NABOKV-L post 0027333, Sat, 25 Mar 2017 00:00:45 +0300

Subject
reflected sky, even & odd in PF
Date
Body
At the beginning of his poem Pale Fire John Shade (one of the three main characters in VN’s novel Pale Fire, 1962) compares himself to the shadow of the waxwing and mentions the reflected sky:



I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane
I was the smudge of ashen fluff--and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky (ll. 1-4)



Sofia Parnok’s review of Veresk (“Heather,” 1916), a collection of poetry by G. Ivanov (1894-1958), begins as follows:



Вода не подражает небу, отражая его в себе, она ничего не делает для того, чтобы отражать, — она только пуста и прозрачна.

Water does not imitate the sky, reflecting it in itself, it does not do anything in order to reflect – it is only empty and transparent.



Ivanov’s Veresk came out under the imprint of Al’tsiona (Alcyone). Alcyone (or Halcyon) is a genus of kingfishers; a short dialogue attributed to Plato; a third-magnitude star in the constellation Taurus: brightest star in the Pleiades. Like waxwing (Bombycilla), kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is a bird. Its Russian name, zimorodok, suggests that it hatches out zimoy (in winter). In his memoirs Peterburgskie zimy (“The St. Petersburg Winters,” 1931) G. Ivanov describes his first visit to Alexander Blok in the fall of 1909 and quotes an entry in Blok’s diary:



В дневнике Блока 1909 г. есть запись: "говорил с Георгием Ивановым о Платоне. Он ушёл от меня другим человеком".

In Blok’s diary for 1909 there is an entry: “I talked with Georgiy Ivanov about Plato. When he left me, he was a different man.”



According to G. Ivanov, when he once asked Blok “does a sonnet need a coda,” Blok replied that he did not know what a coda is:



— Александр Александрович, нужна ли кода к сонету? — спросил я как-то. К моему изумлению, Блок, знаменитый «мэтр», вообще не знал, что такое кода…



In his fragment Rim (“Rome,” 1842) Gogol mentions sonetto colla coda and in a footnote explains that in Italian poetry there is a kind of poem known as “sonnet with the tail” (con la coda), when the idea cannot not be expressed in fourteen lines and entails an appendix that can be longer than the sonnet itself:



В италиянской поэзии существует род стихотворенья, известного под именем сонета с хвостом (con la coda), когда мысль не вместилась и ведёт за собою прибавление, которое часто бывает длиннее самого сонета.



It seems to me that, to be completed, Shade’s unfinished poem needs not only Line 1000 (identical to Line 1: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain”), but also a coda (Line 1001: “By its own double in the windowpane”).



Like Sirin (VN’s Russian nom de plume), Gogol is an avian name (in Russian, gogol’ means “golden-eye,” Clangula bucephala). In his poem Gogol (1853) Prince Vyazemski calls Gogol peresmeshnik nash zabavnyi (our amusing mockingbird):



Ты, загадкой своенравной
Промелькнувший на земле,
Пересмешник наш забавный
С думой скорби на челе.



You, who like a wilful riddle

Flashed on the Earth,

Our amusing mockingbird

With a thought of grief on your brow.



In Canto One of his poem Shade (whose parents were ornithologists) mentions the naïve, the gauzy mockingbird:



TV's huge paperclip now shines instead

Of the stiff vane so often visited
By the naive, the gauzy mockingbird
Retelling all the programs that she had heard;
Switching from chippo-chippo to a clear
To-wee, to-wee; then rasping out: come here,
Come here, come herrr'; flitting her tail aloft,
Or gracefully indulging in a soft
Upward hop-flop, and instantly (to-wee!)
Returning to her perch--the new TV. (ll. 61-70)



In his poem “To Prince Pyotr Andreevich Vyazemski” (1834) Baratynski famously calls Vyazemski zvezda razroznennoy pleyady (“a star of the odd Pleiades”). In VN’s story Usta k ustam (“Lips to Lips,” 1931), a satire on the Paris émigré review Chisla (“Numbers”), Galatov (the editor of Arion, a recognizable portrait of Ivanov) in a letter to Ilya Borisovich (the author of a novel entitled “Lips to Lips”) paraphrases a line in Baratynski’s poem Ne osleplyon ya muzoyu moeyu… (“I’m not dazzled by my muse…” 1829):



Ваш роман волнует своим лица необщим выражением.

