Skip to main content

Smelling Essays

NOW as they wandered about the temple they came upon an old blind priest sitting under the verandah, engaged in selling medicines and prescribing for patients. “Ah!” cried Sung, “there is an extraordinary man who is well versed in the arts of composition;” and immediately he sent back to get the essay they had just been reading, in order to obtain the old priest’s opinion as to its merits. At the same moment up came their friend from Yühang, and all three went along together. Wang began by addressing him as “Professor;” whereupon the priest, who thought the stranger had come to consult him as a doctor, inquired what might be the disease from which he was suffering. Wang then explained what his mission was; upon which the priest smiled and said, “Who’s been telling you this nonsense? How can a man with no eyes discuss with you the merits of your compositions?” Wang replied by asking him to let his ears do duty for his eyes; but the priest answered that he would hardly have patience to sit out Wang’s three sections, amounting perhaps to some two thousand and more words. “However,” added he, “if you like to burn it, I’ll try what I can do with my nose.” Wang complied, and burnt the first section there and then; and the old priest, snuffing up the smoke, declared that it wasn’t such a bad effort, and finally gave it as his opinion that Wang would probably succeed at the examination. The young scholar from Yühang didn’t believe that the old priest could really tell anything by these means, and forthwith proceeded to burn an essay by one of the old masters; but the priest no sooner smelt the smoke than he cried out, “Beautiful indeed! beautiful indeed! I do enjoy this. The light of genius and truth is evident here.” The Yühang scholar was greatly astonished at this, and began to burn an essay of his own; whereupon the priest said, “I had had but a taste of that one; why change so soon to another?” “The first paragraph,” replied the young man, “was by a friend; the rest is my own composition.” No sooner had he uttered these words than the old priest began to retch violently, and begged that he might have no more, as he was sure it would make him sick. The Yühang scholar was much abashed at this, and went away; but in a few days the list came out and his name was among the successful ones, while Wang’s was not. He at once hurried off to tell the old priest, who, when he heard the news, sighed and said, “I may be blind with my eyes but I am not so with my nose, which I fear is the case with the examiners. Besides,” added he, “I was talking to you about composition: I said nothing about destiny.”

