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更新时间:2014-5-26 13:31:00 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

In Search of Oxford

When I took off in late October to join my husband, a law professor on sabbatical in Oxford, I thought I knew what to expect, thanks to all the books and movies that have been set in this ridiculously pretty, medieval town in south central England. Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” — the 1945 novel that grapples with the allure of aristocracy and privilege — had prepared me for the sight of elegant undergrads romping about, perhaps carrying bottles of Champagne, on the vast green meadows of Christ Church college. Colin Dexter’s “Inspector Morse” series (both the books and the television show) had warned me about the dangers of tripping over dead bodies. And that very last bit of the recent film “An Education” prepared me for flocks of students riding bicycles on their way to conquer DNA analysis on the one hand and the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism on the other.

去年10月底,当我启程与丈夫团聚时——他是一位法学教授,在牛津休年假——我以为自己很清楚会见到什么,因为对于牛津,这座英格兰中南部美不胜收的中世纪小城,我读过许多书,看过许多以它为背景的电影。伊夫琳·沃(Evelyn Waugh)在他1945年的著作《旧地重游》 (Brideshead Revisited) 中悉心刻画了贵族统治与特权的诱惑,因此我早有准备,以为会在基督教会学院见到优雅的大学生带着香槟在开阔的草地上野餐。柯林·德克斯特(Colin Dexter)的《摩斯警长》(Inspector Morse)系列提醒我会有被死尸绊倒的风险(小说与电视剧皆如此)。而最近的电影《成长教育》(An Education)的最后部分则让我有所准备,以为会见到成群的学生骑车上学,或是去进行DNA分析,或是去学习小乘佛教的仪式语言。

Scenes From Oxford, England Clockwise from top left: View from the center of town; remains of Godstow Abbey; Cornmarket Street; boats on Oxford Canal.

Oxford has in fact inspired innumerable literary and cinematic works, and it’s easy to see why: The place is a many-layered confection of history, aspiration, ambition, class, elegance, yearning, wealth, trade and all-things-poetic, including poetry-spouting students and bona fide poets (among them, Philip Larkin, W. H. Auden and John Betjeman). But it’s also a working city filled with people who have nothing to do with lofty language — though the vision of the 19th-century poet and literary critic Matthew Arnold is, in fact, ubiquitous: “And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,/ She needs not June for beauty’s heightening ...”

的确,有不计其数的文学与电影作品从牛津获得了灵感,原因不言而喻:这个地方仿佛一件层次无穷的甜点,蕴含着历史、志向、抱负、格调、典雅、渴望、财富、贸易与一切诗情画意,包括许多诗才横溢的学生与真正的诗人,比如菲利普·拉金(Philip Larkin)、W. H.奥登(W. H. Auden)和约翰·贝杰曼(John Betjeman)。但是,这也是一座劳工之城,许多人的工作与高尚的语言毫无关联——尽管19世纪诗人与文学批评家马修·阿诺德(Matthew Arnold)眼中的风光而今依然如旧:“这座甜蜜之城遍布梦幻的尖塔/它的美丽,不需要六月的张扬……”

Perhaps the best way to get a handle on the whole megillah is atop the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, with its 14th-century spire, right smack dab in the middle of the action, on High Street at Radcliffe Square. From here you can take it all in: the town’s location in the Thames Valley, the silky silver river itself (also locally called the Isis, especially in regard to rowing), the site of the original “oxen ford” at Folly Bridge, the rail lines, the gardens and meadows, the canals and, of course, the 38 separate colleges, with their quadrangles, porter’s lodges, towers and glowing facades, that together make up the University of Oxford.


Yes, the university is everywhere, and it’s reason enough for the town to exist, because without the university — which started out as a collection of medieval monastic communities and evolved into “academic halls” before giving birth to the first colleges — there would be no city walls (the remnants of which can still be seen in glimpses), no shopping streets, no Victorian extravaganzas of turrets and gables and, certainly, no pubs or flocks of speeding, zigzagging bicyclists rushing off to their next lectures.


Nor would there be so much confusion (at least among Americans) about just what this place is, anyhow, because unlike most universities, Oxford (and its kissing cousin, Cambridge) operates on a hybrid system composed of the separate colleges and the university as a whole. In fact, the system is so complex and status-driven that it would take a colonial like me a lifetime to get it right.


But just because I wasn’t an insider did not mean that the place wasn’t ready and willing to be explored. Which meant wheels of my own, specifically a sturdy three-speed equipped with mudguards, which I rented from a shop on Cowley Road.


It may not be an obvious place to start, but I began my own meandering exploration of all-things-Oxford in Iffley Village, once a separate entity but now within the city limits. I wanted to get a sense of what Oxford may have been like before it became synonymous with the University of Oxford, and Iffley — with its typically English mix of thatched-roof and half-timbered houses with names like Grist Cottage and the Malt House, centuries-old stone walls, winding lanes, fields, geese and late-Victorian terrace houses — does just that.


On just about any lane or meadow in Iffley you can imagine yourself in medieval Oxford, its fortified center surrounded by the watery stew that was once the marshy convergence of the Thames and the River Cherwell. In those days, Oxford was a north-south, east-west trading hub with its center, to this day, at Carfax Tower, about a five-minute walk uphill from the Thames. (“Carfax” is derived from the French carrefour, or in English, “crossroads.”)


If it’s just post-Norman Conquest you’re after, St. Mary the Virgin is in itself worth the field trip to Iffley. Sitting amid an ancient graveyard, the church is very much in use, its pews full on Sunday mornings. With its list of “incumbents” dating all the way back to Oliver of 1170, its original square stone font, its soaring roof held up by locally quarried stone, St. Mary the Virgin is the kind of place that stuns you into reverent silence.


Afterward you can get a pint and fish and chips at the Prince of Wales on Church Way (a dog-and-child-friendly traditional pub that is a favorite of my husband’s) or, if your stomach can wait, cross the Thames at the elevated crossing at Iffley Lock and walk upstream on the towpath to the Isis Farmhouse, a popular watering-and-grazing spot that serves basic pub fare — casseroles, mash, roasts, stews and homemade baked goods — with tables inside by the fire or outside overlooking the water. If you’re lucky you might see college rowing teams being put through their paces. Also ducks and swans, moored houseboats and, depending on the season, either a lot of rain or a lot of wildflowers.

你可以在教堂路上的威尔士亲王(Prince of Wales)酒吧喝杯酒,吃点炸鱼和薯片(这座老派酒吧对狗狗与儿童非常友好,是我先生最爱的地方),或者如果你愿意饿着肚子等待,可以到泰晤士河对面伊芙利水闸高处的十字路口,沿着纤道向上游方向走一段,即可来到伊西斯农舍(Isis Farmhouse)餐厅。这家红火的酒家供应基本的酒吧美食——砂锅菜、土豆泥、烤肉、炖肉与家常烘焙食品,餐厅内的餐桌旁有壁炉,室外的席位则可俯瞰流水。如果你运气好,可以见到大学划艇队正在刻苦训练。视野内亦有野鸭与天鹅,屋船停泊在岸边。根据季节不同,周围的风景或是细雨蒙蒙,或是野花烂漫。

As I was in the neighborhood in late fall, I had no choice: If I wanted to wander by bike, I had to be prepared for the damp. And what, after all, is a little rain? You will notice that the natives don’t seem to mind it, and go tramping around in all kinds of weather, their dogs bounding ahead of them and their lower extremities encased in muddy Wellies.


