学习啦【英语美文欣赏】 编辑：韦彦 发布时间：2016-09-30
Hendrik Willem Van Loon
Suddenly the war was over, and Hitler was captured and brought to Amsterdam. A militarytribunal condemned him to death. But how should he die? To shoot or hang him seemed tooquick, too merciful. Then someone uttered what was in everybody’s mind: the man who hadcaused such incredible suffering should be burned to death.
“But,” objected one judge, “our biggest public square in Amsterdam holds only 10,000 people,and 7,000,000 Dutch men, women and children will want to be there to curse him during hisdying moments.”
Then another judge had an idea. Hitler should be burned at the stake, but the wood was to beignited by the explosion of a handful of gunpowder set off by a long fuse which should start inRotterdam and follow the main road to Amsterdam by way of Delft, The Hague, Leiden andHaarlem. Thus millions of people crowding the wide avenues which connect those cities couldwatch the fuse burn its way northward to Herr Hitler’s funeral pyre.
A plebiscite was taken as to whether this was a fitting punishment. There were 4,981,076 yeasand one nay. The nay was voted by a man who preferred that Hitler be pulled to pieces by fourhorses.
At last the great day came. The ceremony commenced at four o’clock on a June morning. Themother of three sons who had been shot by the Nazis for an act of sabotage they did notcommit set fire to the fuse while a choir sang a solemn hymn of gratitude. Then the peopleburst forth into a shout of triumph.
The spark slowly made its way from Rotterdam to Delft, and on toward the great square inAmsterdam. People had come from every part of the country. Special seats had been providedfor the aged and the lame and the relatives of murdered hostages.
Hitler, clad in a long yellow shirt, had been chained to the stake. He preserved a stoicalsilence until a little boy climbed upon the pile of wood surrounding the former Fuhrer andplaced there a placard which read, “This is the world’s greatest murderer.” This so aggravatedHitler’s pent-up feelings that he burst forth into one of his old harangues.
The crowd gaped, for it was a grotesque sight to see this little man ranting away just as if hewere addressing his followers. Then a terrific howl of derision silenced him.
Now came the great moment of the day. About three o’clock in the afternoon the sparkreached the outskirts of Amsterdam. Suddenly there was a roll of drums. Then, with anemotion such as they had never experienced before, the people sang the Wilhelmus, thenational anthem. Hitler, now ashen-gray, futilely strained at his chains.
When the Wilhelmus came to an end the spark was only a few feet from the gunpowder; fivemore minutes and Hitler would die a horrible death. The crowd broke forth in a shout of hate. Aminute went by. Another minute. Silence returned. Now the fuse had only a few inches to go.And at that moment the incredible happened.
A wizened little man wriggled through the line of soldiers standing guard. Everybody knew whohe was. Two of his sons had been machine-gunned to death by parachute troops; his wife andthree daughters had perished in Rotterdam’s holocaust. Since then, the poor fellow had seemeddeprived of reason, wandering aimlessly about and supported by public charity—an object ofuniversal pity.
But what he did now made the crowd turn white with anger. For he deliberately stamped uponthe fuse and put it out.
“Kill him! Kill him!” the mob shouted. But the old man quietly faced the menacing populace.Slowly he lifted both arms toward heaven. Then in a voice charged with fury, he said:
“Now let us do it all over again!”
How Should One Read a Book?
It is simple enough to say that since books have classes——fiction，biography，poetry——weshould separate them and take from each what it is right that each should give us. Yet fewpeople ask from books what books can give us. Most commonly we come to books with blurredand divided minds，asking of fiction that it shall be true，of poetry that it shall be false，ofbiography that it shall be flattering，of history that it shall enforce our own prejudices. If wecould banish all such preconceptions when we read，that would be an admirable beginning. Donot dictate to your author;Try to become him. Be his fellow-worker and accomplice. If youhang back，and reserve and criticize at first，you are preventing yourself from getting thefullest possible value from what you read. But if you open your mind as widely as possible，thesigns and hints of almost imperceptible fineness，from the twist and turn of the firstsentences，will bring you into the presence of a human being unlike any other. Steep yourselfin this，acquaint yourself with this，and soon you will find that your author is giving you，orattempting to give you，something far more definite. The thirty-two chapters of a novel—if weconsider how to read a novel first——are an attempt to make something as formed andcontrolled as a building：but words are more impalpable than bricks;Reading is a longer andmore complicated process than seeing. Perhaps the quickest way to understand the elementsof what a novelist is doing is not to read，but to write;To make your own experiment with thedangers and difficulties of words. Recall，then，some event that has left a distinct impressionon you—how at the corner of the street，perhaps，you passed two people talking. A treeshook;an electric light danced;the tone of the talk was comic，but also tragic;a wholevision;an entire conception，seemed contained in that moment.
