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Illustration entitled Slings and Arrows, 1922.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Chinese Practice


All that passes is like a river,

flowing continuously

(shi4 zhe3 ru2 si1 fu2 bu4 she3 zhou4 ye4)


英文有句類似的說法,也將流水比喻作時間:「time and tide wait for no man」(時間與潮汐是不等人的),意思是說,我們該把握機會,因它可能稍縱即逝。而這句話的演變有些曲折。

此句一般認為出自英國文豪喬叟(西元一三四三~一四○○年)所著,於一三六八年出版的《學者的故事》其中一句:「For thogh we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde, Ay fleeth the tyme; it nyl no man abyde 」(因即便我們無論是睡或醒,或漫步,或騎馬,時間永遠在消逝;時間不等任何人)。


紀錄中最早使用「time and tide」(時間與潮汐)的是一二二五年——也就是年代較喬叟早一百多年的聖馬荷的著作中。聖馬荷的生平似乎鮮為人知,他寫道:「你出生的潮汐與時間應受祝福。」此句雖非描述時間之流逝,但其中tide(潮汐)一字便是時間的同義詞。


因此,後來「time and tide」這說法便結合了喬叟原句的含意,而成了現今的「Time and tide wait for no man」這句話。



(Time and tide wait for no man. We should seize opportunities as they arise, lest we regret lost opportunities in our dotage.)


Time and tide wait for no man

In the Zi Han chapter of the Analects of Confucius, it says, 子在川上曰:逝者如斯夫!不舍晝夜. Translated, this means “Confucius, standing on the river bank, lamented: ’that which passes is like this river, flowing unceasingly, day and night’.” While different interpretations of this metaphor have been ventured throughout history, the phrase 逝者如斯夫,不舍晝夜 has come to refer to the passage of time, and of time as something to be valued.

The link between time and water appears in an English equivalent, “time and tide wait for no man,” meaning that one should make use of an opportunity, as you might not have the chance later. The evolution of the phrase, however, is a little complicated.

It is generally attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) who, in the Prologue to the Clerk’s Tale (1368), wrote “For thogh we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde, Ay fleeth the tyme; it nyl no man abyde (For though we sleep or wake, or roam, or ride, time forever flees; it will tarry [wait] for no person.)

But Chaucer only uses the word “time”; he makes no mention of “tide.”

The earliest recorded usage of “time and tide” appears in the writings of a St. Marher — of whom little seems to be known — in 1225, over a century before. Translated into modern English, he wrote, “And the tide and the time that you were born shall be blessed.” Although St. Marher was not talking about the passage of time, he was using a phrase in which tide was equated with time.

The modern usage of “tide” refers to the alternate rising and falling of the surface of the ocean, usually twice a day. In St. Marher’s time, however, it meant “a point or portion of time, due time, period or season,” deriving from the Old English word “tid.” The modern meaning was given to the word in the mid-14th century. Time and tide, in the phrase, are essentially one and the same thing.

This combination was subsequently combined with Chaucer’s allusion to form the modern version of the phrase.

(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)

You’d better start preparing for the new job. You know what they say about time and tide...


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