And here they are, the intrepid English, farther up the river, in the vast Port Meadow just northwest of the center of Oxford, a place used continuously for grazing for over 1,000 years, and where, to this day, horses and cows outnumber Homo sapiens. You can wander the meadow or continue on the footpath, over the bridge, past boathouses and through various gates and, if you’re game, down a path on the left to the village of Binsey, with its Treacle Well, which the Dormouse described in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

这就是英勇无畏的英国人。沿着泰晤士河岸逆流而上,走到更远的地方,牛津城中心的西北方向便是辽阔的港口草地。一千多年前,它已经开始用于放牧,直到今天,草地上的马和牛仍然远比人多。你可以在草地上徜徉,或者继续沿着步道向前骑行,走过小桥,路过船库,穿过一道又一道大门,如果你足够勇敢,那就沿着左边的路一直向前走,来到滨色村(Binsey),这里有一口蜜井(Treacle Well),《爱丽丝漫游仙境》(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)中那只榛睡鼠曾经描述过。

Farther on are the grassy remains of the medieval Godstow Abbey, where I stopped to imagine it filled with Benedictine nuns. Following on, I at last came to one of Inspector Morse’s favorite watering holes, the Trout in Wolvercote, where I sat under a heated umbrella on the terrace overlooking the river, and had hot chocolate and a vegetable pie, admiring, all the while, the ducks and geese and the sturdy clientele enjoying their Sunday outings.

再往前走,就是绿草如茵的中世纪名胜格斯陶修道院(Godstow Abbey),我在这里停下脚步浮想联翩,想像里面一定有许多本笃会修女。接下来,我终于来到摩斯警长最爱的酒吧——伍尔夫科特的Trout酒吧,坐在河边露台上热气蒸腾的大伞下吃热巧克力和素馅饼,一如既往地欣赏野鸭、白鹅以及坚持在周末出游的人们。

By the time I had finished, the shadows were growing long, so instead of returning the way I had come I high-tailed it back into town on the east side of the river, first by road and then along the stretch of the canal that runs roughly parallel with Woodstock Road and divides Oxford’s northern neighborhoods from acres of watery meadowlands, and which gave me the back-end view of gardens, alleys and steep canalside houses.


A note for those inclined to fashionable footwear: Don’t even think about it. And that’s because in Oxford, these boots are made for walking: through the winding streets, over cobblestones, up battlements and along all kinds of footpaths, including the towpath that lines the 78-mile-long canal, which once served as part of a trade link between the Midlands and London. (The canal is part of the 2,000 miles of the Canal & River Trust.) Now the canal forms the western boundary of North Oxford’s Jericho section — where Jude’s three children come to a terrible end in “Jude the Obscure” — located at that time outside the city wall. Today the area is one of the trendiest in Oxfordshire, where one night my husband and I had a good if unremarkable dinner surrounded mainly by undergrads and their parents at the très chic Brasserie Blanc.

对于那些打算穿着时尚鞋子旅行的潮流人士,我要提醒一句:想都别想。因为在牛津,鞋子的唯一功能就是走路:你需要穿过蜿蜒曲折的街道,踏过鹅卵石,爬上堡垒上的城垛,踩过各种地形的步道,包括运河边78英里长的纤道,这条运河过去曾是英格兰中西部各郡与伦敦之间的贸易纽带。(这段运河是总长2000英里的“运河与河流”机构的组成部分)。而今,运河成了北牛津杰里科地带的西部边界,在《无名的裘德》(Jude the Obscure)一书中,裘德的三个孩子就在杰里科遭遇了可怕的结局。那时这片地带还位于城墙之外,如今已是牛津郡最时尚的街区之一,一天晚上,我和丈夫在新颖别致的布拉塞利·布兰科餐厅享受了一顿美餐,周围的顾客多数是大学生以及他们的父母。

With the 19th-century Oxford University Press spreading itself out along north-south Walton Street like some great winged beast, Jericho gives way to cafes, bookstores and residential blocks of graceful Victorian and Edwardian houses, with other styles — neo-Georgian, late Gothic, Arts and Crafts — sprinkled in. But some 224 years ago when the canal arrived, it was a place of pestilence and poverty, where workers typically lived in “two up, two down” houses, which can still be seen on Cranham Street, though today they are far more likely to house college professors or publishers than laborers.