But when you attempt to reconstruct it in words，you will find that it breaks into a thousandconflicting impressions. Some must be subdued;others emphasized;in the process you willlose，probably，all grasp upon the emotion itself. Then turn from your blurred and litteredpages to the opening pages of some great novelist—Defoe，Jane Austen，or Hardy. Now youwill be better able to appreciate their mastery. It is not merely that we are in the presence ofa different person—Defoe，Jane Austen，or Thomas Hardy—but that we are living in a differentworld. Here，in Robinson Crusoe，we are trudging a plain high road;one thing happens afteranother;the fact and the order of the fact is enough. But if the open air and adventure meaneverything to Defoe they mean nothing to Jane Austen. Hers is the drawing-room，and peopletalking，and by the many mirrors of their talk revealing their characters. And if，when we haveaccustomed ourselves to the drawing-room and its reflections，we turn to Hardy，we are oncemore spun around. The other side of the mind is now exposed—the dark side that comesuppermost in solitude，not the light side that shows in company. Our relations are nottowards people，but towards Nature and destiny. Yet different as these worlds are，each isconsistent with itself. The maker of each is careful to observe the laws of his ownperspective，and however great a strain they may put upon us they will never confuseus，as lesser writers so frequently do，by introducing two different kinds of reality into thesame book. Thus to go from one great novelist to another—from Jane Austen to Hardy，fromPeacock to Trollope，from Scott to Meredith —is to be wrenched and uprooted;to be thrownthis way and then that. To read a novel is a difficult and complex art. You must be capable notonly of great finesse of perception，but of great boldness of imagination if you are going tomake use of all that the novelist—the great artist—gives you.
In Praise of the Humble Comma
The gods, they say, give breath, and they take it away. But the samesaid-could be said-could itnot?-of the humble comma. Add it to the present clause, and, all of a sudden, the mind is,quite literally, given pause to think; take it out if you wish or forget it and the mind is deprivedof a resting place. Yet still the comma gets no respea. It seems just a slip of a thing, apedant's tick, a blip on the edge of our consciousness, a kind of printer's smudge almost.Small, we claim, is beautiful (especially in the age of the microchip). Yet what is so often used,and so rarely called, as the comma-unless it be breath itself?
Punctuation, one is taught, has a point: to keep up law and order. Punctuation marks are theroad signs placed along the highway of our communication——to control speeds，providedirections and prevent head-on collisions. A period has the unblinking finality of a red light,the comma is a flashing yellow light that asks us only to slow down, and the semicolon is astop sign that tells us to ease gradually to a halt, before gradually starting up again. Byestablishing the relations between words, punctuation establishes the relations between thepeople using words. That may be one reason why school teachers exalt it and lovers defy it("we love each other and belong to each other let’s don’t ever hurt each other Nicole let's don'tever hurt each other,” wrote Gary Gilmore to his girlfriend )A comma ，he must have known, "separate inseparables" ，in the clinching words of H. W. Fowler, King of English Usage.
Punctuation, then, is a civic prop, a pillar that holds society upright. (A run on sentence, itsphrases piling up without division, is as unsightly as a sink piled high with dirty dishes.)Smallwonder,then,that punctuation was one of the first proprieties of the Victorian age, the age ofthe corset, that the modernists threw off the sexual revolution might be said to have begunwhen Joyce's Molly Bloomis spilled out all her private thoughts in 36 pages of unbridled, almostunperioded and officially censored prose: and another are bellion was surely marked whenE.E.Cummings first felt free to commit "God" to the lower case.
