A Handful of Clay 一撮黏土

There was a handful of clay in the bank of a river. It was only common clay, coarse and heavy; but it had high thoughts of its own value, and wonderful dreams of the great place which it was to fill in the world when the time came for its virtues to be discovered.

Overhead, in the spring sunshine, the trees whispered together of the glory which descended upon them when the delicate blossoms and leaves began to expand, and the forest glowed the fair, clear colors, as if the dust of thousands of rubies and emeralds were hanging, in soft clouds, above the earth.

The flowers, surprised with the joy of beauty, bent their heads to one another, as the wind caressed them, and said: “Sisters, how lovely you have become. You make the day bright.”

The river, glad of new strength and rejoicing in the unison of all its waters, murmured to the shores in music, telling of its release from icy fetters, its swift flight from the snow-clad mountains, and the mighty work to which it was hurrying — the wheels of many mills to be turned, and great ships to be floated to the sea.

Waiting blindly in its bed, the clay comforted itself with lofty hopes. “My time will come,” it said. “I was not made to be hidden forever. Glory and beauty and honor are coming to me in due season.”

One day the clay felt itself taken from the place where it had waited so long. A flat blade of iron passed beneath it, and lifted it, and tossed it into a cart with other lumps of clay, and it was carried far away, as it seemed, over a rough and stony road. But it was not afraid, nor discouraged, for it said to itself: “This is necessary. The path to glory is always rugged. Now I am on my way to play a great part in the world.”

But the hard journey was nothing, compared with the tribulation and distress that came after it. The clay was put into a trough and mixed and beaten and stirred and trampled. It seemed almost unbearable. But there was consolation in the thought that something very fine and noble was certainly coming out of all this trouble. The clay felt sure that, if it could only wait long enough, a wonderful reward was in store for it.

Then it was put upon a swiftly turning wheel, and whirled around until it seemed as if it must fly into a thousand pieces. A strange power pressed it and molded it, as it revolved, and through all the dizziness and pain it felt that it was taking a new form.

Then an unknown hand put it into an oven, and fires were kindled about it — fierce and penetrating — hotter than all the heats of summer that had ever brooded upon the bank of the river. But through all, the clay held itself together and endured its trials, in the confidence of a great future. “Surely,” it thought, “I am intended for something very splendid, since such pains are taken with me. Perhaps I am fashioned for the ornament of a temple, or a precious vase for the table of a king.”

At last the baking was finished. The clay was taken from the furnace and set down upon a board, in the cool air, under the blue sky. The tribulation was passed. The reward was at hand.

Close beside the board there was a pool of water, not very deep, not very clear, but calm enough to reflect, with impartial truth, every image that fell upon it. There for the first time, as it was lifted from the board, the clay saw its new shape, the reward of all its patience and pain, the consummation of its hopes — a common flower-pot, straight and stiff, red and ugly. And then it felt that it was not destined for a king‘s house, nor for a palace of art, because it was made without glory or beauty or honor; and it murmured against the unknown maker, saying, “Why hast thou made me thus?”

Many days it passed in sullen discontent. Then it was filled with earth, and something — it knew not what — but something rough and brown and dead-looking, was thrust into the middle of the earth and covered over. The clay rebelled at this new disgrace. “This is the worst of all that has happened to me, to be filled with dirt and rubbish. Surely I am a failure.”

But presently it was set in a greenhouse, where the sunlight fell warm upon it, and water was sprinkled over it, and day by day as it waited, a change began to come to it. Something was stirring within it — a new hope. Still it was ignorant, and knew not what the new hope meant.
One day the clay was lifted again from its place, and carried into a great church. Its dream was coming true after all. It had a fine part to play in the world. Glorious music flowed over it . It was surrounded with flowers. Still it could not understand. So it whispered to another vessel of clay, like itself, close beside it, “Why have they set me here? Why do all the people look toward us?” And the other vessel answered, “Do you not know? You are carrying a royal scepter of lilies. Their petals are white as snow, and the heart of them is like pure gold. The people look this way because the flower is the most wonderful in the world. And the root of it is in your heart.”

Then the clay was content, and silently thanked its maker, because, though an earthen vessel, it held so great a treasure.







河水也因为增添了新的力量而感到高兴,它沉浸在水流重聚的欢乐之中,不断以美好的音调向河岸喃喃絮语,叙述着自己是怎么挣脱冰雪的束缚,怎么从积雪覆盖的群山奔腾跑到这里,以及它匆忙前往担负的重大工作 — 无数水车的轮子等待着它去推动,巨大的船只等待着它去送往海上。




然后一只陌生的手把它透进炉灶,周围烈火熊熊 — 真是痛心刺骨 — 那灼热程度远比盛夏时节河边的艳阳要厉害得多。但整个期间,黏土始终十分坚强,经受了一切考验,对自己的伟大前途信心不坠。它心想,“既然人家对我下了这么大的工夫,我是注定要有一番锦绣前程的。看来我不是去充当庙堂殿宇里的华美装饰,便是成为帝王几案上的名贵花瓶。”

木板之旁便有一泓潭水,水虽不深也不很清,但却波纹平静,能把潭边的事物,公正如实地反映出来。当黏土被人从板上拿起来时,它这才第一次窥见了自己新的形状,而这便是它千辛万苦之后的报偿,它的全部心愿的成果 — 一只普普通通的花盆,线条粗硬,又红又丑。这时它才感觉到自己既不可能登帝王之家,也不可能入艺术之宫,因为自己的外貌一点也不高雅华贵;于是它对自己那位无名的制造者喃喃抱怨起来,“你为什么把我造成这等模样?”

自此一连数日它抑郁不快。接着它给装上了土,另外还有一件东西 — 是什么它弄不清,但灰黄粗糙,样子难看 — 也给插到了土的中间,然后用东西盖上。这个新的屈辱引起了黏土的极大不满。“我的不辛现在是到了极点,让人装起脏土垃圾来了。我这一生算是完了。”

但是过了不久,黏土又给人放进了一间温室,这里阳光和煦地照射着它,并且经常给它喷水,这样就在它一天天静静等候的时候,某种变化终于开始到来。某种东西正在体内萌动 — 莫非是希望重生!但它对此仍然毫不理解,也不懂得这个希望意味着什么。



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