When Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Ada, 1969) revisits Ardis in 1888, Ada tells him that she has given up all that stuff — petits vers, vers de soie:
‘My teacher,’ she said, ‘at the Drama School thinks I’m better in farces than in tragedy. If they only knew!’
‘There is nothing to know,’ retorted Van. ‘Nothing, nothing has changed! But that’s the general impression, it was too dim down there for details, we’ll examine them tomorrow on our little island: "My sister, do you still recall…"’
‘Oh shut up!’ said Ada. ‘I’ve given up all that stuff — petits vers, vers de soie…’
‘Come, come,’ cried Van, ‘some of the rhymes were magnificent arcrobatics on the part of the child’s mind: "Oh! qui me rendra, ma Lucile, et le grand chêne and zee big hill." Little Lucile,’ he added in an effort to dissipate her frowns with a joke, ‘little Lucile has become so peachy that I think I’ll switch over to her if you keep losing your temper like that. I remember the first time you got cross with me was when I chucked a stone at a statue and frightened a finch. That’s memory!’ (1.31)
Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): petits vers etc.: fugitive poetry and silk worms.
In a letter of Nov. 26, 1828, to Delvig (Pushkin’s Lyceum friend, the editor of the almanac Severnye tsvety, “Northern Flowers”) Pushkin sends his poem Otvet A. I. Gotovtsevoy (“A Reply to Mme Gotovtsev,” 1828) and asks Delvig how he finds ces petits vers froids et coulants (these cold and smooth verses):
И недоверчиво и жадно
Смотрю я на твои цветы.
Кто, строгий стоик, примет хладно
Привет харит и красоты?
Горжуся им — но и робею;
Твой недосказанный упрёк
Я разгадать вполне не смею.
Твой гнев ужели я навлёк?
О, сколько б мук себе готовил
Красавиц ветреный зоил,
Когда б предательски злословил
Сей пол, которому служил!
Любви безумством и волненьем
Наказан был бы он; а ты
Была всегда б опроверженьем
Его печальной клеветы.
Вот тебе ответ Готовцовой (чёрт её побери), как ты находишь ces petits vers froids et coulants.
According to Humbert Humbert (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Lolita, 1955), he would often catch Lolita coulant un regard (casting a glance) in the direction of some amiable male:
Oh, I had to keep a very sharp eye on Lo, little limp Lo! Owing perhaps to constant amorous exercise, she radiated, despite her very childish appearance, some special languorous glow which threw garage fellows, hotel pages, vacationists, goons in luxurious cars, maroon morons near blued pools, into fits of concupiscence which might have tickled my pride, had it not incensed my jealousy. For little Lo was aware of that glow of hers, and I would often catch her coulant un regard in the direction of some amiable male, some grease monkey, with a sinewy golden-brown forearm and watch-braceleted wrist, and hardly had I turned my back to go and buy this very Lo a lollipop, than I would hear her and the fair mechanic burst into a perfect love song of wisecracks. (2.2)
The elder daughter of Marina Durmanov (Daniel Veen’s stage-struck wife), Ada dreams of a dramatic career. At Beardsley College Dolores Haze (Lolita’s real name) participates in a stage version of Quilty’s play The Enchanted Hunters:
By the time spring had touched up Thayer Street with yellow and green and pink, Lolita was irrevocably stage-struck. Pratt, whom I chanced to notice one Sunday lunching with some people at Walton Inn, caught my eye from afar and went through the motion of sympathetically and discreetly clapping her hands while Lo was not looking. I detest the theatre as being a primitive and putrid form, historically speaking; a form that smacks of stone-age rites and communal nonsense despite those individual injections of genius, such as, say, Elizabethan poetry which a closeted reader automatically pumps out of the stuff. Being much occupied at the time with my own literary labors, I did not bother to read the complete text of The Enchanted Hunters, the playlet in which Dolores Haze was assigned the part of a farmer’s daughter who imagines herself to be a woodland witch, or Diana, or something, and who, having got hold of a book on hypnotism, plunges a number of lost hunters into various entertaining trances before falling in her turn under the spell of a vagabond poet (Mona Dahl). That much I gleaned from bits of crumpled and poorly typed script that Lo sowed all over the house. The coincidence of the title with the name of an unforgettable inn was pleasant in a sad little way: I wearily thought I had better not bring it