NABOKV-L post 0019242, Tue, 26 Jan 2010 14:38:54 -0200

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Re: THOUGHT(S) on Irony and Pathos in PF, the Poem
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Gary Lipon [to RSGwynn quoting William Monroe's Zembla essay on "Pale Fire": "Nabokov himself calls attention to the humorous potential of rhyme in his Notes on Prosody, part of his scholarly apparatus originally attached to Eugene Onegin. His depreciation of "fancy rhymes" in English poetry is invaluable for an analysis of Shade's poem."] "I wholly agree with the [general] argument that a humorous effect occurs when more than one syllable rhymes...Focusing on these jingly effects, it's understandable one might recoil....and whether such an ironic piece is capable of expressing and evoking ..This is the question: does Shade know he's being ironic in using these rhymes and trite banalities? With regards to the multi-syllabic rhyming, on purely logical grounds, it would seem impossible for Shade not to be aware...It's possible that Shade only knows an ironic mode...I think the value of a poem to be most reliably adduced by a close inspection of the poem itself. Inference from other sources may be useful, but not as satisfying as direct textual analysis..."

JM: To expand the analogies bt. fancy rhymes, irony and Shade's technique in PF, I refer you to some of the EW-VN letters, particularly letters 48 and 200, plus Simon Karlinski's Introduction on p.16-18, from which I'll extract a few paragraphs (although this subject lies way outside my scope of comprehension).

Perhaps Nabokov's interplay bt. Kinbote's Zemblan, Conmal's Shakespeare, and Shade, parodies part of his own misunderstandings with Wilson and the dangers related to split-rhymes, or to rhyming a monosyllable with a polisyllable, when transposing one language system into another. Those in the know might even find fresh clues about who wrote PF: an "American native poet," or Kinbote himself? (should this have not been explored before in the List). Anyway, should this be the case (right now, I'm merely a writing parrot), PF must have an additional significance, besides its status as an "independent poem." .

In EW's letter n.200 (page 255, Sept.28, 1949):
"I found out from Struve, that Russian words, however long, have actually only one stress...Thus the emphasis in Russian verse is different from that of English. In English, the secondary accents are used to make the beat just as the main ones are. The sophistication of English verse...consists partly of displacing these accents. There is nothing that corresponds to this in Russian - hence your inability to grasp the reality of what I called substitutions of feet. You can't substitute or syncopate in Russian...The metrical sophistication comes in another way: the number of syllables in Russian is usually perfectly regular, as it is only rarely in English, but there are many fewer stresses and you juggle with these. This juggling is what you were trying to tell me about, but you made the mistake of supposing that we had the same thing in English..."

Karlinski observes that VN had outlined to Wilson an earlier version of 'Notes on Prosody,' ( with "the discovery by Andrei Bely that a 'variable rhythmic current' ran 'through the constant structure of the Russian iamb.") For SK, because VN hadn't realized that Wilson didn't know the Russian system of stress, or the standard Russian meters, he'd vainly occupied himself with the description of Bely's finds in order to teach Wilson the "counterpoint of Russian verse."

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