Russian biks & Dr Hangover revisited

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Wed, 01/19/2022 - 06:28

Describing Ada’s allusions to her affairs of the flesh, Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Ada, 1969) mentions cockamaroo (Russian ‘biks’), played with a toy cue on the billiard cloth of an oblong board with holes and hoops, bells and pins among which the ping-pong-sized eburnean ball zigzagged with bix-pix concussions:

 

‘My dear,’ said Van, ‘do help me. She told me about her Valentian estanciero but now the name escapes me and I hate bothering her.’

‘Only she never told you,’ said loyal Lucette, ‘so nothing could escape. Nope. I can’t do that to your sweetheart and mine, because we know you could hit that keyhole with a pistol.’

‘Please, little vixen! I’ll reward you with a very special kiss.’

‘Oh, Van,’ she said over a deep sigh. ‘You promise you won’t tell her I told you?’

‘I promise. No, no, no,’ he went on, assuming a Russian accent, as she, with the abandon of mindless love, was about to press her abdomen to his. ‘Nikak-s net: no lips, no philtrum, no nosetip, no swimming eye. Little vixen’s axilla, just that — unless’ — (drawing back in mock uncertainty) — ‘you shave there?’

‘I stink worse when I do,’ confided simple Lucette and obediently bared one shoulder.

‘Arm up! Point at Paradise! Terra! Venus!’ commanded Van, and for a few synchronized heartbeats, fitted his working mouth to the hot, humid, perilous hollow.

She sat down with a bump on a chair, pressing one hand to her brow.

‘Turn off the footlights,’ said Van. ‘I want the name of that fellow.’

‘Vinelander,’ she answered.

He heard Ada Vinelander’s voice calling for her Glass bed slippers (which, as in Cordulenka’s princessdom too, he found hard to distinguish from dance footwear), and a minute later, without the least interruption in the established tension, Van found himself, in a drunken dream, making violent love to Rose — no, to Ada, but in the rosacean fashion, on a kind of lowboy. She complained he hurt her ‘like a Tiger Turk.’ He went to bed and was about to doze off for good when she left his side. Where was she going? Pet wanted to see the album.

‘I’ll be back in a rubby,’ she said (tribadic schoolgirl slang), ‘so keep awake. From now on by the way, it’s going to be Chère-amie-fait-morata’ — (play on the generic and specific names of the famous fly) — ‘until further notice.’

‘But no sapphic vorschmacks,’ mumbled Van into his pillow.

‘Oh, Van,’ she said, turning to shake her head, one hand on the opal doorknob at the end of an endless room. ‘We’ve been through that so many times! You admit yourself that I am only a pale wild girl with gipsy hair in a deathless ballad, in a nulliverse, in Rattner’s "menald world" where the only principle is random variation. You cannot demand,’ she continued — somewhere between the cheeks of his pillow (for Ada had long vanished with her blood-brown book) — ‘you cannot demand pudicity on the part of a delphinet! You know that I really love only males and, alas, only one man.’

There was always something colorfully impressionistic, but also infantile, about Ada’s allusions to her affairs of the flesh, reminding one of baffle painting, or little glass labyrinths with two peas, or the Ardis throwing-trap — you remember? — which tossed up clay pigeons and pine cones to be shot at, or cockamaroo (Russian ‘biks’), played with a toy cue on the billiard cloth of an oblong board with holes and hoops, bells and pins among which the ping-pong-sized eburnean ball zigzagged with bix-pix concussions.

Tropes are the dreams of speech. Through the boxwood maze and bagatelle arches of Ardis, Van passed into sleep. When he reopened his eyes it was nine a.m. She lay curved away from him, with nothing beyond the opened parenthesis, its contents not yet ready to be enclosed, and the beloved, beautiful, treacherous, blue-black-bronze hair smelt of Ardis, but also of Lucette’s ‘Oh-de-grâce.’

Had she cabled him? Cancelled or Postponed? Mrs Viner — no, Vingolfer, no, Vinelander — first Russki to taste the labruska grape.

‘Mne snitsa saPERnik SHCHASTLEEVOY!’ (Mihail Ivanovich arcating the sand with his cane, humped on his bench under the creamy racemes).

‘I dream of a fortunate rival!’

In the meantime it’s Dr Hangover for me, and his strongest Kaffeina pill. (2.8)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Nikak-s net: Russ., certainly not.

famous fly: see p.109, Serromyia.

Vorschmacks: Germ., hors-d’oeuvres.