Your novel moves the reader with a face’s singular expression, to paraphrase Baratynski, the singer of Finnish crags.



In his obituary article S. Ya. Parnok (1933) Khodasevich mentions neobshchee vyrazhenie (a singular expression) that the lovers of poetry can discern in Parnok’s verses:



Ею было издано несколько книг стихов, неизвестных широкой публике, - тем хуже для публики. В её поэзии, впрочем, не было ничего такого, что могло бы поразить или хотя бы занять рядового читателя. Однако ж, любители поэзии умели найти в её стихах то "необщее выражение", которым стихи только и держатся.



According to Khodasevich, Sofia Parnok was not pretty:



Среднего, скорее даже небольшого роста, с белокурыми волосами, зачёсанными на косой пробор и на затылке связанными простым узлом; с бледным лицом, которое, казалось, никогда не было молодо, София Яковлевна не была хороша собой.



Hazel Shade (John Shade’s poor daughter) was plain:



She might have been you, me, or some quaint blend:
Nature chose me so as to wrench and rend
Your heart and mine. (ll. 293-295)


In her review of Veresk Sofia Parnok compares Ivanov’s book to a face that resembles many other faces but lacks any original features:



Георгий Иванов — не подражатель: он зорок, слух его тонок, язык находчив, но глаза, которыми он глядит, уши, которыми слышит, голос, который поёт — не его. Есть лица, не лишённые очарования, но примечательны единственно тем, что чрезвычайно напоминают многие лица. Подобно таким лицам, есть книги, — «Вереск» из их числа. Индивидуальность Г. Иванова можно определить типом тех, кого он напоминает. Поэтическая родословная его ясна. — Автор «Вереска» родовит: во Франции берёт начало старшая ветвь его рода и рисунок её можно определить двумя именами: Теофиль Готье — Верлэн. Русская родина этой поэзии — немноголетний «Гиперборей»; самый старый русский предок Г. Иванова — Гумилёв. Автор «Вереска» — такой молодой поэт, что Анна Ахматова доводится ему почтенной тётушкой, а О. Мандельштам — почтенным дядюшкой.



According to the reviewer, the author of Veresk is so young a poet that Anna Akhmatov is his poetical aunt and Osip Mandelshtam, his poetical uncle. In Stikhi pamyati Andreya Belogo (“Verses in Memory of Andrey Bely,” 1934) Mandelshtam mentions gogol’ and gogolyok:



Откуда привезли? Кого? Который умер?
Где <именно>? Мне что-то невдомёк.
Скажите, говорят, какой-то гоголь умер.
Не гоголь, так себе, писатель… гоголёк.



Andrey Bely is the author of Zoloto v lazuri (“Gold in Azure,” 1903), a collection of poetry, and Peterburg (1914), a novel in the Gogol tradition. In a letter of April 8, 1836, to Alexander Turgenev Vyazemski says that Zhukovski affectionately calls Gogol Gogolyok:



Субботы Жуковского процветают, но давно без писем твоих. Один Гоголь, которого Жуковский называет Гоголёк (никто не равняется с Жуковским в перековеркании имён; помнишь ли, когда он звал Дашкова Дашенькою?) оживляет их своими рассказами. В последнюю субботу читал он нам повесть об носе, который пропал с лица неожиданно у какого-то коллежского асессора и очутился после в Казанском соборе в мундире министерства просвещения. Уморительно смешно.



One of Pushkin’s staunchest supporters and truest friends, Alexander Turgenev in 1811 helped to enroll Pushkin in the Lyceum and in 1837 accompanied Pushkin’s coffin to the Svyatye Gory monastery. Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin begins: Moy dyadya samykh chestnykh pravil (My uncle has most honest principles). Like a classical sonnet, the Eugene Onegin stanza consists of fourteen lines. The name Onegin was derived from Onega (a river and a lake in NW Russia). Hazel Shade drowned herself in Lake Omega, one of the three conjoined lakes near New Wye:



Higher up on the same wooded hill stood, and still stands I trust, Dr. Sutton’s old clapboard house and, at the very top, eternity shall not dislodge Professor C.’s ultramodern villa from whose terrace one can glimpse to the south the larger and sadder of the three conjoined lakes called Omega, Ozero, and Zero (Indian names garbled by early settlers in such a way as to accommodate specious derivations and commonplace allusions). (Kinbote’s note to Lines 47-48)



