NABOKV-L post 0022263, Fri, 23 Dec 2011 11:30:13 -0200

Bede and Pushkin; Swallows, cicadas and butterflies, Cecília Meireles, Rilke, Nabokov...

Santa Klaus gave me a comfortable (i.e., unexpensive) edition of Cecília Meireles's poems that I relentlessly carried along with me during these hectic Xmas shopping days. More than once I was carried over onto Nabokov's texts and to Rainier M. Rilke's, to wonder about this association. For VN "beside Kafka, the greatest German writer of our time, Rilke or Mann were dwarfs or plaster saints," and this observation indicates he must have read some of Rilke's works, although his reaction has been a dismissive or a negative one. I could establish a connection bt. C.Meireles and Rilke though. She wrote the foreword to the Brazilian edition of "Letters to a Young Poet" and translated some of his poems, with Paulo Rónai.

I thought it might be interesting to gather a sample of her lines about cicadas, birds, death and the never-ending (those who speak Spanish might understand her words!).. I'll start with the 1933-1937 edition of "Mar Absoluto e outros poemas." In the verses of her song ("canção), Cecília Meireles writes

Da virtude de estar quieta My quietude enables me
componho o meu movimento to compound my very movement.
Por indireta e direta, By being direct or indirect
perturbo estrelas e vento. I disturb wind and firmament.
Sou a passagem da seta I am the passageway for the arrow
e a seta, - em cada momento. and the arrow, - at every moment.

and these lines, in turn, carried me over to Rilke's verses in the Duino Elegien - but not very obvisously so, for it was chiefly Nabokov's "sliver of ligh between two eternities of darkness" - and the Venerable Bede's sparrow# related to the waxwing's joyful flight in the virtual heaven of the windowpane - that which added itself to a special kind of mood related to Christmas and a New Year.

Ist es nicht Zeit, daß wir liebend
uns vom Geliebten befrein und es bebend bestehn:
wie der Pfeil die Sehne besteht, um gesammelt im Absprung
mehr zu sein als er selbst. Denn Bleiben ist nirgends.
(Is it not time that in loving / we freed ourselves from the beloved and, trembling, endured:/the way an arrow endures the extended string in its launch /to be more than it itself. For staying is nowhere.)*

Some of Cecília's poems that bring up cicadas (like those whose song was alive) or the bird crashing against the promise of endlessness in a windowpane, in Pale Fire in a (rather mutilating) selection.**
Unlike Rilke and Nabokov she didn't believe in a transcendent world inspite of her solitary intuitions which perhaps led her towards similar images of a cicada song, metamorphosis, emprisoned birds and arrows, frustrated flights, never-never lands...).Although the present associations are too personal to deserve more than a passing note I think that, for those who are unfamiliar with Brazilian poetry, even a slight Nabokovian bobolink, holding the fluff of Cecília's verse, may be stimulating.

# - A different analogy construed a century after Lucretius´s (who Brian Boyd connected to the "twin eternities" in Speak,Memory) comes close to the spirit of Shade´s verses...The Venerable Bede, in The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, compares man´s life on earth to the arrow flight of a small sparrow crossing a lighted hall "passing from winter into winter". When she studies the Anglo-Saxon references in Pale Fire[in op.cit (73)], Priscilla Meyer registers, in connection to Bede,that "as has been demonstrated by Jean-Christophe Castelli, Nabokov uses the metaphor of the house, of enclosure, for the concept of mortal time, with windows as the point of transition into and out of it".

I wish I had a translation of Nabokov's "An exile's poems" into English to quote poem L.1 (written in Berlin, 1931, in Russian). I only own a copy in Spanish with the title "Borrador Inacabado" (An unfinished draft), where Nabokov explicitly refers to a bird that indicates his knowledge of the Venerable Bede's lines: "Or like the sudden flight of a bird/crossing a lighted room from night into night." The translator Macarena Carvajal Lloréns and Tatiana Gritzai Bielova (La Cruz del Sur, Editorial Pre-Textos) observes that this poem is related to a parody by Pushkin.
In Spanish: " o como el vuelo intantáneo de un pájaro/ desde la noche, a través de una sala luminosa, a la noche." The comment: "Paradójica variante sobre un tema de Pushkin. Para Nabokov la paródia es un juego pero no una grotesca imitación"
( ...and I also wish I could read the poem in English and learn about its reference to "a theme in Pushkin!")

* "Cartas a um Jovem Poeta (tradução de Paulo Rónai ) e A Canção de Amor e de Morte do Porta-Estandarte Cristóvão Rilke (tradução de Cecília Meireles),"ed. Globo, 8a edição, 1976.
Beginnings and fragments from the thematic material of the elegies and Duino Elegies, by Don Mager.

** - Viagem - 1939
Sei que canto. E a canção é tudo.
Tem sangue eterno a asa ritmada.
E um dia sei que estarei mudo:
- mais nada.

(I sing, this I know. The song is everything./In its eternal blood of rythmic wings/One day I'll become mute/ - that's all.)

Desenrolei de dentro do tempo a minha canção:
não tenho inveja às cigarras: também vou morrer de cantar.

( I unfurled my song within the bounds of time:/ I envy no cacada. Like them I'll die because I sing.

Súbito pássaro
dentro dos muros
Súbito pássaro
por altas nuvens

(A sudden bird/fallen/on the inside-walls [...] A sudden bird/sucked in/ by high flying clouds)

1942 Canção mínima

No mistério do Sem-Fim,
equilibra-se uim planeta.
E, no planeta, um jardim,
e, no jardim, um canteiro;
no canteiro, uma violeta,
e, sobre ela, o dia inteiro,

entre o planeta e o Sem-Fim,
e a asa de uma borboleta.

(The mistery of Never-Ending,/A planet keeps its balance./ In the planet, a garden,/ in the garden, a flowerbed,/ in the flowerbed, a violet/ and, above her, the whole day,// between the planet and the Never-ending,/ a butterfly wing.)

(Navego pela memória
sem margens.
Alguém conta a minha história
e alguém mata os personagens.)

( Memory with no other shores carries me in navigation. Some one tells my story/ and someone kills the characters)

Sugestão: À cigarra, queimando-se em mú pássaro que procura o fim do mundo...
(To the cicada, burning itself out in the bird searching for the end of the world)

4o. Motivo da Rosa
Não te aflija com a pétala que voa:
também é ser deixar de ser assim.
E por perder-me é que me vão lembrando,
por desfolhar-me é que não tenho fim.

(Never fret because of a flying petal./ To be is also to leave being in this way...Because of my loss I am remembered/ my unleaving makes me endless)

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