司文郎

平陽王平子,赴試北闈,賃居報國寺。寺中有餘杭生先在,王以比屋居,投刺焉。生不之答。朝夕遇之,多無狀。王怒其狂悖,交往遂絕。一日,有少年遊寺中,白服裙帽,望之傀然。近與接談,言語諧妙。心愛敬之。展問邦族,云:「登州宋姓。」因命蒼頭設座,相對噱談。餘杭生適過,共起遜坐。生居然上座,更不撝挹。卒然問宋:「爾亦入闈者耶?」答曰:「非也。駑駘之才,無志騰驤久矣。」又問:「何省?」宋告之。生曰:「竟不進取,足知高明。山左、右並無一字通者。」宋曰:「北人固少通者,而不通者未必是小生;南人固多通者,然通者亦未必是足下。」言已,鼓掌;王和之,因而鬨堂。生慚忿,軒眉攘腕而大言曰:「敢當前命題,一校文藝乎?」宋他顧而哂曰:「有何不敢!」便趨寓所,出經授王。王隨手一翻,指曰:「『闕黨童子將命。』」生起,求筆札。宋曳之曰:「口占可也。我破已成:『於賓客往來之地,而見一無所知之人焉。』」王捧腹大笑。生怒曰:「全不能文,徒事嫚罵,何以為人!」王力為排難,請另命佳題。又翻曰:「『殷有三仁焉。』」宋立應曰:「三子者不同道,其趨一也。夫一者何也?曰:仁也。君子亦仁而已矣,何必同?」生遂不作,起曰:「其為人也小有才。」遂去。王以此益重宋。邀入寓室,款言移晷,盡出所作質宋。宋流覽絕疾,踰刻已盡百首。曰:「君亦沉深於此道者;然命筆時,無求必得之念,而尚有冀倖得之心,即此,已落下乘。」遂取閱過者一一詮說。王大悅,師事之。使庖人以蔗糖作水角。宋啗而甘之,曰:「生平未解此味,煩異日更一作也。」由此相得甚懽。宋三五日輒一至,王必為之設水角焉。餘杭生時一遇之,雖不甚傾談,而傲睨之氣頓減。一日,以窗藝示宋。宋見諸友圈贊已濃,目一過,推置案頭,不作一語。生疑其未閱,復請之。答已覽竟。生又疑其不解。宋曰:「有何難解?但不佳耳!」生曰:「一覽丹黃,何知不佳?」宋便誦其文,如夙讀者,且誦且訾。生跼蹐汗流,不言而去。移時,宋去,生入,堅請王作。王拒之。生強搜得,見文多圈點,笑曰:「此大似水角子!」王故樸訥,靦然而已。次日,宋至,王具以告。宋怒曰:「我謂『南人不復反矣』,傖楚何敢乃爾!必當有以報之!」王力陳輕薄之戒以勸之,宋深感佩。既而場後,以文示宋,宋頗相許。偶與涉歷殿閣,見一瞽僧坐廊下,設藥賣醫。宋訝曰:「此奇人也!最能知文,不可不一請教。」因命歸寓取文。遇餘杭生,遂與俱來。王呼師而參之。僧疑其問醫者,便詰症候。王具白請教之意。僧笑曰:「是誰多口?無目何以論文?」王請以耳代目。僧曰:「三作兩千餘言,誰耐久聽!不如焚之,我視以鼻可也。」王從之。每焚一作,僧嗅而頷之曰:「君初法大家,雖未逼真,亦近似矣。我適受之以脾。」問:「可中否?」曰:「亦中得。」餘杭生未深信,先以古大家文燒試之。僧再嗅曰:「妙哉!此文我心受之矣,非歸、胡何解辦此!」生大駭,始焚己作。僧曰:「適領一藝,未窺全豹,何忽另易一人來也?」生託言:「朋友之作,止彼一首;此乃小生作也。」僧嗅其餘灰,咳逆數聲,曰:「勿再投矣!格格而不能下,強受之以鬲;再焚,則作惡矣。」生慚而退。數日榜放,生竟領薦;王下第。生與王走告僧。僧歎曰:「僕雖盲於目,而不盲於鼻;簾中人並鼻盲矣。」俄餘杭生至,意氣發舒,曰:「盲和尚,汝亦啖人水角耶?今竟何如?」僧曰:「我所論者文耳,不謀與君論命。君試尋諸試官之文,各取一首焚之,我便知孰為爾師。」生與王並搜之,止得八九人。生曰:「如有舛錯,以何為罰?」僧憤曰:「剜我盲瞳去!」生焚之,每一首,都言非是;至第六篇,忽向壁大嘔,下氣如雷。眾皆粲然。僧拭目向生曰:「此真汝師也!初不知而驟嗅之,刺於鼻,棘於腹,膀胱所不能容,直自下部出矣!」生大怒,去,曰:「明日自見,勿悔!勿悔!」越二三日,竟不至;視之,已移去矣。──乃知即某門生也。宋慰王曰:「凡吾輩讀書人,不當尤人,但當克己:不尤人則德益弘,能克己則學益進。當前踧落,固是數之不偶;平心而論,文亦未便登峰,其由此砥礪,天下自有不盲之人。」王肅然起敬。又聞次年再行鄉試,遂不歸,止而受教。宋曰:「都中薪桂米珠,勿憂資斧。舍後有窖鏹,可以發用。」即示之處。王謝曰:「昔竇、范貧而能廉,今某幸能自給,敢自污乎?」王一日醉眠,僕及庖人竊發之。王忽覺,聞舍後有聲;窺出,則金堆地上。情見事露,並相慴伏。方訶責間,見有金爵,類多鐫款,審視,皆大父字諱。──蓋王祖曾為南部郎,入都寓此,暴病而卒,金其所遺也。王乃喜,稱得金八百餘兩。明日告宋,且示之爵,欲與瓜分,固辭乃已。以百金往贈瞽僧,僧已去。積數月,敦習益苦。及試,宋曰:「此戰不捷,始真是命矣!」俄以犯規被黜。王尚無言;宋大哭,不能止。王反慰解之。宋曰:「僕為造物所忌,困頓至於終身,今又累及良友。其命也夫!其命也夫!」王曰:「萬事固有數在。如先生乃無志進取,非命也。」宋拭淚曰:「久欲有言,恐相驚怪。某非生人,乃飄泊之游魂也。少負才名,不得志於場屋。佯狂至都,冀得知我者,傳諸著作。甲申之年,竟罹於難,歲歲飄蓬。幸相知愛,故極力為『他山』之攻,生平未酬之願,實欲借良朋一快之耳。今文字之厄若此,誰復能漠然哉!」王亦感泣。問:「何淹滯?」曰:「去年上帝有命,委宣聖及閻羅王核查劫鬼,上者備諸曹任用,餘者即俾轉輪。賤名已錄,所未投到者,欲一見飛黃之快耳,今請別矣。」王問:「所考何職?」曰:「梓潼府中缺一司文郎,暫令聾僮署篆,文運所以顛倒。萬一倖得此秩,當使聖教昌明。」明日,忻忻而至,曰:「願遂矣!宣聖命作『性道論』,視之色喜,謂可司文。閻羅穆簿,欲以『口孽』見棄。宣聖爭之,乃得就。某伏謝已。又呼近案下,囑云:『今以憐才,拔充清要;宜洗心供職,勿蹈前愆。』此可知冥中重德行更甚於文學也。君必修行未至,但積善勿懈可耳。」王曰:「果爾,餘杭其德行何在?」曰:「此即不知。要冥司賞罰,皆無少爽。即前日瞽僧,亦一鬼也,是前朝名家。以生前拋棄字紙過多,罰作瞽。彼自欲醫人疾苦,以贖前愆,故託游廛肆耳。」王命置酒。宋曰:「無須;終歲之擾,盡此一刻,再為我設水角足矣。」王悲愴不食。坐令自噉,頃刻,已過三盛。捧腹曰:「此餐可飽三日,吾以志君德耳。向所食,都在舍後,已成菌矣。藏作藥餌,可益兒慧。」王問後會,曰:「既有官責,當引嫌也。」又問:「梓潼祠中,一相酹祝,可能達否?」曰:「此都無益。九天甚遠,但潔身力行,自有地司牒報,則某必與知之。」言已,作別而沒。王視舍後,果生紫菌,采而藏之。旁有新土墳起,則水角宛然在焉。王歸,彌自刻厲。一夜,夢宋輿蓋而至,曰:「君向以小忿,誤殺一婢,削去祿籍;今篤行已折除矣。然命薄不足任仕進也。」是年,捷於鄉;明年,春闈又捷。遂不復仕。生二子,其一絕鈍,啖以菌,遂大慧。後以故詣金陵,遇餘杭生於旅次,極道契闊,深自降抑,然鬢毛斑矣。
  異史氏曰:「餘杭生公然自詡,意其為文,未必盡無可觀;而驕詐之意態顏色,遂使人頃刻不可復忍。天人之厭棄已久,故鬼神皆玩弄之。脫能增修厥德,則簾內之『刺鼻棘心』者,遇之正易,何所遭之僅也。」

