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汪曾祺 求雨 translation: Asking for Rain, by Wang Zengqi (小说三篇)

This is a translation of the short story 求雨 (‘Asking for Rain’) by the Chinese author 汪曾祺 (Wang Zengqi). The story can be found in the anthology 小说三篇 (‘Three Novels’).

小说三篇 Three Novels

求雨 Asking for Rain

昆明栽秧时节通常是不缺雨的。 Planting season in Kunming didn't usually lack rain.

雨季已经来了,三天两头地下着。 The rainy season would already be here, and it would rain almost every day.

停停,下下;下下,停停。 It would rain in fits and starts.

空气是潮湿的,洗的衣服当天干不了。 The air would be damp, and clothes wouldn't get dry on the day you washed them.

草长得很旺盛。 The grass would grow vigorously.

各种菌子都出来了。 Every kind of fungus would appear.

青头菌、牛干菌、鸡油菌……稻田里的泥土被雨水浸得透透的,每块田都显得很膏腴,很细腻。 Green russulas, penny buns, earth-fans... the soil in the rice paddies would be thoroughly soaked by the rain, and every piece of field looked fertile and exquisite.

积蓄着的薄薄的水面上停留着云影。 The reflection of the clouds would hover on the shallow, accumulated water.

人们戴着斗笠,把新拔下的秧苗插进稀软的泥里…… People would put on their bamboo hats and stick freshly pulled seedlings into the pliable mud...

但是偶尔也有那样的年月,雨季来晚了,缺水,栽不下秧。 But occasionally there would be those times when the rainy season was late, there would be a shortage of water, and the seedlings could not be transplanted.

今年就是这样。 This year was like that.

因为通常不缺雨水,这里的农民都不预备龙骨水车。 Because there was usually no lack of rain, none of the peasants here had prepared pallet-chain pumps. _[龙骨水车](https://www.google.com.hk/search?q=%E9%BE%99%E9%AA%A8%E6%B0%B4%E8%BD%A6) is a mechanical device for moving water with a series of pallets._

他们用一个戽斗,扯动着两边的绳子,从小河里把浑浊的泥浆一点一点地浇进育苗的秧田里。 They used a bailing bucket, pulled with ropes on each side, to irrigate the shoots in the nursery fields bit by bit with muddy water from the brook.

但是这一点点水,只能保住秧苗不枯死,不能靠它插秧。 But this little bit of water could only prevent the shoots from drying up and dying; it couldn't be relied on for transplanting seedlings.

秧苗已经长得过长了,再不插就不行了。 The seedlings had already grown too long; if they weren't transplanted again they would die.

然而稻田里却是干干的。 But the rice paddies were dry.

整得平平的田面,晒得结了一层薄壳,裂成一道一道细缝。 The whole square surface of the field had dried up in the sun to form a thin crust, which had cracked up into rows of fine seams.

多少人仰起头来看天,一天看多少次。 Numerous people raised their heads to look at the sky, looking several times a day.

然而天蓝得要命。 But the sky was deathly blue.

天的颜色把人的眼睛都映蓝了。 The colour of the sky made people's eyes shine blue.

雨呀,你怎么还不下呀!雨呀,雨呀! Rain, how have you not yet fallen? Rain! Rain!

望儿也抬头望天。 Hope gazed at the sky.

望儿看看爸爸和妈妈,他看见他们的眼睛是蓝的。 Hope looked at his mother and father, and saw blue in their eyes.

望儿的眼睛也是蓝的。 Hope's eyes were blue as well.

他低头看地,他看见稻田里的泥面上有一道一道螺狮爬过的痕迹。 He lowered his head and looked at the ground, and saw that the soil in the rice field had marks where snails had crawled across.

望儿想了一个主意:求雨。 Hope had an idea: ask for rain.

望儿昨天看见邻村的孩子求雨,他就想过:我们也求雨。 Yesterday Hope had seen the children in the neighbouring village asking for rain, and thought: we can ask for rain, too.

他把村里的孩子都叫在一起,找出一套小锣小鼓,就出发了。 He called the children of the village together, found a set of a small gong and drum, and set off.

一共十几个孩子,大的十来岁,最小的一个才六岁。 Altogether there were more than ten children, the eldest about ten years old, the youngest one just six.

这是一个枯瘦、褴褛、有些污脏的,然而却是神圣的队伍。 This was a skinny, ragged, and slightly filthy but nonetheless sacred procession.

他们头上戴着柳条编成的帽圈,敲着不成节拍的、单调的小锣小鼓:冬冬当,冬冬当…… On their heads they wore caps woven from willow twigs, and tapped their little drum and gong monotonously without rhythm: dong dong dang, dong dong dang...

他们走得很慢。 They walked very slowly.

