-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Fw: [NABOKV-L] Pale Fire Commentary on Line 130
Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2012 10:19:41 -0700
From: Mike Marcus <mmkcm@COMCAST.NET>
CC: Mike Marcus <mmkcm@COMCAST.NET>

Mike M writes:

Does anyone know whether Nabokov was actually interested in, or knowledgeable about cricket? I suppose it's possible since he studied at Cambridge, but that was forty years before Pale Fire, and how would he have kept abreast? At any rate, the reason I ask is that as soon as I saw this --

Line 119: Dr. Sutton
This is a recombination of letters taken from two names, one beginning in "Sut," the other ending in "ton."

-- I thought of two defunct Yorkshire cricketers, Sutcliffe and Hutton. Looking back at the actual poem, line 116 mentions 'crickets', and describes the wall of sound as "Impenetrable", which would apply equally well to the game that non-cricketers have identified as the most arcane in existence. The odd thing is, there seem to be two doctors Sutton, whom I can't unravel. Admittedly the line 119 commentary suggests that the "recombination" should involve two medical men; maybe someone in the medical field can come up with a plausible solution.

When I read on in the poem, with cricket in mind, forty ounces of fine sand (line 121) evoked the fact that a standard cricket bat weighs forty ounces, and to be kept in optimum condition it needs to be sanded with fine sand paper. And there's a well-known quotation that says something like "the English created cricket to give them a conception of eternity" (Infinite foretime and Infinite after time:"). And there's the famous weathervane at Lords Cricket Ground, Old Father Time.

There are perhaps a few other cricket terms scattered in the vicinity: Line 128, "I walked at my own risk" -- to "walk" is when a batsman dismisses himself without waiting for the umpire's decision, an act of sportsmanship rarely seen today. Line 129 "Tripped by the stump" -- a stump is another word for wicket. And then line 130, "I never bounced a ball or swung a bat.".

The note to line 181 has " ancient Dr. Sutton, a snowy-headed, perfectly oval little gentleman". Is anyone perfectly oval? Surrey's cricket ground is called "The Oval".

I mention with great reluctance the commentary to lines 47-8:
"Higher up on the same wooded hill stood, and still stands I trust, Dr. Sutton's old clapboard house and, at the very top, eternity shall not dislodge Professor C.'s ultramodern villa from whose terrace one can glimpse to the south the larger and sadder of the three conjoined lakes called Omega, Ozero, and Zero (Indian names garbled by early settlers in such a way as to accommodate specious derivations and commonplace allusions)."
Those three conjoined lakes, like three zeroes in a line, evoked the image of a non-electronic cricket scoreboard, the kind used at amateur venues, where the score total begins with triple zero, the numbered metal plates switched by the scorer as the game proceeds. There is again that "eternity"; and "dislodge [the bails]" is also a cricket term.


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