The total number of letters in Omega, Ozero, and Zero is fourteen (5 + 5 + 4 = 14). Ozero is Russian for “lake.” Osennie ozyora (“Autumnal Lakes,” 1912) is a collection of poetry by Mikhail Kuzmin. G. Ivanov was a pupil of Kuzmin (a gay poet). The main character in Kuzmin’s story Kryl’ya (“The Wings,” 1906) is Vanya Smurov. In VN’s story Soglyadatay (“The Eye,” 1930) Smurov (the narrator and main character) is in love with Vanya (a girl’s masculine diminutive). In a letter to his Reval friend Roman Bogdanovich (a character in “The Eye”) affirms that Smurov is “sexually left-handed” and mentions the great Goethe:



"Я предполагаю, мой милый Фёдор Робертович, ненадолго вернуться к этому субъекту. Боюсь, что это будет скучно, но, как сказал Веймарский Лебедь, - я имею в виду великого Гёте (тут следовала немецкая фраза, написанная готическим шрифтом). Поэтому позвольте мне остановиться на господине Смурове и попотчевать Вас небольшим психологическим этюдом..."



"Мне сдаётся, милейший друг, что я уже писал о том, что господин Смуров принадлежит к той любопытной касте людей, которую я как-то назвал "сексуальными левшами". (chapter 5)



One of the leitmotifs in Shade’s poem are the opening lines of Goethe’s Erlkönig (1782):



Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind.



In his Commentary Kinbote (who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla) quotes Goethe’s poem in English and in Zemblan:



This line, and indeed the whole passage ( <http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/palefirepoem.html#line653> lines 653-664), allude to the well-known poem by Goethe about the erlking, hoary enchanter of the elf-haunted alderwood, who falls in love with the delicate little boy of a belated traveler. One cannot sufficiently admire the ingenious way in which Shade manages to transfer something of the broken rhythm of the ballad (a trisyllabic meter at heart) into his iambic verse:

/ / / /
662 Who rides so late in the night and the wind
663 ..........................................................................
/ / / /
664 ....It is the father with his child



Goethe's two lines opening the poem come out most exactly and beautifully, with the bonus of an unexpected rhyme (also in French: vent-enfant), in my own language:
/ / / /
Ret woren ok spoz on natt ut vett?
/ / / /
Eto est votchez ut mid ik dett.



Another fabulous ruler, the last king of Zembla, kept repeating these haunting lines to himself both in Zemblan and German, as a chance accompaniment of drumming fatigue and anxiety, while he climbed through the bracken belt of the dark mountains he had to traverse in his bid for freedom. (note to Line 662)



In her essay Dva lesnykh tsarya (“Two Forest Kings,” 1933) Marina Tsvetaev compares Lesnoy tsar’ (“The Forest King,” 1818), Zhukovski’s Russian version of Erlkönig, to Goethe’s original. Marina Tsvetaev is the author of Podruga (“Girlfriend,” 1914-15), a cycle of poems about her love affair with Sofia Parnok, and of Nezdeshniy vecher (“The Unreal Evening,” 1936), a memoir essay about her meeting with Mikhail Kuzmin in the winter of 1916. In her essay Iskusstvo pri svete sovesti ("Art in the Light of Conscience," 1932) Marina Tsvetaev compares Tolstoy (who renounced art for the sake of his sermon) to Gogol (who burnt the second volume of Dead Souls) and mentions ogon’ (fire):



Эти полчаса Гоголя у камина больше сделали для добра и против искусства, чем вся долголетняя проповедь Толстого.

Потому что здесь дело, наглядное дело рук, то движение руки, которого мы все жаждем и которого не перевесит ни одно “душевное движение”.

Может быть, мы бы второй частью “Мёртвых Душ” и не соблазнились. Достоверно — им бы радовались. Но наша та бы радость им ничто перед нашей этой радостью Гоголю, который из любви к нашим живым душам свои Мертвые — сжёг.



На огне собственной совести.

Те были написаны чернилами.

Эти — в нас — огнём.



According to VN, he nearly burnt the manuscript of Lolita (1955):



Once or twice I was on the point of burning the unfinished draft and had carried my Juanita Dark as far as the shadow of the leaning incinerator on the innocent lawn, when I was stopped by the thought that the ghost of the destroyed book would haunt my files for the rest of my life. (On a Book Entitled Lolita)



In his essay on Garshin (in “The Silhouettes of Russian Writers”) the critic Yuli Ayhenvald mentions Platonova zvezda (Plato’s star) and sovest’ (conscience):



Если в мир насилия и злобы, в мир стихийной торопливости слепых событий бросить с какой-нибудь Платоновой звезды сознание, и притом сознание нравственное, совесть, то в этой враждебной сфере оно будет чувствовать себя испуганным сиротою и на действительность отзовётся недоумением и печалью. Такое сознание и есть Гаршин.



Garshin is the author of Chetyre dnya (“Four Days,” 1877). In his poem Zvyozdy (“The Stars,” 1925) included in Evropeyskaya noch’ (“European Night,” 1927) Khodasevich mentions Den’ Chetvyortyi (Day Four [of Creation]) reflected in a shameful puddle:



И заходя в дыру всё ту же,

И восходя на небосклон, -

Так вот в какой постыдной луже

Твой День Четвёртый отражён!..



Нелёгкий труд, о Боже правый,

Всю жизнь воссоздавать мечтой

Твой мир, горящий звёздной славой

И первозданною красой.



In his essay on Garshin Ayhenvald compares Garshin to Dostoevski (the author of “The Double,” 1846) and calls the former zhivoy kiparis nashey literatuty (“a live cypress of our literature”):



У Гаршина – та же стихия, что и у Достоевского; только, помимо размеров дарования, между ними есть и та разница, что первый, как писатель, - вне своего безумия, а последний - значительно во власти своего чёрного недуга. Жертва иррациональности, Гаршин всё-таки ничего больного и беспокойного не вдохнул в свои произведения, никого не испугал, не проявил неврастении в себе, не заразил ею других. Гаршин преодолел свои темы. Но не осилил он своей грусти. Скорбь не давит, не гнетёт его, он может улыбаться и шутить, он ясен - и тем не менее в траур облечено его сердце, и тем не менее он как будто представляет собою живой кипарис нашей литературы.



In Canto Two of his poem Shade mentions the talks with Socrates and Proust in cypress walks:



So why join in the vulgar laughter? Why
Scorn a hereafter none can verify:
The Turk's delight, the future lyres, the talks
With Socrates and Proust in cypress walks,
The seraph with his six flamingo wings,
And Flemish hells with porcupines and things?
It isn't that we dream too wild a dream:
The trouble is we do not make it seem
Sufficiently unlikely; for the most
We can think up is a domestic ghost. (ll. 221-230)



In his poem Prorok (“The Prophet,” 1826) Pushkin mentions shestikrylyi seraphim (a six-winged seraph):



Духовной жаждою томим,

В пустыне мрачной я влачился, -

И шестикрылый серафим

На перепутьи мне явился.



Tormented by a spiritual thirst,

I stumbled through a gloomy waste,

And there a six-winged seraph

Appeared before me at the crossroad.



Morya i zemli (seas and lands) in the poem’s penultimate line bring to mind water (the element) and Kinbote’s Zembla.



In his essay Pushkin (1896) Merezhkovski quotes Pushkin’s words (as quoted by Aleksandra Smirnov – or, more likely, by her daughter, the author of spurious Memoirs) about Goethe’s Faust. According to Smirnov, Pushkin compared Faust to Dante’s Divine Comedy and called it “the last word of German literature… alpha and omega of human thought from the times of Christianity:”



Вот как русский поэт понимает значение «Фауста»: «„Фауст“ стоит совсем особо. Это последнее слово немецкой литературы, это особый мир, как „Божественная Комедия“; это — в изящной форме альфа и омега человеческой мысли со времён христианства». (chapter IV)



Pushkin’s Sonet (“The Sonnet,” 1830) begins: Surovyi Dant ne preziral soneta (“Severe Dante didn’t scorn the sonnet”). It is closely modeled on Wordsworth’s Sonnet whose first line was used by Pushkin as the epigraph. Like his friend Coleridge (the author of Kubla Khan, a poem in which Alph, the sacred river, is mentioned), Wordsworth was a Lake Poet. Shade lives in a “frame house between Goldsworth and Wordsmith on its square of green.” Goldsworth + Wordsmith = Goldsmith + Wordsworth (Oliver Goldsmith, 1728-74, was an Irish novelist, playwright and poet). In his Commentary Kinbote mentions Alphina (the youngest of Judge Goldsworth’s four daughters) and Dante’s bust on a bookshelf in Shade’s study:



