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2006-12-29 14:06   【 】【我要纠错



  Lesson Eleven  On Getting off to Sleep

  人真是充满矛盾啊! 毫无疑问,幽默是惟一帮助我们摆脱矛盾的办法,要是没有它,我们就会死于烦恼。

  What a bundle of contradictions is a man! Surety, humour is the saving grace of us, for without it we should die of vexation.


  With me, nothing illustrates the contrariness of things better than the matter of sleep.


  If, for example, my intention is to write an essay, and 1 have before me ink and pens and several sheets of virgin paper, you may depend upon it that before I have gone very far I feel an overpowering desire for sleep, no matter what time of the day it is.


  I stare at the reproachfully blank paper until sights and sounds become dim and confused, and it is only by an effort of will that I can continue at all.


  Even then, I proceed half-heartedly, in a kind of dream.


  But let me be between the sheets at a late hour, and I can do any-thing but sleep.


  Between chime and chime of the clock I can write essays by the score.


  Fascinating subjects and noble ideas come pell-mell, each with its appropriate imagery and expression.


  Nothing stands between me and half-a-dozen imperishable masterpieces but pens, ink, and paper.


  If it be true that our thoughts and mental images are perfectly tangible things, like our books and pictures, to the inhabitants of the next world, then I am making for myself a better reputation there than I am in this place.


  Give me a restless hour or two in bed and I can solve, to my own satisfaction, all the doubts of humanity.


  When I am in the humour I can compose grand symphonies, and paint magnificent pictures.


  I am, at once, Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Michael Angelo; yet it gives me no satisfaction; for the one thing I cannot do is to go to sleep.


  Once in bed, when it is time to close the five ports of knowledge, most folks I know seem to find no difficulty in plunging their earthly parts into oblivion.


  It is not so with me, to whom sleep is a coy mistress, much given to a teasing inconsistency and for ever demanding to be wooed —“lest too light winning make the prize light”。


  I used to read, with wonder, those sycophantic stories of the warlike supermen, the great troublers of the world''s peace, Cromwell, Napoleon, and the like, who, thanks to their “iron wills”, could lie down and plunge themselves immediately into deep sleep, to wake up, refreshed, at a given time.


  Taking these fables to heart, I would resolve to do likewise, and, going to bed, would clench my teeth, look as determined as possible in the darkness, and command the immediate presence of sleep.

  但是,天哪 !高度集中的精力让我比任何时候都清醒,我不得不在折磨人的失眠中捱过几个钟头。

  But alas! The very act of concentration seemed to make me more wakeful than ever, and I would pass hours in tormenting sleeplessness.


  I had overlooked the necessity of having an “iron will”, my own powers of will having little or none of this peculiar metallic quality.


  But how uncomfortable it must have been living with these ironwilled folks!


  Who would want to remonstrate and argue with them?


  It would be worse than beating an anvil with a sledge hammer.


  I must confess that I always suspect the men who boast that they unvaryingly fall asleep as soon as they get into bed — those “as soon as my head touches the pillow” fellows.


  To me, there is something inhuman, something callous and almost bovine, in the practice.


  I suspect their taste in higher matters.


  Iron wills apart, there must be a lack of human sympathy or depth in a man who can thus throw off, with his clothes, his waking feelings and thoughts, and ignore completely those memories and fancies which

  ……will sometimes leap,

  From hiding-places ten years deep.


  To share a bedroom with one of these fellows is to lose one''s faith in human nature, for, even after the most eventful day, there is no comparing notes with them, no midnight confidence, no casting up the balance of the day''s pleasure and pain.


  They sink, at once, into stupid, heavy slumber, leaving you to your own mental devices. And they all snore abominably!


  The artificial ways of inducing sleep are legion, and are only alike in their ineffectuality


  In Lavengro (or is it Romany Rye?) there is an impossible character, a victim of insomnia, who finds that a volume of Wordsworth''s poems is the only sure soporific; but that was Borrow s malice.


  The famous old plan of counting sheep jumping over a stile has never served my turn.


  I have herded imaginary sheep until they insisted on turning themselves into white bears or blue pigs, and I defy any reasonable man to fall asleep while mustering a herd of cerulean swine.


  Discussing the question, some times ago, with an old friend, she gave me her never-failing remedy for sleeplessness, which was to imagine herself performing some trivial action over and over again, until, her mind becoming disgusted with the monotony of life, sleep drew the curtain.


  Her favourite device was to imagine a picture not hanging quite plumb upon the wall, and then to proceed to straighten it.


  This I tried —though putting pictures straight is no habit of mine—but it was of no avail.


  I imagined the picture on the wall without difficulty, and gave it a few deft touches, but this set me thinking of pictures in general, and then I remembered an art exhibition I had attended with my friend T. and what he said, and what I said, and I wondered how T. was faring these days, and whether his son was still at school.


  And so it went on, until I found myself meditating on cheese, or spiritualism, or the Rocky Mountains—but no sleep!


  Somewhere in that limbo which Earth describes in Prometheus Unbound, that vague region filled with Dreams and the light imaginings of men, is the dreary phantom of an unstraightened picture upon a ghostly wall.


  And there it shall stay, for I have no further use for it.


  But I have not yet given up all hope of finding some way of hastening the approach of sleep. Even yet there is a glimmer, for re-reading (not for the first, and, please Heaven! not the last time) Lamb''s letters, I came upon the following, in a note to Southey; “But there is a man in my office, a Mr. H., who proses it away from morning lo night, and never gets beyond corporal and material verities! . . .


  When I can''t sleep o''nights,I imagine a dialogue with Mr. H,upon a given subject and go prosing on in fancy with him,nil I either laugh or fall asleep. I have literally found it answer. . . “There is promise in this,and we all have our Mr. H. whose talk,bare of anything like fancy and wit,acts upon us like a dose of lau-danum . This very night I will dismiss such trivial phantasies as jumping sheep and crooked pictures,and evoke the phantom of a crushing, stupendous Bore.


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