NABOKV-L post 0015466, Fri, 7 Sep 2007 15:23:20 -0300

[ Nabokov-List] [Thoughts & Query] Annabel Lee and Tamara
Dear List,

This is a rather long-winded road to reach a connection bt. Lolita's "Annabel Lee" and VN's "Tamara" through a reference to devils ( ie: envious angels).

After I read again Ch. 1 of "Lolita", I found an old marginal note that underlined two interesting references to angelic hordes - which were almost "symmetrical":
Ch. 1 last paragraph reads:
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns."

The closing lines of the novel return to "angels and aurochs" :
"I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only imortality you and I may share, my Lolita."

In Appel's notes on Ch. 1, note 1, we find the entire text of Poe's poem and in it there is a reference to seraphs:
" But we loved with a love that was more than love -
I and my Annabel Lee -
With a love the winged seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me."
And on the corresponding note to line 8/9 Appel wrote: " a pastiche composed of a phrase from line 11 of "Annabel Lee" and a verb from line 22." He ignored the "coveted", but emphasized: "Went envying her and me: -" that mentions angels, not specifically seraphs.
(A.Appel also refers to "The seraph with his six flamingo wings" invoked in line 225 of Pale Fire's poem.)

Appel calls our attention to the importance of this kind of symmetry in "Lolita":
(a) (note 308/1) "the end of the novel was written at the outset. In any event, two kinds of wonder are conflated in Lolita's version of the letter's [ VN-EW letters, Sept.1951];
(b) "The final phrase sounds the 'Latin' locution that has echoed through the narrative ( see 45/1 and 192/2), and the last word of the novel, that fatal constriction, repeats the first: "Lolita'. It is a fitting and final symmetry for this Byzantine edifice, this verbal equivalent of an ordered ( divinely ordered?) universe". But, although Appel mentions HH's "transcending his solipsism" to reach a "fourth-dimension" in the last chapter and echoing the VN-EW letter he selected, he does not explicitly link the "ordered universe", " heavenlogged system"... to the "order of angels", even though he also mentioned their hierarchy in his note 8/9.
He wrote:
"The image of the 'heavenlogged system' on pg. 307 posits a fourth-dimension..." (note 308/1) and " The book-length system of planned coincidences and harmonious authorial patterning can also stand as a metaphor for evidence of cosmic Author's work, divine Revelation of some 'heaven-logged system'." (note 307/2)


Instead of pursuing the spiritual ascending motif related to heavenly angels or any divine Revelation, I would like to bring up those "envious, covetous angels or seraphs", emphasizing their "envy" (inspite of their being "noble-winged"), for these can only indicate the most envious among all of them, namely, Lucifer and from Lucifer and the Devil.

A few months ago I was sent a poem in connection with a line in "Ada", about Demon's eyes, that was written by Lermontov: "The Devil: an Eastern Legend", where we find a certain princess called Tamara.
Poe's "Annabel Lee" mentions covetous, envious angels:

1. May I consider Poe's reference as directly implying devils, perhaps even Lucifer?;
2. Could we consider that VN took up Poe's "envious angels" to suggest "the devil"?
3. If VN in Lolita writes about first love in relation to Poe's Annabel Lee, could he be then indicating his own Tamara by the devilish reference through Lermontov?

NB: I'm sorry if this connection should have been made already, or if it is too preposterous to consider! But the insistence on evil envious angels made me think more about devils than about heavenly angels...

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