 

Russian biks seems to hint at Alexander Bisk (1883-1973), R. M. Rilke’s first Russian translator and a poet. In J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey Ray Sorenson asks Lane Coutell (Franny Glass’s boyfriend) what this bastard Rilke is all about:  

 

Lane was about halfway through this particular reading of the letter when he was interrupted-intruded upon, trespassed upon-by a burly-set young man named Ray Sorenson who wanted to know if Lane knew what this bastard Rilke was all about. Lane and Sorenson were both in Modern European Literature 251 (open to seniors and graduate students only) and had been assigned the Fourth of Rilke's "Duino Elegies" for Monday. Lane, who knew Sorenson only slightly but had a vague, categorical aversion to his face and manner, put away his letter and said that he didn't know but that he thought he'd understood most of it. "You're lucky," Sorenson said. "You're a fortunate man." His voice carried with a minimum of vitality, as though he had come over to speak to Lane out of boredom or restiveness, not for any sort of human discourse. "Christ, it's cold," he said, and took a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. Lane noticed a faded but distracting enough lipstick streak on the lapel of Sorenson's camel's-hair coat. It looked as though it had been there for weeks, maybe month's, but he didn't know Sorenson well enough to mention it, nor, for that matter, did he give a damn. Besides, the train was arriving. Both boys turned a sort of half left to face the incoming engine. Almost at the same time, the door to the waiting room banged open, and the boys who had been keeping themselves warm began to come out to meet the train, most of them giving the impression of having at least three lighted cigarettes in each hand.

 

In her letter to Lane Franny says that she has only danced with him twice in eleven months, not counting that time at the Vanguard when he was so tight:

 

Tuesday I think

DEAREST LANE,

I have no idea if you will be able to decipher this as the noise in the dorm is absolutely incredible tonight and I can hardly hear myself think. So if I spell anything wrong kindly have the kindness to overlook it. Incidentally I've taken your advice and resorted to the dictionary a lot lately, so if it cramps my style your to blame. Anyway I just got your beautiful letter and I love you to pieces, distraction, etc., and can hardly wait for the weekend. It's too bad about not being able to get me in Croft House, but I don't actually care where I stay as long as It's warm and no bugs and I see you occasionally, i.e. every single minute. I've been going i.e. crazy lately. I absolutely adore your letter, especially the part about Eliot. I think I'm beginning to look down on all poets except Sappho. I've been reading her like mad and no vulgar remarks, please. I may even do my term thing on her if I decide to go out for honors and if I can get the moron they assigned me as an advisor to let me. "Delicate Adonis is dying, Cytherea, what shall we do? Beat your breasts, maidens, and rend your tunics." Isn't that marvellous? She keeps doing that, too. Do you love me? You didn't say once in your horrible letter I hate you when your being hopelessly super-male and retiscent (sp. ?). Not really hate you but am constitutionally against strong, silent men. Not that you aren't strong but you know what I mean. It's getting so noisy in here I can hardly hear myself think. Anyway I love you and want to get this off special delivery so you can get it in plenty of time if I can find a stamp in this madhouse. I love you I love you I love you. Do you actually know I've only danced with you twice in eleven months? Not counting that time at the Vanguard when you were so tight. I'll probably be hopelessly selfconscious. Incidentally I'll kill you if there's a receiving line at this thing. Till Saturday, my flower!!

All my love,

FRANNY

xxxxxxxx

xxxxxxxx

P.S. Daddy got his X-rays back from the hospital and we're all so relieved. Its a growth but it isn't malignent. I spoke to Mother on the phone last night. Incidentally she sent her regards to you, so you can relax about that Friday night. I don't even think they heard us come in.

P.P.S. I sound so unintelligent and dimwitted when I write to you. Why? I give you my permission to analyze it. Let's just try to have a marvellous time this weekend. I mean not try to analyze everything to death for once, if possible, especially me. I love you.

FRANCES (her mark)

 

Dr Hangover’s strongest Kaffeina pill brings to mind a can of Medaglia d'Oro coffee in Franny Glass’s nightmare:

 

Franny awakened with a start--a jolt, really, as though the couch had just gone over a bad bump. She raised up on one arm, and said, "Whew." She squinted at the morning sunlight. "Why's it so sunny?" She only partly took in Zooey's presence. "Why's it so sunny?" she repeated.
Zooey observed her rather narrowly. "I bring the sun wherever I go, buddy," he said.
Franny, still squinting, stared at him. "Why'd you wake me up?" she asked. She was still too heavy with sleep to sound really fractious, but it was apparent that she felt there was some kind of injustice in the air.
"Well... it's like this. Brother Anselmo and I have been offered a new parish. In Labrador, see. And we wondered if you'd give us your blessing before we--"
"Whew!" Franny said again, and put her hand on top of her head. Her hair, cut fashionably short, had survived sleep very well indeed. She wore it--most fortunately for the viewer--parted in the middle. "Oh, I had the most horrible dream," she said. She sat up a bit and, with one hand, closed the lapels of her dressing gown. It was a tailored tie-silk dressing gown, beige, with a pretty pattern of minute pink tea roses.
"Go ahead," Zooey said, dragging on his cigar. "I'll interpret for you."
She shuddered. "It was just horrible. So spidery. I've never had such a spidery nightmare in my entire life."
"Spiders, eh? That's very interesting. Very significant. I had a very interesting case in Zurich, some years back--a young person very much like yourself, as a matter of fact--"
"Be quiet a second, or I'll forget it," Franny said. She stared avidly into space, as nightmare-recallers do. There were half circles under her eyes, and other, subtler signs that mark an acutely troubled young girl, but nonetheless no one could have missed seeing that she was a first-class beauty. Her skin was lovely, and her features were delicate and most distinctive. Her eyes were very nearly the same quite astonishing shade of blue as Zooey's, but were set farther apart, as a sister's eyes no doubt should be--and they were not, so to speak, a day's work to look into, as Zooey's were. Some four years earlier, at her graduation from boarding school, her brother Buddy had morbidly prophesied to himself, as she grinned at him from the graduates' platform, that she would in all probability one day marry a man with a hacking cough. So there was that in her face, too. "Oh, God, I remember it now!" she said. "It was just hideous. I was at a swimming pool somewhere, and a whole bunch of people kept making me dive for a can of Medaglia d'Oro coffee that was on the bottom.

Every time I'd come up, they'd make me go down again. I was crying, and I kept saying to everybody, 'You have your bathing suits on. Why don't you do a little diving, too?,' but they'd all just laugh and make these terribly snide little remarks, and down I'd go again." She gave another shudder. "These two girls that are in my dorm were there. Stephanie Logan, and a girl I hardly even know--somebody, as a matter of fact, I always felt terribly sorry for, because she had such an awful name. Shannon Sherman. They both had a big oar, and they kept trying to hit me with it every time I'd surface." Franny put her hands over her eyes briefly. "Whew!" She shook her head. She reflected. "The only person that made any sense in the dream was Professor Tupper. I mean he was the only person that was there that I know really detests me."
"Detests you, eh? Very interesting." Zooey's cigar was in his mouth. He revolved it slowly between his fingers, like a dream-interpreter who isn't getting all the facts in the case. He looked very contented. "Why does he detest you?" he asked. "Without absolute frankness, you realize, my hands are--"
"He detests me because I'm in this crazy Religion seminar he conducts, and I can never bring myself to smile back at him when he's being charming and Oxfordish. He's on lend-lease or something from Oxford, and he's just a terribly sad old self-satisfied phony with wild and woolly white hair. I think he goes into the men's room and musses it up before he conies to class--I honestly do. He has no enthusiasm whatever for his subject. Ego, yes. Enthusiasm, no. Which would be all right--I mean it wouldn't be anything exactly strange--but he keeps dropping idiotic hints that he's a Realized Man himself and we should be pretty happy kids to have him in this country." Franny grimaced. "The only thing he does with any zing, when he isn't bragging, is correct somebody when they say something's Sanskrit when it's really Pali. He just knows I can't stand him! You should see the faces I make at him when he isn't looking."
"What was he doing at the pool?"
"That's exactly it! Nothing! Absolutely nothing! He was just standing around smiling and watching. He was the worst one there."

 

Franny’s spidery nightmare makes one think of glukhota pauch’ya (a spidery deafness) in Mandelshtam’s poem Lamark (“Lamarck,” 1932):

 

Был старик, застенчивый, как мальчик,

Неуклюжий, робкий патриарх.

Кто за честь природы фехтовальщик?

Ну конечно, пламенный Ламарк.

 

Если все живое лишь помарка

За короткий выморочный день,

На подвижной лестнице Ламарка

Я займу последнюю ступень.

 

К кольчецам спущусь и к усоногим,

Прошуршав средь ящериц и змей,

По упругим сходням, по излогам

Сокращусь, исчезну, как протей.