Punctuation thus becomes the signatrire of cultures. The hot-blooded Spaniard seems to berevealed in the passion and urgency of his doubled exclamation points and question marks ( "iCaramba! LQuien sabe?"), while the impassive Chinese traditionally added to his so-calledinscrutability by omitting directions from his ideograms. The anarchy and commotion of the60s were given voice in the exploding exclamation marks, riotous capital letters and Day-Gloitalics of Tom Wolfe's spray-paint prose; and in Communist societies, where the State isabsolute, the dignity-and divinity-of capital letters is reserved for Ministries, Sub-Committeesand Secretariats.
Yet punctuation is something more than a culture's birthmark; it scores the music in ourminds, gets our thoughts moving to the rhythm of our hearts. Punctuation is the notation inthe sheet music of our words, telling us when to rest, or when to raise our voices; itacknowledges that the meaning of our discourse, as of any symphonic composition, lies notonly in the units but in the pauses, the pacing and the phrasing. Punctuation is the way onebats one's eyes, lowers one's voice or blushes demurely. Punctuation adjusts the tone andcolor and volume till the feeling comes into perfea focus: not disgust exactly, but distastes; notlust, or like, but love.
Punctuation, in short, gives us the human voice, and all the meanings that lie between thewords. "You aren't young, are you?" loses its innocence when it loses the question mark.Every child knows the menace of a dropped apostrophe (the parent's "Don't do that" shiftinginto the more slowly enunciated "Do not do that"), and every believer, the ignominy of havinghis faith reduced to "faith." Add an exclamation point to "To be or not to be..." and thegloomy Dane m has all the resolve he needs; add a comma, and the noble sobriety of "Godsave the Queen" becomes a cry of desperation bordering on double sacrilege.
简言之，标点给我们传来话音，传来字里行间的全部含义。“你不小了，是吧?”这话去掉问号，无心便成了有意。做父母的先是说“Don't do that”(“别做那事”)，转而又慢声慢气交代清楚：“Do not.dothat”(不要做那事)，每个孩子都听得明白，拿掉了撇号可就把话说绝了。每个信徒也都明白，把他的信教加上引号，所谓“信教”，那可是在污辱他。给“生存或者灭亡……”一句添上个惊叹号，那位忧心忡忡的丹麦人便是毅然决然万死不辞之士。在“上帝保佑女王”中间加个逗号，那崇高的庄严则成了绝望的呼号，简直是对双方的亵渎。
Sometimes, of course, our markings may be simply a matter of aesthetics.Popping in a commacan be like slipping on the necklace that gives an outfit quiet elegance, or like catching thesound of running water that complements as it completes the silence of a Japaneselandscape. When VS.
Naipaul , in his latest novel, writes, "He was a middle-aged man, with glasses," the first commacan seem a little precious. Yet it gives the description a spin, as well as a subtlety, that itotherwise lacks, and it shows that the glasses are not part of the middle-agedness, butsomething else.
Thus all these tiny scratches give us breadth and heft and depth. A world that has only periodsis a world without inflections. It is a world without shade. It has a music without sharps andflats. It is a martial music. It has a jackboot rhythm. Words cannot bend and curve. Acomma, by comparison,catches the gentle drift of the mind in thought, turning in on itselfand back on itself, reversing, redoubling and returning along the course of its own sweet rivermusic; while the semicolon brings clauses and thoughts together with all the silent discretionof a hostess arranging guests around her dinner table.
Punctuation, then, is a matter of care. Care for words, yes, but also, and more important, forwhat the words imply. Only a lover notices the small things: the way the afternoon lightcatches the nape of a neck, or how a strand of hair slips out from behind an ear, or the way afinger curls around a cup. And no one scans a letter so closely as a lover, searching for its smallprint, straining to hear its nuances, its gasps, its sighs and hesitations, poring over the secretmessages that lie in every cadence. The difference between"Jane (whom I adore)" and "Jane,whom I adore," and the difference between them both and "Jane-whom I adore-" marks all thedistance between ecstasy and heartache. "No iron can pierce the heart with such force as aperiod put at just the right place," in Isaac Babel's lovely words; a comma can let us hear avoice break, or a heart. Punctuation, in fact, is a labor of love. Which brings us back in a way togods.