The Song of the River by W.S.Maugham You hear it all along the river. You hear it, loud and strong, from the rowers as they urge the junk with its high stern, the mast lashed alongside, down
the swift running stream. You hear it from the trackers, a more breathless chant, as they pull desperately against the current, half a dozen of them perhaps if they are taking up a wupan, a couple of hundred if they are hauling a splendid junk, its square sail set, over a rapid. On the junk, a man stands amid ships beating a drum incessantly to guide their efforts, and they pull with all their strength, like men possessed, bent double; and sometimes in the extremity of their travakl they crawl on the ground, on all fours, like the beasts of the field. They strain, strain fiercely, against the pitiless might of the stream. The leader goes up and down the line and when he sees one who is not putting all his will into the task he brings down his split bamboo on the naked back. Each one must do his utmost or the labour of all in vain. And still they sing a vehement, eager chant, the chant of the turbulent waters. I do not know how words can describe what there is in it of effort. It serves to express the straining heart, the breaking muscles, and at the same time the indomitable spirit of man which overcomes the pitiless force of nature. Though the rope may part and the great junk swing back, in the end the rapid will be passed; and at the close of the weary day there is the hearty meal… But the most agonising song is the song of the coolies who bring the great bales from the junk up the steep steps to the town wall. Up and down they go, endlessly, and endless as their toil rises their rhythmic cry. He, aw-ah, oh. They are barefoot and naked to the waist. The sweat pours down their faces and their song is a groan of pain. It is the cry of souls in infinite distress, only just musical, and that last note is the ultimate sob of humanity. life is too hard, too cruel, and this is the final despairing protest. That is the song of the river.
大河之歌 听！沿河上下那歌声！听！声音嘹亮高亢，那是船夫的歌！他们划船顺流而下， 水流湍急，船尾高高翘起，桅杆横在旁边。你听！纤夫的号子急促有力，他们拼 命拉纤逆流向上。如果拉的是小船，则需五六人齐心协力；如果是横帆大船，得 需二百人同声共气。船中央立一大汉，不停击鼓助威。于是纤夫们穷尽毕生之气
力，像着了魔似的，腰弯成两折。有时力量用到极限，就趴在地上匍匐前进，像 田里的牲口。班头来来回回在纤绳前奔走。一旦有人懈怠放松，手中的竹蔑条就 重重抽在那人光裸的背脊上。每个人都必须竭尽全力，否子一切徒劳无功。即使 这样，他们依旧喝着号子，那激昂热情的号子，那波涛汹涌的河流号子。我不知 道怎样的语言才能表达出这样的拼搏精神。它传递的不仅是绷紧的心弦，几乎撕 裂的筋肉，同时还有不惧自然，排除万难，顽强不屈的精神。纵使纤绳被扯断， 大船倒退，但最终将通过急流。一天的劳累结束后，总还可以痛快地饱餐一顿。 然而最令人悲痛的是苦力之歌。 他们背着船上卸下的大包， 沿着陡坡爬上城墙。 他们不停上上下下，随着无休无止的劳动响起有节奏的喊声：嗬，嗷——呦， 哦。他们赤脚光着膀子，汗水从脸上淌下，如洗。他们的歌是痛苦的呻吟，是绝 望无冀的叹息，令人心碎，简直惨无人道。这是束缚的灵魂无限痛苦的悲号，只 不过有着音乐的节奏。而终了的一声简直是人类最终的抽泣。生活太艰难，生活 太残酷，这歌声是最终绝望的抗议。这是大河之歌。