Reading Daphis and Chloe
(Chinese original written on Aug.1, 2005)
Afternoon, reclining on a couch, I read Ronald MaCail’s translation of Daphis and Chloe (OUP 2002). This is the prototype of romance, a pastoral. There seems to have a Chinese translation which I read in university. Remember Ravel’s ballet music, quite nice. The setting of this pastoral is Lesbos, the hometown of Sappho, and the word root of Lesbian (female homosexual). The Preface starts with: Out hunting in Lesbos,/ in a grove sacred to the Nymphs/ I saw a sight/ whose like, for beauty, I had never seen--/ a painting, / a love story.
It is notable that Western novel starts with a two-dimension narration: description and painting. Here, a sight is a painting as well as a story. The sight of a site. This is the tradition of ekphrasis. Chinese literature privileges lyricism, and there is no ekphrasis in this sense.
Chloe’s first sensual feel of love and lust is stupefyingly vivid:
Now I am sick,
but I don’t know what with;
I am in pain,
yet have no wound upon me;
I am unhappy,
yet none of my sheep has been lost;
I am on fire,
and yet I am sitting deep in the shade.
How often have brambles scratched me
without making me weep!
How often have bees stung me
without making me cry!
Of course, these two are too innocent to quench the fire of desire, and they eventually learn from the sheep how to make love. Human beings have to learn the rear posture of sex from animals.
下午，躺在沙发上，又看了一遍古希腊的小说Daphnis and Chloe《达夫尼斯与克洛伊》(牛津大学出版社2002年Ronald McCail的新译本)。这可说是所有爱情小说的起源，似乎国内有过译本；而拉威尔的芭蕾舞音乐也很不错。这个田园牧歌的地点是Lesbos，也就是古希腊第一女诗人萨芙的故乡。《序幕》开始：