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培根散文第42章:Of Youth and Age 论青年与老年

时间: 02-28     手机版

Of Youth and Age 论青年与老年 中英对照
弗朗西斯 培根 Francis Bacon

A MAN that is young in years, may be old in hours, if he have lost no time. But that happeneth rarely. Generally, youth is like the first cogitations, not so wise as the second. For there is a youth in thoughts, as well as in ages. And yet the invention of young men, is more lively than that of old; and imaginations stream into their minds better, and, as it were, more divinely. Natures that have much heat, and great and violent desires and perturbations, are not ripe for action, till they have passed the meridian of their years; as it was with Julius Caesar and Septimius Severus. Of the latter, of whom it is said, Juventutem egit erroribus, imo furoribus, plenam. And yet he was the ablest emperor, almost, of all the list. But reposed natures may do well in youth. As it is seen in Augustus Caesar, Cosmus Duke of Florence, Gaston de Foix, and others. On the other side, heat and vivacity in age, is an excellent composition for business. Young men are fitter to invent, than to judge; fitter for execution, than for counsel; and fitter for new projects, than for settled business. For the experience of age, in things that fall within the compass of it, directeth them; but in new things, abuseth them.
一个年岁不大的人也可以是富于经验的,假如他不曾虚度生活的话;然而这毕竟是罕有的事。一般说来,青年人富于“直觉”,而老年人则长于“深思”。这两者在深刻和正确性上是有着显著差别的。青年的特别是富于创造性,想象力也纯洁而灵活。这似乎是得之于神助的。然而,热情炽烈而情绪敏感的人往往要在中年以后方成大器,尤恺撒和塞维拉斯①就是明显的例证。曾有人评论后一位说:“他曾度过一个荒谬的——甚至是疯狂的青春”。然而他后来成为罗马皇帝中极杰出的一位。少年老成、性格稳健的人则往往青春时代就可成大器,奥古斯都大帝、卡斯曼斯大公、卡斯顿勋爵②即是如此。另一方面,对于老人来说,保持住热情和活力则是难能可贵的。青年人长于创造而短于思考,长于猛干而短于讨论,长于革新而短于守成。老年人的经验,引导他们熟悉旧事物,却蒙蔽他们无视新情况。

The errors of young men, are the ruin of business; but the errors of aged men, amount but to this, that more might have been done, or sooner. Young men, in the conduct and manage of actions, embrace more than they can hold; stir more than they can quiet; fly to the end, without consideration of the means and degrees; pursue some few principles, which they have chanced upon absurdly; care not to innovate, which draws unknown inconveniences; use extreme remedies at first; and, that which doubleth all errors, will not acknowledge or retract them; like an unready horse, that will neither stop nor turn. Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success. Certainly it is good to compound employments of both; for that will be good for the present, because the virtues of either age, may correct the defects of both; and good for succession, that young men may be learners, while men in age are actors; and, lastly, good for extern accidents, because authority followeth old men, and favor and popularity, youth. But for the moral part, perhaps youth will have the pre-eminence, as age hath for the politic. A certain rabbin, upon the text, Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams, inferreth that young men, are admitted nearer to God than old, because vision, is a clearer revelation, than a dream. And certainly, the more a man drinketh of the world, the more it intoxicateth; and age doth profit rather in the powers of understanding, than in the virtues of the will and affections. There be some, have an over-early ripeness in their years, which fadeth betimes. These are, first, such as have brittle wits, the edge whereof is soon turned; such as was Hermogenes the rhetorician, whose books are exceeding subtle; who afterwards waxed stupid. A second sort, is of those that have some natural dispositions which have better grace in youth, than in age; such as is a fluent and luxuriant speech; which becomes youth well, but not age: so Tully saith of Hortensius, Idem manebat, neque idem decebat. The third is of such, as take too high a strain at the first, and are magnanimous, more than tract of years can uphold. As was Scipio Africanus, of whom Livy saith in effect, Ultima primis cedebant.
青年人敏锐果敢,但行事轻率却可能毁坏大局。青年的性格如同不羁的野马,藐视既往,目空一切,好走极端。勇于革新而不去估量实际的条件和可能性,结果常因浮躁而改革不成却招致意外的麻烦。老年人则正相反。他们常常满足于困守已成之局,思考多于行动,议论多于决断。为事后不后悔,宁肯事前不冒险。因此,最好的办法是把青年的特点与老年的特点在事业上结合在一起。这样,他们各自的优点正好弥补了对方的缺点。从现在的角度说,他们的所长可以互补他们各自的所短。从发展的角度说,青年可以从老年身上学到他们所不具的经验。而从社会的角度说,有经验的老人执事令人放心,而青年人的干劲则鼓舞人心。但是,如果说,老人的经验是可贵的,那么青年人的纯真则是崇高的。《圣经》说:“你们中的年轻人将见到天国,而你们中的老人则只能作梦。”有一位“拉比”(犹太牧师)解释这话说:上帝认为青年比老年更接近他,因为希望总比幻梦切实一些。要知道,世情如酒,越浓越醉人——年龄越大,则在世故增长的同时却愈会丧失正直纯真的感情。早熟的人往往凋谢也早。不足为训的是如下三种人。第一种,是在智力上开发太早的人。小时了了,大未必佳。例如修辞学家赫摩格尼斯③就是如此。他少年时候就写出美妙的著作,但中年以后却成了白痴。第二种,是那种毕生不税稚气的老顽童。正如西塞罗所批评的赫腾修斯④,他早已该成熟却一直幼稚。第三种,是志在才疏的人。年轻时拒负很大,晚年却不足为训。像西兹阿·阿非利卡就是如此。⑤所以历史学家李维批评他:“一生事业有始有终。”

①、优利·凯撒(前100?—44),罗马政治家。Severus(1462—211),古罗马皇帝,公元193—211年在位。
②、卡斯曼斯大公,1570年封多斯加纳大公。
③、奥古斯都·凯撒(前61—公元14),为罗马帝国第一任皇帝,大凯撒的侄孙,原名屋大维。具古斯都意为“至高无上者”,乃其尊号。统一罗马,为帝政的建立者。赫摩格尼斯(161—180),古希腊哲学家。
④、西塞罗(前106—前43),古罗马政治家、雄辩家和哲学家。赫腾修斯,约与西塞罗同时代的人。
⑤、西庇阿·阿非利卡(前236—前184),古罗马名将。

 

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