I just took a little trip in the Wayback machine,* set for “Cedarn,” and arrived in 1998 to discover (from Tom Bolt) that:
> “Cedarn” occurs in Coleridge’s Kubla Khan: “But oh! That deep romantic chasm which slanted/Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover” (Lines 12-13)
>The venue is a mystical land.
> Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan while sequestering in a lonely farm-house. (Like Kinbote)
Then on to 8/21/2008 (Mathew Roth)
> ‘Cedarn” appears in Milton’s Comus: “That there eternal Summer dwells/And West winds, with musky wing/About the cedarn alleys fling/Nard, and Cassia’s balmy smels”
> The venue is the mythical idyllic Hesperus (aka “Arcadia”) and therefore intimating the Elyssian “beyond”.
Then visited Mathew Roth again, 11/13/2008
> “Cedarn” means “made from cedar,” apparently a contracted adjectival form of a noun, such as “leathern” (or ‘oaken,’ ‘wooden,’ ‘silken’ etc.)
> Pencils are made from cedar
> “cedarn shade” was once a common phrase
I am continually and further-ly amazed at the dexterity with which Nabokov used his cedarn pencil. “Cedarn shade” may have once been a common phrase, but VN is not being cliché. It seems clear to me that, as usual in PF, there is not just one allusion here, and both Coleridge’s and Milton’s usages are intentional tropes in PF for “Arcadia,” the land of bliss “beyond.”
What I would like to add here, is how this trope dovetails with the trope of mirror opposites. “Cedar shade” suggests the cedar waxwing, whose death signifies young John Shade’s entrance to the blissful beyond. For Kinbote, it is just the opposite – Cedarn is Hell.
Kinbote had idyllic visions of intercepting the Shades’ Western vacation, only to find Cedarn “dry and drear…lifeless” (287 – the index says “288”?? a misprint?? based on Life everlasting?? Permalink)
*Wayback machine: 1960’s TV “Mr. Peabody and Sherman”