Liu Zongyuan: The Snake-Catcher ~ 柳宗元 《捕蛇者说》 with English Translations

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小编导读:《捕蛇者说》写于作者被贬到永州(现在湖南零陵)时,是柳宗元的散文名篇。柳宗元的贬地永州,在当时是相当荒僻落后的地区。司马是刺史的助手,有职无权。柳宗元在这里住了将近10年,到元和十年(公元815年)才被改派到柳州当刺史。在刺史任上,他“因其土俗,为设教禁”取得显著政绩。但因长期内心抑郁,健康状况恶化,终于病死在柳州,年仅47岁。文章通过捕蛇者蒋氏对其祖孙三代为免交赋税而宁愿冒着死亡威胁捕捉毒蛇的自述,反映了中唐时期我国劳动人民的悲惨生活,深刻地揭露了封建统治阶级对劳动人民的残酷压迫和剥削,表达了作者对劳动人民的深切同情。反映了当时“苛政猛于虎”的税收情况。

柳宗元 《捕蛇者说》

永州之野产异蛇,黑质而白章,触草木尽死;以啮人,无御之者。然得而腊之以为饵,可以已大风、挛踠、瘘、疠,去死肌,杀三虫。其始,太医以王命聚之,岁赋其二。募有能捕之者,当其租入。永之人争奔走焉。

有蒋氏者,专其利三世矣。问之,则曰:“吾祖死于是,吾父死于是,今吾嗣为之十二年,几死者数矣。”言之,貌若甚戚者。

余悲之,且曰:“若毒之乎?余将告于莅事者,更若役,复若赋,则如何?”

蒋氏大戚,汪然出涕,曰:“君将哀而生之乎?则吾斯役之不幸,未若复吾赋不幸之甚也。向吾不为斯役,则久已病矣。自吾氏三世居是乡,积于今六十岁矣。而乡邻之生日蹙,殚其地之出,竭其庐之入,号呼而转徙,饿渴而顿踣。触风雨,犯寒暑,呼嘘毒疠,往往而死者相藉也。曩与吾祖居者,今其室十无一焉;与吾父居者,今其室十无二三焉。与吾居十二年者,今其室十无四五焉。非死即徙尔,而吾以捕蛇独存。悍吏之来吾乡,叫嚣乎东西,隳突乎南北;哗然而骇者,虽鸡狗不得宁焉。吾恂恂而起,视其缶,而吾蛇尚存,则弛然而卧。谨食之,时而献焉。退而甘食其土之有,以尽吾齿。盖一岁之犯死者二焉,其余则熙熙而乐,岂若吾乡邻之旦旦有是哉!今虽死乎此,比吾乡邻之死则已后矣,又安敢毒耶?”

余闻而愈悲,孔子曰:“苛政猛于虎也!”吾尝疑乎是。今以蒋氏观之,犹信。呜呼!孰知赋敛之毒有甚是蛇者乎!故为之说,以俟夫观人风者得焉。

The Snake-Catcher
Liu Zongyuan

The country around Yongzhou yields a curious snake — black withwhite spots. Any plant it touches dies, and its bite is fatal. But if caughtand dried for medicine, it cures leprosy, palsy and boils, heals putrid soresand checks all noxious humours. In earlier times it was decreed that two snakesshould be presented each year to the imperial physician, and that those whocaptured them should be exempted from other taxes. So the people of Yongzhoumade every effort to catch them.

I questioned a man named Jiang, whose family had made a living inthis way for three generations.

“My grandfather died of snake-bite,so did my father,” he told me in great distress. “Now I have followed in theirsteps for twelve years, and narrowly escaped death several times.”

I pitied him.

“If you hate this calling,” I said,“I can ask the authorities to release you from it and let you pay land taxinstead. What do you say?”

Jiang was appalled. Tears welled up in his eyes.

“Have pity on me, sir!” he cried.“Though this is a wretched life, it is better than paying taxes. If not forthese snakes, I would have come to grief long ago. For the sixty years that mygrandfather, father and I have lived here, our neighbours have been more andmore hard put to it every day. When their soil is exhausted, their savingsspent, they leave their homes lamenting to fall hungry and thirsty by thewayside; or toil winter and summer in the wind and rain, contracting diseasestill their corpses pile up. Of my grandfather’s generation, not one in ten isleft; not three in ten of my father’s; and not five in ten of those who were myneighbours twelve years ago. The rest are dead or gone while I alone live on —because I catch snakes. When those bullying tax-collectors come to our area,they bellow and curse from east to west and rampage from north to south, makingsuch a fearful din that the very birds and dogs have no peace. Then I tiptoefrom my bed to look into my pitcher, but breathe freely again at the sight ofmy snakes and lie down once more. I feed my snakes carefully, and present themin due season, then come home to enjoy the fruits of my fields in comfort. Irisk death twice a year, but live happily for the rest, unlike my neighbourswho face death every day. Though I die of snake-bite, I shall have outlivedmost of them. How could I hate this calling?”

At this I pitied the fellow even more.

I used to doubt that saying of Confucius: “Tyranny is more rapaciousthan a tiger.” But Jiang’s case convinced me of its truth. Alas, to think thattaxation can prove more dire than a poisonous snake! So I have written thisessay for those who study conditions in the countryside.

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