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The wonderful pear-tree

Once upon a time a countryman came into the town on market-day, and brought a load of very special pears with him to sell. He set up his barrow in a good corner, and soon had a great crowd round him ; for everyone knew he always sold extra fine pears, though he did also ask an extra high price. Now, while he was crying up his fruit, a poor, old, ragged, hungry-looking priest stopped just in front of the barrow, and very humbly begged him to give him one of the pears. But the countryman, who was very mean and very nasty-tempered, wouldn't hear of giving him any, and as the priest didn't seem inclined to move on, he began calling him all the bad names he could think of. " Good sir," said the priest, " you have got hundreds of pears on your barrow. I only ask you for one. You would never even know you had lost one. Really, you needn't get angry." "Give him a pear that is going bad ; that will make him happy," said one of the crowd. "The o

The Fox and The Tiger

ONE day a fox encountered a tiger. The tiger showed his fangs and waved his claws and wanted to eat him up. But the fox said: 'Good sir, you must not think that you alone are the king of beasts. Your courage is no match for mine. Let us go together and you keep behind me. If the humans are not afraid of me when they see me, then you may eat me up.' The tiger agreed and so the fox led him to a big high-way. As soon as the travellers saw the tiger in the distance they were seized with fear and ran away. Then the said: 'You see? I was walking in front; they saw me before they could See you.' Then the tiger put his tail between his legs and ran away. The tiger had seen that the humans were afraid of the fox but he had not realized that the fox had merely borrowed his own terrible appearance. [This story was translated by Ewald Osers from German, published by George Bell & Sons, in the book 'Chinese Folktales'.  Osers noted that this story was

The Legend of The Three-Life Stone

The Buddhist believe metempsychosis, or the migration of the souls of animated beings, people's relationships are predestined through three states of life: the past, present, and future life. Legend has it that there's a road called Yellow Spring Road, which leads to Fogotten River. Over the river there's a bridge called Helpless Bridge (Naihe Bridge), at one end of the bridge sits a crimson stone called Three-life Stone. When two people die, they take this route to reincarnation. if they carve their name on the Three-life Stone together while they pass the stone, they are to be predestined to be together in their future life. Although before their rebirth they will be given a MengPo Soup to drink and thereby their memory of past life are obliterated. In reality, San-Sheng Shi (三生石), or Three-Life Stone is located beside Flying Mountain near the West Lake, Hangzhou. On the stone, there is seal with three Chinese characters that say "The Three-life Stone," and a