王尔德1854年出生于爱尔兰的都柏林。他先后就读于都柏林的圣三一学院和牛津大学的莫德林学院,继而定居伦敦。1881年,王尔德出版了第一部诗歌作品集《诗集》(Poems),随后投身小说创作,先后完成了短篇小说集《快乐王子及其他童话》(The Happy Prince and Other Tales, 1888)、《石榴屋》(The House of Pomegranates, 1892)以及引起英国文坛巨大争议的长篇小说《道连·格雷的画像》(The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891)。王尔德的文学成就主要集中在戏剧领域,《温德米尔夫人的扇子》(Lady Windermere’s Fan, 1892)、《理想丈夫》(An Ideal Husband, 1895)、《认真的重要》(The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895)等都已成为英国戏剧的经典。1900年,王尔德在巴黎去世。
The curiously carved mirror that Lord Henry had given to him, so many years ago now, was standing on the table, and the white-limbed Cupids laughed round it as of old1). He took it up, as he had done on that night of horror when he had first noted the change in the fatal picture, and with wild, tear-dimmed eyes looked into its polished shield. Once, someone who had terribly loved him had written to him a mad letter, ending with these idolatrous2) words: “The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history.” The phrases came back to his memory, and he repeated them over and over to himself. Then he loathed3) his own beauty, and flinging4) the mirror on the floor, crushed it into silver splinters5) beneath his heel. It was his beauty that had ruined him, his beauty and the youth that he had prayed for. But for those two things, his life might have been free from stain. His beauty had been to him but a mask, his youth but a mockery. What was youth at best? A green, an unripe time, a time of shallow moods, and sickly thoughts. Why had he worn its livery6)? Youth had spoiled him.
He took the lamp from the table and crept upstairs. As he unbarred the door, a smile of joy flitted across his strangely young-looking face and lingered for a moment about his lips. Yes, he would be good, and the hideous thing that he had hidden away would no longer be a terror to him. He felt as if the load had been lifted from him already.
He went in quietly, locking the door behind him, as was his custom, and dragged the purple hanging from the portrait. A cry of pain and indignation7) broke from him. He could see no change, save that in the eyes there was a look of cunning and in the mouth the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite. The thing was still loathsome—more loathsome, if possible, than before—and the scarlet dew that spotted the hand seemed brighter, and more like blood newly spilled. Then he trembled. Had it been merely vanity that had made him do his one good deed? Or the desire for a new sensation, as Lord Henry had hinted, with his mocking laugh? Or that passion to act a part that sometimes makes us do things finer than we are ourselves? Or, perhaps, all these? And why was the red stain larger than it had been? It seemed to have crept like a horrible disease over the wrinkled fingers. There was blood on the painted feet, as though the thing had dripped—blood even on the hand that had not held the knife. Confess? Did it mean that he was to confess? To give himself up and be put to death? He laughed. He felt that the idea was monstrous. Besides, even if he did confess, who would believe him? There was no trace of the murdered man anywhere. Everything belonging to him had been destroyed. He himself had burned what had been below-stairs. The world would simply say that he was mad. They would shut him up if he persisted in his story … Yet it was his duty to confess, to suffer public shame, and to make public atonement. There was a God who called upon men to tell their sins to earth as well as to heaven …
But this murder—was it to dog8) him all his life? Was he always to be burdened by his past? Was he really to confess? Never. There was only one bit of evidence left against him. The picture itself—that was evidence. He would destroy it. Why had he kept it so long? Once it had given him pleasure to watch it changing and growing old. Of late he had felt no such pleasure. It had kept him awake at night. When he had been away, he had been filled with terror lest other eyes should look upon it. It had brought melancholy across his passions. Its mere memory had marred many moments of joy. It had been like conscience to him. Yes, it had been conscience. He would destroy it.
He looked round and saw the knife that had stabbed Basil Hallward9). He had cleaned it many times, till there was no stain left upon it. It was bright, and glistened. As it had killed the painter, so it would kill the painter’s work, and all that that meant. It would kill the past, and when that was dead, he would be free. It would kill this monstrous soul-life, and without its hideous warnings, he would be at peace. He seized the thing, and stabbed the picture with it.
There was a cry heard, and a crash. The cry was so horrible in its agony that the frightened servants woke and crept out of their rooms … Old Mrs. Leaf10) was crying and wringing her hands. Francis11) was as pale as death. After about a quarter of an hour, he got the coachman and one of the footmen and crept upstairs. They knocked, but there was no reply. They called out. Everything was still. Finally, after vainly trying to force the door, they got on the roof and dropped down on to the balcony. The windows yielded easily—their bolts were old.
When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage12). It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was.
1. as of old:依旧
2. idolatrous [aI5dClEtrEs] adj. 崇拜偶像的,盲目崇拜的
3. loathe [lEuT] vt. 厌恶,憎恶
4. fling [flIN] vt. 猛投,抛,掷
5. splinter [5splIntE] n. 裂片,碎片
6. livery [5lIvErI] n.〈喻〉服装,装束
7. indignation [7IndI^5neIFEn] n. 愤慨,义愤
8. dog [dC^] vt. 跟踪,尾随
9. Basil Hallward:贝泽尔·霍尔渥德,一位画家,他是道连的朋友,小说中道连的画像即是此人所画。
10. Mrs. Leaf:黎甫夫人,道连的女管家
12. visage [5vIzIdV] n.〈书〉面貌,容貌
莎士比亚在著名的第18首十四行诗中曾经写道:“每一种美都终究会凋残零落/或见弃于机缘,或受挫于天道无常。”(And every fair from fair sometime declines/By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed.)人无法抗拒自然的规律,明亮的眼睛变得黯淡,光洁的容颜被刻上皱纹,两鬓染上霜华,这是时间的流逝在人的生命中雕刻下的痕迹。然而,《道连·格雷的画像》却讲述了一则试图将美永存的童话。小说中,道连·格雷为了抗拒时间所具有的侵蚀性力量,为了将美丽的容颜停驻在青春最艳丽的时刻,付出了出卖灵魂的代价。