Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020745, Mon, 20 Sep 2010 11:59:59 -0300

Re: [NABOKOV-L] Guido Cavalcanti's Ballatetta in retrospect (from
Ada onto Lolita, through T.S.Eliot)
JM:["T.S.Eliot, in "Ash-Wednesday," begins his poem with a direct reference to the Ballatetta's first verse ( Perch'i' no spero di tornar giammai... His verses , "Because I do not hope to turn again"...find a strong resonance in "Pale Fire" - but in a totally different mood and timbre as those we hear echoing in "Lolita," and despite the apparent parody of Eliot's verses and cantos almost everywhere in VN ( particularly in Lolita, cf. page 299 AL and Appel's note, p. 448) How strange - what kind of connection may exist between Aqua and Kinbote, Aqua and Shade, and even Aqua & Quilty? I cannot see it, at all."]

PS (continuing with my soliloquy): My tentative hypothesis concerning Nabokov's employ of Eliot's lines ( quoting, in translation Guido Cavalcanti's poem) is that, when he wrote "Lolita" he was not aware of their origin and attrributed them to Eliot himself. Years later, he got acquainted with Cavalcanti's work, and regretted his cruel parody in "Lolita." And yet, Vivian Darkbloom doesn't indicate Cavalcanti except by referencing him to Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation: he omits the T.S.Eliot passage altogether.

I'm basing my hypothesis on a line, in "Ada," that follows Aqua's disgruntled quotes from the balladetta, when we hear that there was an obnoxious doctor who'd been a "Cavalcanti quoter."* ( Eliot? Who is "il miglior fabbro"?** )
* - "but the burbly flowlets grew more and more ambitious and odious, and when at her first "home" she heard one of the most hateful of the visiting doctors (the Cavalcanti quoter) garrulously pour hateful instructions in Russian-lapped German into her hateful bidet, she decided to stop turning on tap water altogether (24.10).
** - (wiki on Eliot's "The Wasteland") The poem is preceded by a Latin and Greek epigraph from The Satyricon of Petronius. In English, it reads: "I saw with my own eyes the Sibyl of Cumae hanging in a jar, and when the boys said to her, Sibyl, what do you want? she replied I want to die."
Following the epigraph is a dedication (added in a 1925 republication) that reads "For Ezra Pound: il miglior fabbro" Here Eliot is both quoting line 117 of Canto XXVI of Dante's Purgatorio, the second cantica of The Divine Comedy, where Dante defines the troubadour Arnaut Daniel as "the best smith of the mother tongue" and also Pound's title of chapter 2 of his The Spirit of Romance (1910) where he translated the phrase as "the better craftsman."[19] This dedication was originally written in ink by Eliot in the 1922 Boni & Liveright paperback edition of the poem presented to Pound; it was subsequently included in future editions.
Dante once mentioned that he was trying to write something novel, which had never been attempted before... the same words Nabokov once used, in a letter to Wilson, when he described his work "Pale Fire" ( I'm quoting from memory, quotes and references still needed...)

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