Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0019536, Mon, 1 Mar 2010 08:42:29 -0500

Re: THOUGHT: on prosody
Interesting thoughts regarding "The Exile" and Shade's variant. Back in
February 2007 I argued, like you, that "poor Shade" was the best choice.
Here's what I said:

MR: This poet's ear definitely favors the iamb as the central foot in that

line. Otherwise, one has to read "poor" as unstressed in the first and
third foot but stressed in the fourth foot--a highly unnatural combination

that is very difficult to read. If, however, the middle foot is "poor
Shade," the line is perfectly balanced, including a nice chime
between "Poor old" and "poor Baud-". Moreover, it continues the completely

iambic cadence of the stanza, with lovely caesurae at the end to resolve
the chord.

That was my original view, but I gave it up due to the strong arguments of
Jerry Friedman and a few others. (I also made an errant point about
anapestic possibilities that I won't repeat here.) In the end, I sided with
Kinbote (!) in scanning Baudelaire as two syllables. Someone else, I
believe, pointed out that the line is really closer to being a succession of
spondees (especially with "John Shade" inserted) and therefore would come up
against Pope's objection in "Essay on Criticism": "And ten low words oft
creep in one dull line." So perhaps Shade left it out for aesthetic
purposes? That doesn't seem all that likely to me, and in terms of the
novel, VN clearly put it there to make us wonder about that dash. Anyway, I
am pleased by your "Exile" find, and if your reading of the prosody is
correct, it certainly lends credibility to the notion that Baudelaire here
could be scanned in the same way.

And thanks for reading the article!


>>> On 2/28/2010 at 6:29 AM, in message
<13C616E3-4951-4318-9B05-132972CBCB9D@innerlea.com>, Gary Lipon
<glipon@INNERLEA.COM> wrote:

I was much amused by the poem The Exile by VN that Jansy passed along,

due to its scansion of the name Baudelaire which recalled a post that I
a couple weeks ago, I think, but never sent because I didn't think it
purposeful enough.
Now it seems to have at least a little relevance.
The post concerned Matt & Tiff's interpretation of Kinbote's comment to
line 231
regarding some dashes in a variant he claims to have.
[I hope to send out soon a post on amphibrachs & anapests & such.]

Here is a scan of the relevant lines from The Exile:

Verlaine had been also a teacher somewhere
in England. And what about great Baudelaire,
alone in his Belgi-an hell?

[Actually, in isolation these lines might be scanned as iambic pentameter!

Verlaine had been alsoa teacher somewhere
in England. And what about great Baud'laire,
alone in his Belgian hell? ]

Here is the post that never went out till now:

I was reading Matt Roth and Tiffany DeRewal's article,JOHN SHADE’S

and came across this:

The reference here to Swift and his descent into madness should immediately
bring to mind
Kinbote’s note to line 231, where he reveals a variant written by Shade:
β€œAnd minds that died
before arriving there: / Poor old man Swift, poor β€”, poor Baudelaire”
(167). Kinbote imagines
himself to be the two missing syllables, but β€œJohn Shade” fits equally well
and seems a more
likely choice, given Shade’s apparent reluctance to reveal the name he has
in mind.


Line 231: How ludicrous, etc. (
file:///Users/garylipon/innerlea/aulit/paleFire/palefirepoem.html#line231 )
A beautiful variant, with one curious gap, branches off at this point in
the draft (dated July 6):
Strange Other World where all our still-born
And pets, revived, and invalids, grown well,
And minds that died before arriving there:
Poor old man Swift, poor ---, poor Baudelaire
What might that dash stand for? Unless Shade gave prosodic value to the
mute e in "Baudelaire," which I am quite certain he would never have done in
English verse (cp. "Rabelais," line 501 (
)), the name required here must scan as a trochee. Among the names of
celebrated poets, painters, philosophers, etc., known to have become insane
or to have sunk into senile imbecility, we find many suitable ones. Was
Shade confronted by too much variety with nothing to help logic choose and
so left a blank, relying upon the mysterious organic force that rescues
poets to fill it in at its own convenience? Or was there something
else--some obscure intuition, some prophetic scruple that prevented him from
spelling out the name of an eminent man who happened to be an intimate
friend of his? Was he perhaps playing safe because a reader in his household
might have objected to that particular name being mentioned? And if it comes
to that, why mention it at all in this tragical context? Dark, disturbing
...β€œJohn Shade” fits equally well...

It may seem pedantic to say but this overstates the case a little.
Myself, scanning, John Shade, in isolation, I hear: John Shade.
Which is iambic, versus Kinbote, which, as he points out, is trochaic.
Shade clearly intends John Shade in lines 272-4:

How could you, in the gloam of Lilac lane,
Have let uncouth, hysterical John Shade,
Blubber your face, and ear, and shoulder blade.

John Shade, could be forced-in, promoted, as they say,
but it's not as natural, technically speaking.

Poor old man Swift, poor John Shade, poor

(Actually: Poor old man Swift, poor John Shade, poor Baud'laire

is considered, by many, an acceptable, though not common, exception)

But one can also reconsider Kinbote's argument about the e in Baudelaire.
Shade is perhaps fluent in French, and Rabelais does scan as a trochee in
line 150,
but the practical poet in Shade might not feel constrained to this rule,
and use, or think of, Baudelaire as the circumstances required.
In this case a single monosyllable would suffice, e.g. Shade:

And minds that died before arriving there:
Poor old man Swift, poor Shade, poor Baudelaire

This reading maintains the parallelism of the word poor occurring on an
upbeat. Yet

Poor old man Swift, poor John Shade, poor

can be said to sound agreeable
if only for the breaking of the mold.
It certainly sounds natural enough.

None of this of course is seen to change
the misinterpretation Kinbote makes,
which is to say that I agree with Matt.

These several scans amuse analysis,
a little puzzle, multiple solutions.

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