If you’re in the mood for more Victorian slums, you can’t do any better than the small island enclave of Osney, along the river and separated from the rest of Oxford by narrow backwaters, about a 15-minute walk from the city center. Built for railroad workers in the mid-19th century, today Osney is home to tidy two-story terraced cottages laid out in the original planned grid, every inch of it considerably more costly than in yesteryear.


Another Oxford neighborhood that I like — in part for its cheap ethnic restaurants — is Cowley on the city’s southeast flank. Here, just a mile or so from Carfax, you will find a diverse neighborhood of primarily smallish early-20th-century houses built for the lower-middle and artisan classes. That was when William Morris Limited began to mass produce cars in what had once been Oxford Military College, on the Oxford Ring Road in Cowley, creating a city of two halves that exists to this day (and is captured by the saying that “Oxford is the left bank of Cowley”). Here are storefronts boasting everything from Polish and halal specialty foods to ecclesiastical garb (who knows when you might need a new cassock or verger’s gown?) and, of course, pubs.


And then there are the glories of Oxford central, the place of walled gardens and walled-off colleges, medieval lanes, ancient churches, glorious vistas, music, museums, libraries and lecture halls. The Botanic Garden alone, the oldest in the country, could absorb an entire day, and even in November intoxicated me with its grasses, dahlias, salvias, English yews and something called “purple bush.”


Riches? Oxford has them, starting with the Ashmolean Museum. This is what I like about it: 1. It’s free. 2. You can leave your stuff in a locker downstairs for £1, but you get your money back when you return the key. 3. The museum is neither small nor large, so you don’t get a museum hangover. 4. The collection.

奇珍异宝?牛津当然有,从阿什莫林博物馆开始游览吧。这家博物馆最让我喜欢的有以下几点:1. 免费入场。2. 只需1英镑押金,就可以在楼下的储物柜存包,用完后把钥匙交回,就可拿回押金。3. 博物馆不大不小,逛完之后不需要花费太多时间回味。4. 展品丰富。

And what a collection, from the silver and gold dinnerware that Corpus Christi College hid from Cromwell, to contemporary art and the pre-Raphaelites. It’s enough to make you just stand there, blinking, trying to decide where to start. I started on the second floor in an orientation gallery, which explains the cultural explosion that happened when east-west trading routes were established in early modernity. But no sooner had I wandered one room away, into English ceramics, than I was transfixed, a deer in the headlights. Here was a fantasyland of afternoon tea, with seemingly every type of English pattern and plate ever devised, decorated with astonishingly lifelike painted flowers of rose and rose gold, pale yellow and radiant turquoise, with butterflies and climbing vines and birds. But there was more — much, much more — including the wares of Japan, China, Italy and the Netherlands, Delftware, Greek and Roman sculpture, textiles and a whole room of Pissarro and his descendants.


From the Ashmolean, it’s just a few steps to everything else you may want to see in Oxford, including Blackwell’s, at 51 Broad Street, perhaps England’s most famous bookstore, with its gazillions of books (new as well as secondhand). From there, it’s your proverbial hop, skip and jump to the Bodleian Library, which isn’t anything at all like the library at the college I went to. It was in the Bodleian’s original core, completed in 1488, that the first university classroom appeared independent of monastic organization. Here, divinity students were asked questions like: “How many angels live in Heaven?” under the lierne vaulted ceiling adorned with more than 400 sculptured figures. Above is Duke Humfrey’s Library, added some years later, where the university’s original collection of books is kept, literally under lock and key. Airport paperbacks these aren’t, but rather, individually written, ancient, brittle and heavy manuscripts, as well as original leather-bound books chained to their place on the walls. (Casual visitors need to be on a tour to get in.)