 

Роговую мантию надену,

От горячей крови откажусь,

Обрасту присосками и в пену

Океана завитком вопьюсь.

 

Мы прошли разряды насекомых

С наливными рюмочками глаз.

Он сказал: "Природа вся в разломах,

Зренья нет, - ты зришь в последний раз!"

 

Он сказал: "Довольно полнозвучья,

н Ты напрасно Моцарта любил,

Наступает глухота паучья,

Здесь провал сильнее наших сил".

 

И от нас природа отступила

Так, как будто мы ей не нужны,

И продольный мозг она вложила,

Словно шпагу, в темные ножны.

 

И подъемный мост она забыла,

Опоздала опустить для тех,

У кого зеленая могила,

Красное дыханье, гибкий смех.

 

There was an old man, bashful as a boy,
An awkward, timid Patriarch...
What swordsman will defend nature's honor?
Well, passionate Lamarck of course.

 

If all that lives is a mere blot

In a short, escheated day,

Then on Lamarck's ladder

I will take the lowest rung.

 

I will descend to the annelids and the cirripeds

Rustling among lizards and snakes,

Along resilient gangways, along forms

Like Proteus I'll shrink and vanish.

 

I'll put on a mantle of horn,

Rejecting my warm blood,

I'll grow suckers and like a tendril

Pierce the ocean foam.

 

We have gone through the ranks of insects

With eyes brimful as wineglasses.

He said: "nature is all in chasms,

There is no sight-you are seeing for the last time."

 

He said: "Enough of harmony,-

You loved Mozart in vain:

A spidery deafness is taking over,

Here the abyss is stronger than our strength."

 

And nature has deserted us

As if we are no use to her.

She has put away the spinal chord,

Into a dark scabbard like a sword.

 

And she forgot the drawbridge,

Failed to lower it in time

For those whose grave is green,

breath red, and laughter lithe...

 

By the time he was forty-four or forty-five, the composer Beethoven was totally deaf. In his Oda Betkhovenu (“Ode to Beethoven,” 1914) Mandelshtam compares Beethoven to Dionysus (the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking, orchards and fruit, vegetation, fertility, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre in ancient Greek religion and myth):

 

О Дионис, как муж, наивный

И благодарный, как дитя!

Ты перенёс свой жребий дивный

То негодуя, то шутя!

С каким глухим негодованьем

Ты собирал с князей оброк

Или с рассеянным вниманьем

На фортепьянный шёл урок!

 

Describing the beginning of Demon's affair with Marina, Van mentions an invisible sign of Dionysian origin:

 

Marina’s affair with Demon Veen started on his, her, and Daniel Veen’s birthday, January 5, 1868, when she was twenty-four and both Veens thirty.

As an actress, she had none of the breath-taking quality that makes the skill of mimicry seem, at least while the show lasts, worth even more than the price of such footlights as insomnia, fancy, arrogant art; yet on that particular night, with soft snow falling beyond the plush and the paint, la Durmanska (who paid the great Scott, her impresario, seven thousand gold dollars a week for publicity alone, plus a bonny bonus for every engagement) had been from the start of the trashy ephemeron (an American play based by some pretentious hack on a famous Russian romance) so dreamy, so lovely, so stirring that Demon (not quite a gentleman in amorous matters) made a bet with his orchestra-seat neighbor, Prince N., bribed a series of green-room attendants, and then, in a cabinet reculé (as a French writer of an earlier century might have mysteriously called that little room in which the broken trumpet and poodle hoops of a forgotten clown, besides many dusty pots of colored grease, happened to be stored) proceeded to possess her between two scenes (Chapter Three and Four of the martyred novel). In the first of these she had undressed in graceful silhouette behind a semitransparent screen, reappeared in a flimsy and fetching nightgown, and spent the rest of the wretched scene discussing a local squire, Baron d’O., with an old nurse in Eskimo boots. Upon the infinitely wise countrywoman’s suggestion, she goose-penned from the edge of her bed, on a side table with cabriole legs, a love letter and took five minutes to reread it in a languorous but loud voice for no body’s benefit in particular since the nurse sat dozing on a kind of sea chest, and the spectators were mainly concerned with the artificial moonlight’s blaze upon the lovelorn young lady’s bare arms and heaving breasts.

