NABOKV-L post 0018371, Thu, 4 Jun 2009 16:39:44 -0300

[NABOKOV-L] [ QUERY] Pale Fire: crystal on crystal ( long)
Dear List,
Should we, as readers, accept as interchangeable, the analogies in which "Pale Fire":
(a) is something "pale and diaphanous" (CK) or "a transparent thingum" (Shade) ie: a feeble light, irrespective of its causation;
(b) implies directly the satellite whose light reflects or robs the fire of the sun (CK & J.Shade)*
(c) implies transparent crystals and verses (CK quotes Shade);
(d) a poem whose structure is like a crystal's (CK)?

Just as scientists and mathematicians, in Kinbote's world, cristalographers also deserve a reference related to the structural precision and Pale Fire's "crystal faces and predictable growth."
When CK quotes Shade's exclamation, after a snowflake settled upon his wrist-watch ( "Crystal to crystal."), he notes that in this case the "mechanism of the associations is easy to make out (glass leading to crystal and crystal to ice)" and, later, remembering Thomas Hardy, he understands the word "stillicide" as "a succession of drops falling from the eaves, eavesdrop, cavesdrop. ...The bright frost has eternalized the bright eavesdrop."
Frost (now, the poet) and crystals come up again, in his comment to line 426, on the poet's "oozy footsteps": "his line displays one of those combinations of pun and metaphor at which our poet excels. In the temperature charts of poetry high is low, and low high, so that the degree at which perfect crystallization occurs is above that of tepid facility. This is what our modest poet says, in effect, respecting the atmosphere of his own fame [...] With all his excellent gifts, John Shade could never make his snowflakes settle that way."**
In a different vein, Shade, invokes for his poem, "a moondrop title". Does he mean, here, the enchanting transparency of a crystal or the icy stillicide in liew of moon-light? For "crystal" is derived from the ancient Greek word κρύσταλλος (krustallos), cold drop / frozen drop - applicable both to the mineral, itself, and to the process that shapes the snow flakes.


* CK's images are curiously mingled when he returns to the Shakespearean sun-moon orbs of fire, heat and light:
1. He suggests that PF sheds a waning moon's diaphanous light, seeing himself as the steady sun:
"Although I realize only too clearly, alas, that the result, in its pale and diaphanous final phase, cannot be regarded as a direct echo of my narrative..."
ie: CK sees PF as an incomplete, but independent reality (we shouldn't forget that CK believes that Shade's "crystal land" indicates his inenubilable imaginary Zembla), something that is in its "final phase"
2. CK's Zemblan story not only glows like the sun, but it heats up Shade into a boiling bubbling point:
"one can hardly doubt that the sunset glow of the story acted as a catalytic agent upon the very process of the sustained creative effervescence;"
3. CK's effect on Shade engenders a resemblance in coloration:
"a symptomatic family resemblance in the coloration of both poem and story."
4. CK this time is like the moon and he borrows his light from Shade's:
"in many cases have caught myself borrowing a kind of opalescent light from my poet’s fiery orb"

**- CK is returning to the theme of Shade's purported "crystal on crystal" (Foreword). In his comments about Frost's "prodigious and poignant end — two closing lines identical in every syllable, but one personal and physical, and the other metaphysical and universal." he emphasizes the fact that he will avoid a quote because he might "displace one small precious word." - and now he is either being ironical ( since the two lines are identical), or he is then referring to J.L.Borges' story of Pierre Ménard who wrote an exact copy of Don Quixote, entrusting the reader to distinguish, like Kinbote, "the personal and physical" from the "metaphysical and universal." - and, as I wonder - "the rock crystal" from "the thermal process that shapes snow flakes" or the "earthly" from certain "unearthly" lights?

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