Judge Goldsworth had a wife and four daughters. Family photographs met me in the hallway and pursued me from room to room, and although I am sure that Alphina (9), Betty (10), Candida (12), and Dee (14) will soon change from horribly cute little schoolgirls to smart young ladies and superior mothers, I must confess that their pert pictures irritated me to such an extent that finally I gathered them one by one and dumped them all in a closet under the gallows row of their cellophane-shrouded winter clothes… My binoculars would seek him out and focus upon him from afar in his various places of labor: at night, in the violet glow of his upstairs study where a kindly mirror reflected for me his hunched-up shoulders and the pencil with which he kept picking his ear (inspecting now and then the lead, and even tasting it); in the forenoon, lurking in the ruptured shadows of his first-floor study where a bright goblet of liquor quietly traveled from filing cabinet to lectern, and from lectern to bookshelf, there to hide if need be behind Dante’s bust; on a hot day, among the vines of a small arborlike portico, through the garlands of which I could glimpse a stretch of oilcloth, his elbow upon it, and the plump cherubic fist propping and crimpling his temple. (note to Lines 47-48)



9 + 10 + 12 + 14 = 45. Like 1001 (the total number of lines in Shade’s poem), 45 (the cumulative age of Judge Goldsworth’s daughters) is an odd number. One of Anna Akhmatov’s collections of poetry is entitled Nechet (“Odd,” 1946). In his Parizhskaya poema (“The Paris Poem,” 1943) VN mentions pissuary (the urinals) that gurgle behind their shields, chyot (even) and nechet (odd):


Чуден ночью Париж сухопарый.

Чу! Под сводами чёрных аркад,

где стена, как скала, писсуары

за щитами своими журчат.



Есть судьба и альпийское нечто

в этом плеске пустынном. Вот-вот

захлебнётся меж чётом и нечетом,

между мной и не мной, счетовод.



Wondrous at night is gaunt Paris.

Hark! Under the vaults of black arcade,

where the walls are rocklike, the urinals

gurgle behind their shields.



There is Fate and an alpine something

in that desolate splash. Any moment now

between even and odd, between me and non-me

the keeper of records will choke and drown.



The line Chuden noch’yu Parizh sukhoparyi (Wondrous at night is gaunt Paris) is an imitation of the hyperbolic passage in Gogol’s story Strashnaya mest’ (“The Terrible Vengeance,” 1832). This passage begins: Сhuden Dnepr pri tikhoy pogode (Wondrous is the Dnepr in the windless weather). According to Gogol, redkaya ptitsa doletit do serediny Dnepra (a rare bird will fly to the middle of the Dnepr). Redkaya ptitsa (a rare bird) brings to mind Chekhov’s story Rara avis (1886). Chekhov is the author of Tysyacha odna strast’, ili Strashnaya noch’ (“A Thousand and One Passions, or The Terrible Night,” 1880), a parody dedicated to Victor Hugo (the author of Notre Dame de Paris, 1831). Notre Dame (1912) is a poem by Mandelshtam.



In “The Paris Poem” the target of VN’s satire is G. Ivanov, the author of Raspad atoma (“An Atom’s Disintegration,” 1938). In the course of his wretched little novel G. Ivanov several times misquotes Pushkin’s poem Na kholmakh Gruzii lezhit nochnaya mgla… (“The night murk lies on the hills of Georgia…” 1829), mentions kholm Monmartra (the hill of Montmartre), polukrug pissuara (an urinal’s half-circle) and compares water gurgling in it to the Aragva (the river that thunders in Pushkin’s poem Na kholmakh Gruzii…):



"На холмы Грузии легла ночная мгла." И вот она так же ложится на холм Монмартра. На крыши, на перекрёсток, на вывеску кафе, на полукруг писсуара, где с тревожным шумом, совсем как в Арагве, шумит вода.



Pushkin’s poem Vospominaniya v Tsarskom Sele (“The Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo,” 1829), in which the poet recalls his years at the Lyceum, ends in the line vblizi Monmartra… (“near Montmartre”). Kinbote completes his work on Shade’s poem and commits suicide on October 19, 1959 (the Lyceum anniversary). There is a hope that after Kinbote’s death Professor Vsevolod Botkin (who went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after the suicide of his daughter Nadezhda*), like Count Vorontsov (a target of Pushkin’s epigrams), will be “full” again.



*Hazel Shade’s “real” name; Sybil Shade’s “real” name seems to be Sofia Botkin, born Lastochkin (lastochka is Russian for “swallow”)



Alexey Sklyarenko


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