走一段,敲锣的望儿把锣槌一举,他们就唱起来: They'd walk for a stretch, and Hope would raise his mallet and gong up high; then they'd start singing:

小小儿童哭哀哀, Little children weep with sorrow;

撒下秧苗不得栽。 the scattered seedlings will not grow.

巴望老天下大雨, We await the Heavens' heavy rain,

乌风暴雨一起来。 and black storm clouds to come together.

调子是非常简单的,只是按照昆明话把字音拉长了念出来。 The tune was very simple - it was just based on lengthening the sounds of the Kunming dialect.

他们的声音是凄苦的,虔诚的。 Their voices were bleak but reverent.

这些孩子都没有读过书。 None of these children had ever studied.

他们有人模模糊糊地听说过有个玉皇大帝,还有个龙王,龙王是管下雨的。 Some of them had heard something about a Jade Emperor and a Dragon King; the Dragon King controlled the rain.

但是大部分孩子连玉皇大帝和龙王也不知道。 But most of the children didn't even know about the Jade Emperor or the Dragon King.

他们只知道天,天是无常的。 They only knew that there was the sky, and the sky was changeable.

它有时对人很好,有时却是无情的,它的心很狠。 Sometimes it was good to people, and sometimes it was unfeeling; its heart was cruel.

他们要用他们的声音感动天,让它下雨。 They wanted to use their voices to move the sky's heart and make it rain.

(这地方求雨和别处大不一样,都是利用孩子求雨。 (In this area, asking for rain was very different to elsewhere - it was always with children.

所以望儿他们能找出一套小锣小鼓。 That was why Hope and his fellows were able to find a set of gongs and drums.

大概大人们以为天也会疼惜孩子,会因孩子的哀求而心软。) The adults generally believed Heaven would dote on the children, and that because of their pleading its heart would soften.

他们戴着柳条圈,敲着小锣小鼓,歌唱着,走在昆明的街上。 They put on willow caps, banged small gongs and small drums, sang, and walked the streets of Kunming.

小小儿童哭哀哀, Little children weep with sorrow;

撒下秧苗不得栽。 the scattered seedlings will not grow.

巴望老天下大雨, We await the Heavens' heavy rain,

乌风暴雨一起来。 and black storm clouds to come together.

过路的行人放慢了脚步,或者干脆停下来,看着这支幼小的、褴褛的队伍。 Passersby would slow their pace, or stop outright, and look at this shabby squad of little children.

他们的眼睛也是蓝的。 They eyes were blue as well.

望儿的村子在白马庙的北边。 Hope's village was to the north of White Horse Temple.

他们从大西门,一直走过华山西路、金碧路,又从城东的公路上走回来。 From the Great West Gate, they walked straight down West Huashan Road and Jinbi Road, and then walked back along the main road to the east of the city.

他们走得很累了,他们都还很小。 They walked till they were weary; they were still very young.

就着泡辣子,吃了两碗包谷饭,就都爬到床上睡了。 With some pickled peppers, they ate two bowls of maize and rice, and then climbed into bed to sleep.

一睡就睡着了。 They fell asleep at once.

半夜里,望儿叫一个炸雷惊醒了。 In the middle of the night, Hope was startled awake by a roll of heavy thunder.

接着,他听见屋瓦上噼噼啪啪的声音。 Then he heard a pitter-patter sound upon the tiles on the roof.

过了一会,他才意识过来:下雨了! A moment passed before he realised: it was raining!

他大声喊起来:“爸!妈!下雨啦!” He shouted out loudly: "Mum! Dad! It's raining!"

他爸他妈都已经起来了,他们到外面去看雨去了。 His parents had already risen and gone outside to look at the rain.

他们进屋来了。 They came into the house.

他们披着蓑衣,戴着斗笠。 They were draped in raincoats and wearing bamboo hats.

斗笠和蓑衣上滴着水。 Their hats and coats were dripping with water.

“下雨了!” "It's raining!"

“下雨了!” "It's raining!"

妈妈把油灯点起来,一屋子都是灯光。 Mother lit the oil lamps and the room was filled with light.

灯光映在妈妈的眼睛里。 The light shone in mother's eyes.

妈妈的眼睛好黑,好亮。 Mother's eyes were stark brown and bright.

爸爸烧了一杆叶子烟,叶子烟的火光映在爸爸的脸上,也映在他的眼睛里。 Father lit some dried tobacco leaves, and the flame shone on father's face and in his eyes.

第二天,插秧了! The next day, they transplanted the seedlings.

全村的男女老少都出来了,到处都是人。 The whole village, male, female, young, old, all came out; there were people everywhere.

望儿相信,这雨是他们求下来的。 Hope believed that this was the rain they had asked for.

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