走出阿什莫林博物馆的大门,几步路之外就是你想在牛津见到的一切,包括布莱克威尔书店(Blackwell’s)。它位于布罗德街51号,大概是英国最有名的书店了,书的品种极为丰富(包括新书与二手书)。从那里出来,三步并作两步,你就到了牛津大学的波德琳图书馆,与我以前去过的大学图书馆相比,此地大异其趣。它建于1488年,位于波德琳学院最初的核心位置,正因如此,这所大学的第一座教室与周围的清修院相比,似乎遗世独立。在装饰着400多座人物雕像的穹顶天花板下,教授会向神学院的学生提出这样的问题:“天堂里住着多少位天使?”楼上则是汉法利公爵图书馆(Duke Humfrey’s Library),比波德琳图书馆较晚些时候增建,牛津大学最早的藏书都深锁其间。畅销的机场平装书不用锁,但那些由作者独立写成的古老而脆薄的沉重手稿以及最初的羊皮包边的古籍则用链子固定在墙上(散客需要组团才能进入参观)。

Certain key scenes in the Harry Potter franchise were filmed here, but if it’s more current stuff you’re after, go through the courtyard to the Radcliffe Camera, a classical circular building closed to the public but open to students, who these days are as likely to be studying their Facebook pages as their Dante, but whatever. There’s an almost endless amount of music, theater, dance, movies and lectures to go to in and around the university, as well as evensong at Christ Church Cathedral and various college chapels. A good place to get a sense of the cultural feast is oxfordcityguide.com.

哈利波特系列电影的一些关键场景就在这里拍摄而成,但如果你寻找的是更为现代的东西,可以穿过院落,去往拉德克里夫图书馆(Radcliffe Camera)。这是一座环形的古典建筑,对公众关闭,但对学生开放。如今,学生们恐怕像研究但丁一样认真地关注着自己的Facebook,但无所谓啦。大学里仿佛有永无止境的音乐、戏剧、舞蹈、电影和报告需要他们参加,更别说基督大教堂和各种大学礼拜堂内的晚祷。oxfordcityguide.com是品尝文化盛宴的好网站。

And from here, at the Radcliffe Camera, spreads the Oxford of the dreaming spires, the ancient, walled colleges bumping up one against the other and connected by a warren of lanes and roads. Most of them are closed to visitors but can be glimpsed through arched entryways, over walls and around hedges. In the case of Christ Church, one can enter for a fee.

从拉德克里夫图书馆望出去,周围就是牛津,矗立着无数梦幻般的尖塔。古老的学院起伏林立,各自以围墙隔开,彼此之间用错综复杂的道路网连接。学院多数不对游客开放,但我们可以透过拱形的大门、围墙和树篱窥到一点风光。至于基督教会学院(Christ Church college),只要买票即可进入。

Speaking of Christ Church college, it too appears in the Harry Potter films, for instance, when Harry and other incoming students first get to Hogwarts and are greeted by Professor McGonagall on the 16th-century staircase to the Great Hall. More to the point, the college has a beautiful cathedral with astonishingly detailed stained-glass windows, including the 19th-century St. Frideswide Window created by Edward Burne-Jones. (Frideswide is Oxford’s patron saint.)

说起基督教会学院,它的身影也曾出现在哈利波特电影中,比如,当哈利和其他未来的学徒初次来到霍格沃兹魔法学校时,麦格教授欢迎他们的到来,她所站立的位置就是通向大礼堂的那道16世纪的楼梯。此外,学院美丽的大教堂内装饰着美不胜收的彩色玻璃窗,包括19世纪由爱德华·波尼-琼斯(Edward Burne-Jones)创建的圣弗莱丝史怀德(St. Frideswide)之窗(弗莱丝史怀德是牛津的守护圣人)。

Head down this-a-way (and it’s all very well marked) to the breathtaking abundance of stuff that is the Pitt Rivers Museum, named not after an estuary, but after the lieutenant general who founded the museum in 1884, seemingly so he could have a place to put his anthropological collections, arranged thematically — in other words, by type of stuff rather than by origin or date — and today the objects number somewhere in the half-a-million range. So if you have a hankering for, say, masks from Africa, Melanesia and North America; Blackfoot and Plains Indian shirts; musical instruments from all over the globe; or the loot Capt. James Cook hauled back from his second voyage of discovery in the Pacific, most of it arranged in large glass cases with ascending layers of displays on wraparound balconies — well, then, this is the place.