Even before the old Eskimo had shuffled off with the message, Demon Veen had left his pink velvet chair and proceeded to win the wager, the success of his enterprise being assured by the fact that Marina, a kissing virgin, had been in love with him since their last dance on New Year’s Eve. Moreover, the tropical moonlight she had just bathed in, the penetrative sense of her own beauty, the ardent pulses of the imagined maiden, and the gallant applause of an almost full house made her especially vulnerable to the tickle of Demon’s moustache. She had ample time, too, to change for the next scene, which started with a longish intermezzo staged by a ballet company whose services Scotty had engaged, bringing the Russians all the way in two sleeping cars from Belokonsk, Western Estoty. In a splendid orchard several merry young gardeners wearing for some reason the garb of Georgian tribesmen were popping raspberries into their mouths, while several equally implausible servant girls in sharovars (somebody had goofed — the word ‘samovars’ may have got garbled in the agent’s aerocable) were busy plucking marshmallows and peanuts from the branches of fruit trees. At an invisible sign of Dionysian origin, they all plunged into the violent dance called kurva or ‘ribbon boule’ in the hilarious program whose howlers almost caused Veen (tingling, and light-loined, and with Prince N.’s rose-red banknote in his pocket) to fall from his seat. (1.2)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Raspberries; ribbon: allusions to ludicrous blunders in Lowell’s versions of Mandelshtam’s poems (in the N.Y. Review, 23 December 1965).

 

Just Before the War with the Eskimos is a story by J. D. Salinger.

 

In her memoirs Lebensrückblick ("Life Review," 1951) Lou Andreas-Salomé (who was born in St. Petersburg as Luíza Gustavovna Salomé) writes about her relationship with Rilke: "We were brother and sister, but as in a distant past, before the marriage between brother and sister became sacrilegious." Salomé changed Rilke's first name from René to Rainer. Ada calls her brother (and life-long lover) Van cher, trop cher René (after the title character of a story by Chateaubriand):

 

Ada was denied the free use of the library. According to the latest list (printed May 1, 1884), it contained 14,841 items, and even that dry catalogue her governess preferred not to place in the child’s hands — ‘pour ne pas lui donner des idées.’ On her own shelves, to be sure, Ada had taxonomic works on botany and entomology as well as her schoolbooks and a few innocuous popular novels. But not only was she not supposed to browse in the library unsupervised, but every book she took out to read in bed or bower had to be checked by her mentor and charged’ en lecture’ with name and stamped date in the index-card files kept in a careful mess by Mlle Larivière and in a kind of desperate order (with the insertion of queries, calls of distress, and even imprecations, on bits of pink, red or purple paper) by a cousin of hers, Monsieur Philippe Verger, a diminutive old bachelor, morbidly silent and shy, who moused in, every other week, for a few hours of quiet work — so quiet, in fact, that one afternoon when a tallish library ladder suddenly went into an eerie backward slow-motion swoon with him high up on it embracing a windmill of volumes, he reached the floor, supine, with his ladder and books, in such a hush that guilty Ada, who had thought she was alone (pulling out and scanning the utterly unrewarding Arabian Nights), mistook his fall for the shadow of a door being stealthily opened by some soft-fleshed eunuch.

Her intimacy with her cher, trop cher René, as she sometimes called Van in gentle jest, changed the reading situation entirely — whatever decrees still remained pinned up in mid-air. Soon upon his arrival at Ardis, Van warned his former governess (who had reasons to believe in his threats) that if he were not permitted to remove from the library at any time, for any length of time, and without any trace of ‘en lecture,’ any volume, collected works, boxed pamphlets or incunabulum that he might fancy, he would have Miss Vertograd, his father’s librarian, a completely servile and infinitely accommodative spinster of Verger’s format and presumable date of publication, post to Ardis Hall trunkfuls of eighteenth century libertines, German sexologists, and a whole circus of Shastras and Nefsawis in literal translation with apocryphal addenda. Puzzled Mlle Larivière would have consulted the Master of Ardis, but she never discussed with him anything serious since the day (in January, 1876) when he had made an unexpected (and rather halfhearted, really — let us be fair) pass at her. As to dear, frivolous Marina, she only remarked, when consulted, that at Van’s age she would have poisoned her governess with anti-roach borax if forbidden to read, for example, Turgenev’s Smoke. Thereafter, anything Ada wanted or might have wanted to want was placed by Van at her disposal in various safe nooks, and the only visible consequence of Verger’s perplexities and despair was an increase in the scatter of a curious snow-white dust that he always left here and there, on the dark carpet, in this or that spot of plodding occupation — such a cruel curse on such a neat little man! (1.21)

 

