere out in the back of beyond, collecting himself a harem of dusky native women. I dare say a lot of us have this dream, though I've yet to run across anyone who's realized it. And I won't deny I get to thinking this way myself. I got to thinking that way in Vheissu. Somehow, there --" his forehead furrowed -- "dreams are not, not closer the waking world, but somehow, Ii think, they do seem more real. Am I making sense to you?"
"Go on." She was watching him, rapt.
"But as if the place were, were a woman you had found somewhere out there, a dark woman tattooed from head to toes, And somehow you had got separated from the garrison and found yourself unable to get back, so that you had to be with her, close to her, day in and day out..."
"And you would be in love with her."
"At first. But soon that skin, the gaudy godawful riot of pattern and color, would begin to get between you and whatever it was in her that you thought you loved. And soon, in perhaps only a matter of days, it would get so bad that you would begin praying to whatever god you knew of to send some leprosy to her. To flay that tattoing to a heap of red, purple and green debris, leave the veins and ligaments raw and quivering and open at last to your eyes and your touch. I'm sorry."
Charisma came in, two beady eyes peering through burnholes in the blanket. He spotted Mafia, moved toward her. The green wool mound began to sing:
It is something less than heaven
To be quoted Thesis 1.7
Every time I make an advance;
If the world is all that the case is
That's a pretty discouraging basis
On which to pursue
Any sort of romance.
I've got a proposition for you;
Logical, positive and brief.
And at least it could serve as a kind of comic relief:
Let P equal me;
With my heart in command;
Let Q equal you
With tractatus in hand;
And R could stand for a lifetime of love,
Filled with music to fondle and purr to.
We'll define love as anything lovely you'd care to infer to.
On the right, put that bright,
On the left, our uncleft,
And that horseshoe there in the middle
Could be lucky; we've nothing to lose,
If in these parentheses
We just mind our little P's
If P [Mafia sang in reply] thinks of me
As a girl hard to make,
Then Q wishes you
Would go jump in the lake.
For R is a meaningless concept,
Having nothing to do with pleasure:
I prefer the hard and tangible things I can measure.
Man, you chase in the face
Of impossible odds;
I'm a lass in the class
Of unbossable broads.
If you'll promise no more sticky phrases,
Half a mo while I kick off my shoes.
There are birds, there are bees,
And to hell with all your P's
By the time Profane finished his beer, the blanket covered them both.
But Fausto I was as bastardized as the others. In the midst of the bombing in '42, his successor commented:
Our poets write of nothing now but the rain of bombs from what was once Heaven. We builders practice, as we must, patience and strength but -- the curse of knowing English and its emotional nuances! -- with it a desperate nervous hatred of this war, an impatience for it to be over.
I think our education in the English school and University alloyed what was pure in us. Younger, we talked of love, fear, motherhood; speaking in Maltese as Elena and I do now. But what a language! Have it, or today's Builders, advanced at all since the half-men who built the sanctuaries of Hagier Kim? We talk as animals might.
Can I explain "love"? Tell her my love for her is the same and part of my love for the Bofors crews, the Spitfire pilots, our Governor? That it is love which embraces this island, love for everything on it that moves! There are no words in Maltese for this. Nor finer shades; nor words for intellectual states of mind. She cannot read my poetry, I cannot translate it for her.
Are we only animals then. Still one with the troglodytes who lived here 400 centuries before dear Christ's birth. We do five as they did in the bowels of the earth. Copulate, spawn, die without uttering any but the grossest words. Do any of us even understand the words of God, teachings of His Church? Perhaps Maijstral, Maltese, one with his people, was meant only to live at the threshold of consciousness, only exist as hardly animate lump of flesh, an automaton.
But we are torn, our grand "Generation of '37." To be merely Maltese: endure almost mindless, without sense of time? Or to think -- continuously -- in English, to be too aware of war, of time, of all the grays and shadows of love?
Perhaps British colonialism has produced a new sort of being, a dual man, aimed two ways at once: toward peace and simplicity on the one hand, towards an exhausted intellectual searching on the other. Perhaps Maratt, Dnubietna and Maijstral are the first of a new race. What monsters shall rise in our wake...
<原文开始>Love with your mouth shut, help without breaking your ass or publicizing it: keep cool, but care. He might have known, if he'd used any common sense. It didn't come as a revelation, only something he'd as soon not've admitted."Sure," he said later, as they headed into the Berkshires. "Paola, did you know I have been blowing a silly line all this time. Mister Flab the original, is me. Lazy and taking for granted some wonder drug someplace to cure that town, to cure me. Now there isn't and never will be. Nobody is going to step down from Heaven and square away Roony and his woman, or Alabama, or South Africa or us and Russia. There's no magic words. Not even I love you is magic enough. Can you see Eisenhower telling Malenkov or Khrushchev that? Ho-ho.""Keep cool but care," he said. Somebody had run over a skunk a ways back. The smell had followed them for miles. "If my mother was alive I would have her make a sampler with that on it.""You know, don't you," she began, "that I have to --""Go back home, sure. But the week's not over yet. Be easy, girl.""I can't. Can I ever?""We'll stay away from musicians," was all he said. Did he know of anything she could be, ever?"Flop, flip," he sang to the trees of Massachusetts. "Once I was hip..."<原文结束>
The lady V., one of them for so long, now suddenly found herself excommunicated; bounced unceremoniously into the null-time of human love, without having recognized the exact moment as any but when Melanie entered a side door to Le Nerf on Porcepic's arm and time -- for a while -- ceased. Stencil's dossier has it on the authority of Porcepic himself, to whom V. told much of their affair. He repeated none of it then, neither at L'Ouganda nor anywhere else: only to Stencil, years later. Perhaps he felt guilty about his chart of permutations and combinations, but to this extent at least he acted like a gentleman. His description of them is a well-composed and ageless still-life of love at one of its many extremes: V. on the pouf, watching Melanie on the bed; Melanie watching herself in the mirror; the mirror-image perhaps contemplating V. from time to time. No movement but a minimum friction. And yet one solution to a most ancient paradox of love: simultaneous sovereignty yet a fusing-together. Dominance and submissiveness didn't apply; the pattern of three was symbiotic and mutual. V. needed her fetish, Melanie a mirror, temporary peace, another to watch her have pleasure. For such is the self-love of the young that a social aspect enters in: and adolescent girl whose existence is so visual observes in a mirror her double; the double becomes a voyeur. Frustration at not being able to fragment herself into an audience of enough only adds to her sexual excitement. She needs, it seems, a real voyeur to complete the illusion that her reflections are, in fact, this audience. With the addition of this other -- multiplied also, perhaps, by mirrors -- comes consummation: for the other is also her own double. She is like a woman who dresses only to be looked at and talked about by other women: their jealousy, whispered remarks, relutant admiration are her own. They are she.