沿着这条路(沿路的标识都很清晰)一直走到皮特·里夫斯(Pitt Rivers) 博物馆,这里陈列的艺术品丰富多彩,让人眼花缭乱。它的得名并非源于某条河,而是源于一位陆军中将,他在1884年创办了这座博物馆,然后把自己的人类学收藏品放在这里,按主题排列,换言之,是以类别而非起源或年代排列。今天,这些物品的总数有50万件左右。所以,如果你对某些东西有浓厚的兴趣,比如非洲、美拉尼西亚和北美洲的面具,印第安黑脚族和大草原印第安人的衬衣,全球各地的乐器,或者詹姆斯·库克船长第二次太平洋大发现之旅的战利品,可以来这里看看。大部分展品都陈列在大玻璃柜中逐级上升的全景式陈列台上。没错,你真是来对地方了。

Come back to the land of chess-piece perfection and ask yourself, what next? One answer might be the Museum of Oxford, a funny little place tucked into the late-Victorian Town Hall on St. Aldate’s. A series of maps shows you exactly how Oxford began, on dry land above marshy wetlands and the river, and how it then grew and changed, from its founding around 900, well before the Norman invasion, to the present.


Since I can’t get enough of ye olden, olden, really olden days, I also went on the somewhat hokey but fascinating tour of the ancient Oxford Castle. It’s a weird place, part 11th-century tower built for William the Conqueror to help control the area, part disused prison with a large grassy mound in the middle. Most of the original castle was destroyed in the English Civil War, but you can still get a sense of how imposing, drafty and unpleasant it must have been in its day. Today a large part of what had been the prison houses a luxurious Malmaison hotel, with cells now serving as guest rooms.


So what and where is the real Oxford? The medieval wattle-and-daub, timber-framed houses, one of which now houses Pret a Manger on Cornmarket in the central shopping district? Or the nearby Gap and Marks & Spencer stores? The endless green spaces? The lanes filled with boxlike rowhouses? The elegant architectural extravaganzas of Jericho? The houseboats parked along the canal? The rowers on the Isis? The pubs? The libraries? The lecture rooms?

因此,究竟什么以及何处才是真正的牛津?是购物中心区谷物市场中Pret a Manger那中世纪的抹灰篱笆墙和木结构屋?还是附近的盖普和马克斯与斯潘塞店?连绵无尽的绿地?大街两旁箱笼般的排屋?杰里科优雅而华丽的屋宇?泊在运河边的水上人家?伊西斯河上的艄公?酒屋?图书馆?讲堂?

For me, a more pressing question was: If there are ghosts of Sebastian Flyte and his teddy bear, Aloysius, to be found, where would they be?

对我来说,更加紧迫的问题是:如果塞巴斯蒂安·福莱特(Sebastian Flyte)和他的泰迪熊阿洛伊希乌斯真有灵魂的话,他们会在哪里呢?

And so it was with Sebastian, the charming, rich and frequently drunk protagonist of “Brideshead Revisited,” in mind that, on my last day in Oxford, I romped, as Sebastian might have with his best friend, Charles Ryder, around Christ Church Meadow under a gray December sky. To my right, cows grazed; behind me, bicyclists wove in and out of traffic on busy St. Aldate’s; and on the tantalizing far side of the walls, the college, with its spires, towers, gates and Cathedral, glowed in the pale afternoon light.

于是,我在牛津的最后一天里,脑海里挥之不去电影《旧地重游》中英俊多金、醉生梦死的主人公塞巴斯蒂安的身影。在我游玩时,塞巴斯蒂安或许会与最好的朋友查尔斯·里德(Charles Ryder)闲坐于11月灰色的天空下基督教会学院的草地上。我的右边,牛群啃着青草;我的身后,骑车的少年穿行于圣阿尔德特大街的车流中;而围墙惹人焦急的另一侧,大学里的尖顶、高塔、大门与教堂,在淡淡的暮色中闪闪发光。