to my own enchantress’s notice, lest a brazen accusation of mawkishness hurt me even more than her failure to notice it for herself had done. I assumed the playlet was just another, practically anonymous, version of some banal legend. Nothing prevented one, of course, from supposing that in quest of an attractive name the founder of the hotel had been immediately and solely influenced by the chance fantasy of the second-rate muralist he had hired, and that subsequently the hotel’s name had suggested the play’s title. But in my credulous, simple, benevolent mind I happened to twist it the other way round, and without giving the whole matter much though really, supposed that mural, name and title had all been derived from a common source, from some local tradition, which I, an alien unversed in New England lore, would not be supposed to know. In consequence I was under the impression (all this quite casually, you understand, quite outside my orbit of importance) that the accursed playlet belonged to the type of whimsy for juvenile consumption, arranged and rearranged many times, such as Hansel and Gretel by Richard Roe, or The Sleeping Beauty by Dorothy Doe, or The Emperor’s New Clothes by Maurice Vermont and Marion Rumpelmeyer all this to be found in any Plays for School Actors or Let’s Have a Play! In other words, I did not know and would not have cared, if I did that actually The Enchanted Hunters was a quite recent and technically original composition which had been produced for the first time only three or four months ago by a highbrow group in New York. To me inasmuch as I could judge from my charmer’s part it seemed to be a pretty dismal kind of fancy work, with echoes from Lenormand and Maeterlinck and various quiet British dreamers. The red-capped, uniformly attired hunters, of which one was a banker, another a plumber, a third a policeman, a fourth an undertaker, a fifth an underwriter, a sixth an escaped convict (you see the possibilities!), went through a complete change of mind in Dolly’s Dell, and remembered their real lives only as dreams or nightmares from which little Diana had aroused them; but a seventh Hunter (in a green cap, the fool) was a Young Poet, and he insisted, much to Diana’s annoyance, that she and the entertainment provided (dancing nymphs, and elves, and monsters) were his, the Poet’s, invention. I understand that finally, in utter disgust at his cocksureness, barefooted Dolores was to lead check-trousered Mona to the paternal farm behind the Perilous Forest to prove to the braggart she was not a poet’s fancy, but a rustic, down-to-brown-earth lass and a last-minute kiss was to enforce the play’s profound message, namely, that mirage and reality merge in love. I considered it wiser not to criticize the thing in front of Lo: she was so healthily engrossed in “problems of expression,” and so charmingly did she put her narrow Florentine hands together, batting her eyelashes and pleading with me not to come to rehearsals as some ridiculous parents did because she wanted to dazzle me with a perfect First Night and because I was, anyway, always butting in and saying the wrong thing, and cramping her style in the presence of other people. (2.13)
At The Enchanted Hunters (a hotel in Briceland where Humbert Humbert and Lolita spend their first night together) HH puts Lolita to sleep with his Purple Pills:
When the dessert was plunked down - a huge wedge of cherry pie for the young lady and vanilla ice cream her protector, most of which she expeditiously added to her pie - I produced a small vial containing Papa’s Purple Pills. As I look back at those seasick murals, at that strange and monstrous moment, I can only explain my behavior then by the mechanism of that dream vacuum wherein revolves a deranged mind; but at the time, it all seemed quite simple and inevitable to me. I glanced around, satisfied myself that the last diner had left, removed the stopped, and with the utmost deliberation tipped the philter into my palm. I had carefully rehearsed before a mirror the gesture of clapping my empty hand to my open mouth and swallowing a (fictitious) pill. As I expected, she pounced upon the vial with its plump, beautifully colored capsules loaded with Beauty’s Sleep.
“Blue!” she exclaimed. “Violet blue. What are they made of?”
“Summer skies,” I said, “and plums and figs, and the grape-blood of emperors.”
“No, seriously please.”
“Oh, just purpills. Vitamin X. Makes one strong as an ox or an ax. Want to try one?”
Lolita stretched out her hand, nodding vigorously.
I had hoped the drug would work fast. It certainly did. She had had a long long day, she had gone rowing in the morning with Barbara whose sister was Waterfront Director, as the adorable accessible nymphet now started to tell me in between suppressed palate-humping yawns, growing in volume - oh, how fast the magic potion worked! - and had been active in other ways too. The movie that had vaguely loomed in her mind was, of course, by the time we water-treaded out of the dining room, forgotten. As we stood in the elevator, she leaned against me, faintly smiling - wouldn’t you like me to tell you? - half closing her dark-lidded eyes. “Sleepy, huh?” said Uncle Tom who was bringing up the quiet Franco-Irish gentleman and his daughter as well as two withered women, experts in roses. They looked with sympathy at my frail, tanned, tottering, dazed rose darling. I had almost to carry her into our room. There, she sat down on the edge of the bed, swaying a little, speaking in dove-dull, long-drawn tones. (1.27)
On Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set) VN’s Lolita is known as The Gitanilla, a novel by the Spanish writer Osberg. A plump purple pill reminds poor Aqua (Marina’s twin sister who married Demon Veen and went mad) of those with which the little gypsy enchantress in the Spanish tale puts to sleep all the sportsmen and all their bloodhounds at the opening of the hunting season:
In less than a week Aqua had accumulated more than two hundred tablets of different potency. She knew most of them — the jejune sedatives, and the ones that knocked you out from eight p.m. till midnight, and several varieties of superior soporifics that left you with limpid limbs and a leaden head after eight hours of non-being, and a drug which was in itself delightful but a little lethal if combined with a draught of the cleansing fluid commercially known as Morona; and a plump purple pill reminding her, she had to laugh, of those with which the little gypsy enchantress in the Spanish tale (dear to Ladore schoolgirls) puts to sleep all the sportsmen and all their bloodhounds at the opening of the hunting season. Lest some busybody resurrect her in the middle of the float-away process, Aqua reckoned she must procure for herself a maximum period of undisturbed stupor elsewhere than in a glass house, and the carrying out of that second part of the project was simplified and encouraged by another agent or double of the Isère Professor, a Dr Sig Heiler whom everybody venerated as a great guy and near-genius in the usual sense of near-beer. (1.3)
The Isère Professor mentioned by Van is a Dr Froid or Froit of Signy-Mondieu-Mondieu:
Being unwilling to suffer another relapse after this blessed state of perfect mental repose, but knowing it could not last, she did what another patient had done in distant France, at a much less radiant and easygoing ‘home.’ A Dr Froid, one of the administerial centaurs, who may have been an émigré brother with a passport-changed name of the Dr Froit of Signy-Mondieu-Mondieu in the Ardennes or, more likely, the same man, because they both came from Vienne, Isère, and were only sons (as her son was), evolved, or rather revived, the therapistic device, aimed at establishing a ‘group’ feeling, of having the finest patients help the staff if ‘thusly inclined.’ Aqua, in her turn, repeated exactly clever Eleonore Bonvard’s trick, namely, opting for the making of beds and the cleaning of glass shelves. The astorium in St Taurus, or whatever it was called (who cares — one forgets little things very fast, when afloat in infinite non-thingness) was, perhaps, more modem, with a more refined desertic view, than the Mondefroid bleakhouse horsepittle, but in both places a demented patient could outwit in one snap an imbecile pedant. (ibid.)
In his poem “On peut très bien, mademoiselle…” (1816) written at the Lyceum Pushkin compares Princess V. M. Volkonski (a lady-in-waiting whom the poet mistook for a chambermaid and kissed in a dark corridor) to une maquerelle (a procuress) and uses the phrase mon Dieu (my God):
On peut très bien, mademoiselle,
Vous prendre pour une maquerelle,
Ou pour une vieille guenon,
Mais pour une grâce, — oh, mon Dieu, non.
One may very well mistake you, mademoiselle,
for a procuress,
or for an old female monkey,
but for a grace – oh, my God, no.
In a letter of the middle of November, 1828, to Delvig Pushkin says that his reply to Mme Gotovtsev is not yet gotov (ready) and mentions Sofia Ostafievna (a notorious procuress in St. Petersburg):
Вот тебе в «Цветы» ответ Катенину вместо ответа Готовцовой, который не готов. Я совершенно разучился любезничать: мне так же трудно проломать мадригал, <как и целку>. А всё Софья Остафьевна виновата.
According to Pushkin, to write a madrigal is for him as hard as to deflower a virgin (and to blame is Sofia Ostafievna alone). In the epilogue of Ada Van says that Dr Froid became a deflowerer because he failed to pass his botany examination:
More fiercely than ever he [Van Veen] execrated all sham art, from the crude banalities of junk sculpture to the italicized passages meant by a pretentious novelist to convey his fellow hero’s cloudbursts of thought. He had even less patience than before with the ‘Sig’ (Signy-M.D.-M.D.) school of psychiatry. Its founder’s epoch-making confession (‘In my student days I became a deflowerer because I failed to pass my botany examination’) he prefixed, as an epigraph, to one of his last papers (1959) entitled The Farce of Group Therapy in Sexual Maladjustment, the most damaging and satisfying blast of its kind (the Union of Marital Counselors and Catharticians at first wanted to sue but then preferred to detumefy). (5.4)
Van and Ada find out that they are brother and sister thanks to Marina’s old herbarium that they discovered in the attic of Ardis Hall:
The two kids’ best find, however, came from another carton in a lower layer of the past. This was a small green album with neatly glued flowers that Marina had picked or otherwise obtained at Ex, a mountain resort, not far from Brig, Switzerland, where she had sojourned before her marriage, mostly in a rented chalet. The first twenty pages were adorned with a number of little plants collected at random, in August, 1869, on the grassy slopes above the chalet, or in the park of the Hotel Florey, or in the garden of the sanatorium neat: it (‘my nusshaus,’ as poor Aqua dubbed it, or ‘the Home,’ as Marina more demurely identified it in her locality notes). Those introductory pages did not present much botanical or psychological interest; and the fifty last pages or so remained blank; but the middle part, with a conspicuous decrease in number of specimens, proved to be a regular little melodrama acted out by the ghosts of dead flowers. The specimens were on one side of the folio, with Marina Dourmanoff (sic)’s notes en regard.
Ancolie Bleue des Alpes, Ex en Valais, i.IX.69. From Englishman in hotel. ‘Alpine Columbine, color of your eyes.’
Epervière auricule. 25.X.69, Ex, ex Dr Lapiner’s walled alpine garden.
Golden [ginkgo] leaf: fallen out of a book’ The Truth about Terra’ which Aqua gave me before going back to her Home. 14.XII.69.
Artificial edelweiss brought by my new nurse with a note from Aqua saying it came from a ‘mizernoe and bizarre’ Christmas Tree at the Home. 25.XII.69.
Petal of orchid, one of 99 orchids, if you please, mailed to me yesterday, Special Delivery, c’est bien le cas de le dire, from Villa Armina, Alpes Maritimes. Have laid aside ten for Aqua to be taken to her at her Home. Ex en Valais, Switzerland. ‘Snowing in Fate’s crystal ball,’ as he used to say. (Date erased.)
Gentiane de Koch, rare, brought by lapochka [darling] Lapiner from his ‘mute gentiarium’ 5.I.1870.
[blue-ink blot shaped accidentally like a flower, or improved felt-pen deletion] (Compliquaria compliquata var. aquamarina. Ex, 15.I.70.
Fancy flower of paper, found in Aqua’s purse. Ex, 16.II.1870, made by a fellow patient, at the Home, which is no longer hers.
Gentiana verna (printanière). Ex, 28.III.1870, on the lawn of my nurse’s cottage. Last day here.
The two young discoverers of that strange and sickening treasure commented upon it as follows:
‘I deduce,’ said the boy, ‘three main facts: that not yet married Marina and her. married sister hibernated in my lieu de naissance; that Marina had her own Dr Krolik, pour ainsi dire; and that the orchids came from Demon who preferred to stay by the sea, his dark-blue great-grandmother.’
‘I can add,’ said the girl, ‘that the petal belongs to the common Butterfly Orchis; that my mother was even crazier than her sister; and that the paper flower so cavalierly dismissed is a perfectly recognizable reproduction of an early-spring sanicle that I saw in profusion on hills in coastal California last February. Dr Krolik, our local naturalist, to whom you, Van, have referred, as Jane Austen might have phrased it, for the sake of rapid narrative information (you recall Brown, don’t you, Smith?), has determined the example I brought back from Sacramento to Ardis, as the Bear-Foot, B,E,A,R, my love, not my foot or yours, or the Stabian flower girl’s — an allusion, which your father, who, according to Blanche, is also mine, would understand like this’ (American finger-snap). ‘You will be grateful,’ she continued, embracing him, ‘for my not mentioning its scientific name. Incidentally the other foot — the Pied de Lion from that poor little Christmas larch, is by the same hand — possibly belonging to a very sick Chinese boy who came all the way from Barkley College.’
‘Good for you, Pompeianella (whom you saw scattering her flowers in one of Uncle Dan’s picture books, but whom I admired last summer in a Naples museum). Now don’t you think we should resume our shorts and shirts and go down, and bury or burn this album at once, girl. Right?
‘Right,’ answered Ada. ‘Destroy and forget. But we still have an hour before tea.’ (1.1)
“Destroy and forget” (a phrase repeated by Van and Ada at least three times) seems to hint at oubli ou regret (oblivion or regret), in Pushkin’s story Pikovaya dama (“The Queen of Spades,” 1833) the question with which three ladies at a ball approach Tomski:
Подошедшие к ним три дамы с вопросами — oubli ou regret? — прервали разговор, который становился мучительно любопытен для Лизаветы Ивановны.
Дама, выбранная Томским, была сама княжна ***. Она успела с ним изъясниться, обежав лишний круг и лишний раз повертевшись перед своим стулом.— Томский, возвратясь на своё место, уже не думал ни о Германне, ни о Лизавете Ивановне. Она непременно хотела возобновить прерванный разговор; но мазурка кончилась, и вскоре после старая графиня уехала.
Three ladies approaching him with the question: "oubli ou regret?" interrupted the conversation, which had become so tantalizingly interesting to Lizaveta Ivanovna.
The lady chosen by Tomski was Princess Polina herself. She succeeded in effecting a reconciliation with him during the numerous turns of the dance, after which he conducted her to her chair. (chapter IV)
According to Tomski, his eighty-year-old grandmother (who sixty years ago was known in Paris as la Vénus muscovite) knows the secret of three cards. Before the Night of the Burning Barn (when Van and Ada make love for the first time) Ada builds a Pompeian Villa using the playing cards of her grandfather:
'Fine,' said Van, 'that's certainly fascinating; but I was thinking of the first time you might have suspected I was also a sick pig or horse. I am recalling,' he continued, 'the round table in the round rosy glow and you kneeling next to me on a chair. I was perched on the chair's swelling arm and you were building a house of cards, and your every movement was magnified, of course, as in a trance, dream-slow but also tremendously vigilant, and I positively reveled in the girl odor of your bare arm and in that of your hair which now is murdered by some popular perfume. I date the event around June 10 - a rainy evening less than a week after my first arrival at Ardis.'
'I remember the cards,' she said, 'and the light and the noise of the rain, and your blue cashmere pullover - but nothing else, nothing odd or improper, that came later. Besides, only in French love stories les messieurs hument young ladies.'
'Well, I did while you went on with your delicate work. Tactile magic. Infinite patience. Fingertips stalking gravity. Badly bitten nails, my sweet. Forgive these notes, I cannot really express the discomfort of bulky, sticky desire. You see I was hoping that when your castle toppled you would make a Russian splash gesture of surrender and sit down on my hand.'
'It was not a castle. It was a Pompeian Villa with mosaics and paintings inside, because I used only court cards from Grandpa's old gambling packs. Did I sit down on your hot hard hand?'
'On my open palm, darling. A pucker of paradise. You remained still for a moment, fitting my cup. Then you rearranged your limbs and reknelt.'
'Quick, quick, quick, collecting the flat shining cards again to build again, again slowly? We were abominably depraved, weren't we?'
'All bright kids are depraved. I see you do recollect -'
'Not that particular occasion, but the apple tree, and when you kissed my neck, et tout le reste. And then - zdravstvuyte: apofeoz, the Night of the Burning Barn!' (1.18)
Van (who believes that he was Ada’s first lover) does not know when he “deflowered” her:
Neither could establish in retrospect, nor, indeed, persisted in trying to do so, how, when and where he actually ‘de-flowered’ her — a vulgarism Ada in Wonderland had happened to find glossed in Phrody’s Encyclopedia as ‘to break a virgin’s vaginal membrane by manly or mechanical means,’ with the example: ‘The sweetness of his soul was deflowered (Jeremy Taylor).’ Was it that night on the lap robe? Or that day in the larchwood? Or later in the shooting gallery, or in the attic, or on the roof, or on a secluded balcony, or in the bathroom, or (not very comfortably) on the Magic Carpet? We do not know and do not care.
(You kissed and nibbled, and poked, and prodded, and worried me there so much and so often that my virginity was lost in the shuffle; but I do recall definitely that by midsummer the machine which our forefathers called’ sex’ was working as smoothly as later, in 1888, etc., darling. Marginal note in red ink.) (1.20)
Actually, Ada lost her virginity to Dr Krolik’s brother (Karol, or Karapars, Krolik, a doctor of philosophy, born in Turkey) whose photograph Van can see in Kim Beauharnais’ album:
‘Well,’ said Van, when the mind took over again, ‘let’s go back to our defaced childhood. I’m anxious’ — (picking up the album from the bedside rug) — ‘to get rid of this burden. Ah, a new character, the inscription says: Dr Krolik.’
‘Wait a sec. It may be the best Vanishing Van but it’s terribly messy all the same. Okay. Yes, that’s my poor nature teacher.’
Knickerbockered, panama-hatted, lusting for his babochka (Russian for ‘lepidopteron’). A passion, a sickness. What could Diana know about that chase?
‘How curious — in the state Kim mounted him here, he looks much less furry and fat than I imagined. In fact, darling, he’s a big, strong, handsome old March Hare! Explain!’
‘There’s nothing to explain. I asked Kim one day to help me carry some boxes there and back, and here’s the visual proof. Besides, that’s not my Krolik but his brother, Karol, or Karapars, Krolik. A doctor of philosophy, born in Turkey.’
‘I love the way your eyes narrow when you tell a lie. The remote mirage in Effrontery Minor.’
‘I’m not lying!’ — (with lovely dignity): ‘He is a doctor of philosophy.’
‘Van ist auch one,’ murmured Van, sounding the last word as ‘wann.’ (2.7)
At the family dinner in “Ardis the Second” Ada mentions some romantic Turk or Albanian whom, according to Van, she meets in the wood:
Marina helped herself to an Albany from a crystal box of Turkish cigarettes tipped with red rose petal and passed the box on to Demon. Ada, somewhat self-consciously, lit up too.
‘You know quite well,’ said Marina, ‘that your father disapproves of your smoking at table.’
‘Oh, it’s all right,’ murmured Demon.
‘I had Dan in view,’ explained Marina heavily. ‘He’s very prissy on that score.’
‘Well, and I’m not,’ answered Demon.
Ada and Van could not help laughing. All that was banter — not of a high order, but still banter.
A moment later, however, Van remarked: ‘I think I’ll take an Alibi — I mean an Albany — myself.’
‘Please note, everybody,’ said Ada, ‘how voulu that slip was! I like a smoke when I go mushrooming, but when I’m back, this horrid tease insists I smell of some romantic Turk or Albanian met in the woods.’
‘Well,’ said Demon, ‘Van’s quite right to look after your morals.’ (1.38)
In a letter of Sept. 1, 1828, to Vyazemski Pushkin says that he does not send verses to Pelageya Nikolaevna Vsevolozhski because even the Turks do not shoot at such a distance:
Благодарю тебя умом и сердцем, то есть вкусом и самолюбием — за портрет Пелагеи Николаевны. Стихов ей не шлю, ибо на такой дистанции не стреляют даже и турки.
The local entomologist, Dr Krolik is Ada’s beloved teacher of natural history. The characters in Anya v strane chudes (VN’s Russian version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a book known on Antiterra as Palace in Wonderland, 1.8, and Alice in the Camera Obscura, Part Four) include Belyi Krolik (the White Rabbit). In his nonsense verse that he wrote for Lolita Gumbert Gumbert (Humbert Humbert’s name in VN’s Russian version of Lolita, 1967) mentions krolik (the male rabbit) whose behavior with krol’chikha (the female rabbit) makes the rabbit-breeders ill with laughing :
Я припомнил довольно изящные, чепушиные стишки, которые я для неё писал, когда она была ребёнком. "Не чепушиные", говорила она насмешливо, '"а просто чепуха":
Пролетают колибри на аэропланах,
Проходит змея, держа руки в карманах...
Так ведёт себя странно с крольчихою кролик,
Что кролиководы смеются до колик.
I recalled the rather charming nonsense verse I used to write her when she was a child: “nonsense,” she used to say mockingly, “is correct.”
The Squire and his Squirrel, the Rabs and their Rabbits
Have certain obscure and peculiar habits.
Male hummingbirds make the most exquisite rockets.
The snake when he walks holds his hands in his pockets… (2.24)
In contrast to Van Veen, Humbert Humbert knows that he was not Lolita’s first lover (at The Enchanted Hunters Lolita herself tells HH how she was debauched).