Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020735, Thu, 16 Sep 2010 12:26:32 -0400

Back in March 2008, we had a productive exchange on the list which definitively showed how, in PF, the waxwing, parthenocissus vine (covering Shade Hall), and Vinogradus all connect to the Greek Amepelos, meaning vine. I would like to add one more association to this already satisfying constellation. As it happens, Ampelos/Ampelus is also a mythological figure. In the myth, the boy Ampelos, child of a nymph and a satyr, is fancied by, and becomes the lover of, Dionysus. One day, while climbing a tree to get at some grapes hanging there, he falls and is killed. The mourning god then places Ampelos in the heavens as a star (Vindemitor--grape picker). In another version, Ampelos, while riding a wild bull, taunts the moon, who in turn causes the bull to buck him off. He is killed and Dionysus turns him into a grapevine, from which the first wine is produced.

How might the myth relate to PF? It seems to me that the first version of the myth fits nicely into the waxwing scenario at the beginning of John Shade's poem. Ampelos, like the passerine waxwing, sits in a tree and eats fruit/berries. He then dies accidentally via collision. But like the waxwing that lives on in the (reflected) sky, Ampelos is preserved forever in the heavens as a star. I wonder, too, if the pederastic relationship between Dionysus and Ampelos can be seen as somehow connected to Kinbote. Also note that Dionysus is often thought to be the reincarnation of Phanes, the Orphic divinity associated with the Vanessa butterfly.

Matt Roth

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