In Salinger's Fanny and Zooey Lane Coutell and Ray Sorenson had been assigned the Fourth of Rilke's "Duino Elegies" for Monday. At the end of the Fourth Elegy Rilke says that murderers are  easy to fathom:

 

Wer zeigt ein Kind, so wie es steht? Wer stellt

es ins Gestirn und giebt das Maß des Abstands

ihm in die Hand? Wer macht den Kindertod

aus grauem Brot, das hart wird, — oder läßt

ihn drin im runden Mund, so wie den Gröps

von einem schönen Apfel? ...Mörder sind

leicht einzusehen. Aber dies: den Tod,

den ganzen Tod, noch vor dem Leben so

sanft zu enthalten und nicht bös zu sein,

ist unbeschreiblich.

 

Who will depict a child just as it stands? – place it

within its constellation, give it the measure of distance

into its hand? who make the death of children

out of grey bread, which hardens like a stone,

or place it in the cherry mouth as it were the core

of a shiny apple? Murderers are

easy to fathom. Only this: to take on death

completely, before even life begins,

contain it lightly and without complaining,

bereaves description.

(tr. John Waterfield)

 

In March, 1905, Demon Veen perishes in a mysterious airplane disaster above the Pacific (its victims include several children). Because love is blind, Van fails to see that his father died because Ada (who could not pardon Demon his forcing Van to give her up) managed to persuade the pilot to destroy his machine in midair. 

 

Rilke's Duino Elegies bring to mind Pushkin's Elegiya ("Elegy," 1830) in which the poet compares the extinct gaiety of his crazy years to smutnoe pokhmel'ye (a vague hangover):

 

Безумных лет угасшее веселье
Мне тяжело, как смутное похмелье.
Но, как вино — печаль минувших дней
В моей душе чем старе, тем сильней.
Мой путь уныл. Сулит мне труд и горе
Грядущего волнуемое море.

Но не хочу, о други, умирать;
Я жить хочу, чтоб мыслить и страдать;
И ведаю, мне будут наслажденья
Меж горестей, забот и треволненья:
Порой опять гармонией упьюсь,
Над вымыслом слезами обольюсь,
И может быть — на мой закат печальный
Блеснет любовь улыбкою прощальной.

 

The vanished joy of my crazy years
Is as heavy as gloomy hang-over.
But, like wine, the sorrow of past days
Is stronger with time.
My path is sad. The waving sea of the future
Promises me only toil and sorrow.

⁠But, O my friends, I do not wish to die,
I want to live – to think and suffer.
I know, I’ll have some pleasures
Among woes, cares and troubles.
Sometimes I’ll be drunk with harmony again,
Or will weep over my visions,
And it’s possible, at my sorrowful decline,
Love will flash with a parting smile.

(tr. D. Smirnov)

 

Btw., Ray Sorenson brings to mind Søren Kierkegaard (a Danish theologian, philosopher, poet, social critic, and religious author, 1813-55), the author of In Vino Veritas (The Banquet, 1845), an essay praised by Leo Tolstoy (whom Rilke and Lou Andreas-Salomé visited at Yasnaya Polyana). In Alexander Blok's poem Neznakomka ("The Unknown Woman," 1906) p'yanitsy s glazami krolikov (the drunks with the eyes of rabbits) cry out "In vino veritas!" At the family dinner in "Ardis the Second" Demon Veen (Van's and Ada's father) uses the phrase s glazami (with the eyes) and mentions Dr Krolik (the local entomologist, Ada’s beloved teacher of natural history):

 

'Marina,' murmured Demon at the close of the first course. ‘Marina,’ he repeated louder. ‘Far from me’ (a locution he favored) ‘to criticize Dan’s taste in white wines or the manners de vos domestiques. You know me, I’m above all that rot, I’m…’ (gesture); ‘but, my dear,’ he continued, switching to Russian, ‘the chelovek who brought me the pirozhki — the new man, the plumpish one with the eyes (s glazami) —’
‘Everybody has eyes,’ remarked Marina drily.
‘Well, his look as if they were about to octopus the food he serves. But that’s not the point. He pants, Marina! He suffers from some kind of odïshka (shortness of breath). He should see Dr Krolik. It’s depressing. It’s a rhythmic pumping pant. It made my soup ripple.’
‘Look, Dad,’ said Van, ‘Dr Krolik can’t do much, because, as you know quite well, he’s dead, and Marina can’t tell her servants not to breathe, because, as you also know, they’re alive.’
‘The Veen wit, the Veen wit,’ murmured Demon. (1.38)