NABOKV-L post 0018446, Sun, 12 Jul 2009 11:45:11 -0300

Fw: [NABOKV-L] Fw: [NABOKOV-L] On plums and Bend Sinister,PS
Fran Assa: Sybil Shade could be Vladimir's pseudonym. But consider the possibility of it being Vera's translation. Are there any handwritten versions in existence? My wild stab in the dark is due to having always pictured the Sybil of Pale Fire as Vera, for some reason.

JM (after-thoughts): The collection of poems, which VN(Vera?) translated refers to lines by Virgil, later taken up by Dante - and by Thomas Hardy!!!
Perhaps Nabokov signed "Sybil Shade" to add an extra-novel cue, or plum.
In this case we would move from Henri Régnier's "Vestigia Flammae", that indicate Dido's words: "adgnosco veteris vestigia flammae," towards Dante, who returns to them when his guide, Virgil, passes him over to Beatrice: « conosco i segni de l'antica fiamma! » (Purgatorio, XXX, 48).
Here we encounter a transition from the shades of the underworld into purgatory ( that's where I suppose Kinbote found himself while writing his notes).

As we all know, Hardy's lines concerning stillicide are found in "Friends Beyond" ( and describe a fantasy about IPH's hereafter):
"They've a way of whispering to me - /fellow-wight who yet abide - /In the muted, measured note/Of a ripple under archways,/ or one cave's stillide."*

The "cave" theme is picked up later, in Hardy's lines on "De Profundis, III" where he mentions a Psalm (119) and "cedar".
"Eheu mihi, quia incolatus meus prolongatus est! Habitavi cum
habitantibus Cedar; multum incola fuit aninia mea."--Ps. cxix.
A Bible translation site offered the translation:
5 Heu mihi quia incolatus meus prolongatus est habitavi cum habitationibus Cedar 5 Woe is me, that my sojourning is prolonged! I have dwelt with the inhabitants of cedar:
6 Multum incola fuit anima mea 6 My soul hath been long a sojourner.

I thought of connecting "Friends Beyond" and "De Profundis" to reach the "Cedarn Cave" not only because of the theme about death and mourning, exile and a hereafter, ever present in Kinbote's commentary, but mainly because two successive, but different entries in Kinbote's notes, are applicable to the same set of Shadian verses and are more connected than one may initially surmise.
I mean, Lines 34-35: Stilettos of a frozen stillicide ( where he mentions "a succession of drops falling from the eaves, eavesdrop, cavesdrop." and his recollection of encountering the word "for the first time in a poem by Thomas Hardy. The bright frost has eternalized the bright eavesdrop." -- and Lines 39-40: Was close my eyes, etc., when Kinbote presents a "variant reading": "and home would haste my thieves,/ The sun with stolen ice, the moon with leaves," which he connects to Timon of Athens (Act IV, Scene 3) and adds: " Having no library in the desolate log cabin where I live like Timon in his cave..." ( at that time he didn't realize the reference in T of A for Shade's choice of Pale Fire's title...)

I cannot shake off the feeling, now, that inspite of PF's tragicomic aspects, the book hints at iniciatic rites of passage. In this case, VN's choice to translate H.Régnier "Vestigia Flammae", right after finishing his novel "Pale Fire," (1962) could indicate a serendipitous find, something which might enrich the already established wide net of allusions in PF and Shade's conjectures of eternal cypress walks...

Nevertheless, Nabokov changed the title of Régnier's poem in his translation. In the French we find the curious little "ode": an "Odelette". In Nabokov's translation we get "Passing of Youth". His choice moves from Virgil's "rekindled fires of love" to a lamentation on what has been lost through the passage of time.

btw: It's unnecessary to remember fellow List-participants that, were it not for those novel "search engines" ( would Nabokov have foreseen such things, or did he trust some of his reader's extensive and true scholarship?) I would never have connected Virgil, Dante, Hardy and recover their lines.

* internet source: The wordis not one of that melancholy collection ending in -cide that refers to an act of killing or something that kills (suicide, pesticide), since it comes from a different Latin verb, caedere, to fall. The first part is from Latin stilla, a drop; the English word is a reformulation of Latin stillicidium, falling drops. The Latin word could mean in particular the drip of rain from the eaves of a house, which is exactly equivalent to an ancient meaning of our eavesdrop. This meaning led to the main historical sense of the word, a legal term in Scots law...It's not a word much encountered these days. When it appears it has the sense of falling water, not the legal one.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: