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Where I Lived, and What I Lived For1

2006-07-28 23:55

  At a certain season of our life we are accustomed to consider every spot as the possible site of a house.  I have thus surveyed the country on every side within a dozen miles of where I live.  In imagination I have bought all the farms in succession, for all were to be bought, and I knew their price.  I walked over each farmer's premises, tasted his wild apples, discoursed on husbandry with him,took his farm at his price, at any price, mortgaging it to him in my mind; even put a higher price on it —— took everything but a deed of it —— took his word for his deed, for I dearly love to talk ——cultivated it, and him too to some extent, I trust, and withdrew when I had enjoyed it long enough, leaving him to carry it on.  This experience entitled me to be regarded as a sort of real-estate broker by my friends.  Wherever I sat, there I might live, and the landscape radiated from me accordingly.  What is a house but a sedes, a seat? —— better if a country seat.  I discovered many a site for a house not likely to be soon improved, which some might have thought too far from the village, but to my eyes the village was too far from it.  Well, there I might live, I said; and there I did live, for an hour, a summer and a winter life; saw how I could let the years run off, buffet the winter through, and see the spring come in.  The future inhabitants of this region, wherever they may place their houses, may be sure that they have been anticipated.  An afternoon sufficed to lay out the land into orchard, wood-lot, and pasture, and to decide what fine oaks or pines should be left to stand before the door, and whence each blasted tree could be seen to the best advantage; and then I let it lie, fallow, perchance, for a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.

  My imagination carried me so far that I even had the refusal of several farms —— the refusal was all I wanted —— but I never got my fingers burned by actual possession.  The nearest that I came to actual possession was when I bought the Hollowell place, and had begun to sort my seeds, and collected materials with which to make a wheelbarrow to carry it on or off with; but before the owner gave me a deed of it, his wife —— every man has such a wife —— changed her mind and wished to keep it, and he offered me ten dollars to release him.  Now, to speak the truth, I had but ten cents in the world, and it surpassed my arithmetic to tell, if I was that man who had ten cents, or who had a farm, or ten dollars, or all together.  However,I let him keep the ten dollars and the farm too, for I had carried it far enough; or rather, to be generous, I sold him the farm for just what I gave for it, and, as he was not a rich man, made him a present of ten dollars, and still had my ten cents, and seeds, and materials for a wheelbarrow left.  I found thus that I had been a rich man without any damage to my poverty.  But I retained the landscape, and I have since annually carried off what it yielded without a wheelbarrow.  With respect to landscapes,

  "I am monarch of all I survey,My right there is none to dispute."

  I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only.  Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk.

  到达我们生命的某个时期,我们就习惯于把可以安家落户的地方,一个个地加以考察了。正是这样我把住所周围一二十英里内的田园统统考察一遍。我在想象中已经接二连三地买下了那儿的所有田园,因为所有的田园都得要买下来,而且我都已经摸清它们的价格了。我步行到各个农民的田地上,尝尝他的野苹果,和他谈谈稼穑,再又请他随便开个什么价钱,就照他开的价钱把它买下来,心里却想再以任何价钱把它押给他;甚至付给他一个更高的价钱,——把什么都买下来,只不过没有立契约,——而是把他的闲谈当作他的契约,我这个人原来就很爱闲谈,——我耕耘了那片田地,而且在某种程度上,我想,耕耘了他的心田,如是尝够了乐趣以后,我就扬长而去,好让他继续耕耘下去。这种经营,竟使我的朋友们当我是一个地产拍客。其实我是无论坐在哪里,都能够生活的,哪里的风景都能相应地为我而发光。家宅者,不过是一个座位,——如果这个座位是在乡间就更好些。我发现许多家宅的位置,似乎都是不容易很快加以改进的,有人会觉得它离村镇太远,但我觉得倒是村镇离它太远了点。我总说,很好,我可以在这里住下;我就在那里过一小时夏天的和冬天的生活;我看到那些岁月如何地奔驰,挨过了冬季,便迎来了新春。这一区域的未来居民,不管他们将要把房子造在哪里,都可以肯定过去就有人住过那儿了。只要一个下午就足够把田地化为果园、树林和牧场,并且决定门前应该留着哪些优美的橡树或松树,甚至于砍伐了的树也都派定了最好的用场了;然后,我就由它去啦,好比休耕了一样,一个人越是有许多事情能够放得下,他越是富有。

  我的想象却跑得太远了些,我甚至想到有几处田园会拒绝我,不肯出售给我,——被拒绝正合我的心愿呢,——我从来不肯让实际的占有这类事情的伤过我的手指头。几乎已实际地占有田园那一次,是我购置霍乐威尔那个地方的时候,都已经开始选好种子,找出了木料来,打算造一架手推车,来推动这事,或载之而他往了;可是在原来的主人正要给我一纸契约之前,他的妻子——每一个男人都有一个妻子的——发生了变卦,她要保持她的田产了,他就提出赔我十元钱,解除约定。现在说句老实话,我在这个世界上只有一角钱,假设我真的有一角钱的话,或者又有田园,又有十元,或有了所有的这一切,那我这点数学知识可就无法计算清楚了。不管怎样,我退回了那十元钱,退还了那田园,因为这一次我已经做过头了,应该说,我是很慷慨的罗,我按照我买进的价格,按原价再卖了给他,更因为他并不见得富有,还送了他十元,但保留了我的一角钱和种子,以及备而未用的独轮车的木料。如此,我觉得我手面已很阔绰,而且这样做无损于我的贫困。至于那地方的风景,我却也保留住了,后来我每年都得到丰收,却不需要独轮车来载走。关于风景,——我勘察一切,像一个皇帝,谁也不能够否认我的权利。

  我时常看到一个诗人,在欣赏了一片田园风景中的最珍贵部分之后,就扬长而去,那些固执的农夫还以为他拿走的仅只是几枚野苹果。诗人却把他的田园押上了韵脚,而且多少年之后,农夫还不知道这回事,这么一道最可羡慕的、肉眼不能见的篱笆已经把它圈了起来,还挤出了它的牛乳,去掉了奶油,把所有的奶油都拿走了,他只把去掉了奶油的奶水留给了农夫。

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