NABOKV-L post 0018736, Tue, 3 Nov 2009 15:08:29 -0200

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Fw: [NABOKV-L] Frost/Shade Query
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Fran Assa: "I understand Robert Frost was intended to be the model for John Francis Shade in Pale Fire, but I don't know why people have come to that conclusion. Any ideas?"

JM: Kinbote was careful to quote Frost ("I dare not quote from memory lest I displace one small precious word."). I should have been equally careful in my last commentary, now in relation to Shade, who wrote "oozy," not "slimy."[..."as usual just behind/ (one oozy footstep) Frost."]. Perhaps what I subconsciously wanted to avoid was its link to swamps, doom and decay [ CK in his note to line 270 says he's seen a red admirable "feasting on oozy plums" and decaying matter (a dead rabbitt), before he adds that an "almost tame specimen of it was the last natural object John Shade pointed out to me as he walked to his doom."]
The mentions to Frost in PF play with diamonds, snow-crystals and time when the sctructural quality of Frost's verse is described, together with a metaphysical inversion of "temperature" from high into low.

When I was rereading PF and reached line 501 ( right after Hazel's sinking in a swamp, in a night of frost), I realized Shade's verses on his experience at Yewshade begin with "L'if, lifeless tree!" This line seems to deny its connection with IPH and rebirth, which the Yew symbolizes.
Would the Zemblan word for the yew ("tas") offer any other indication?*

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*www.billcasselman.com/.../sitemap_one.htm (On "Canada Yew)
"Yew gave the spelling heebie-jeebies to the Anglo-Saxons, so that we find Old English forms like eow, iow, iw, then in Middle English ew and ewe. Cognates of yew are widespread in the Indo-European languages and include Old Scandinavian yr, German Eibe, Welsh yw, Old Irish ibar, Gaelic iubhar, Old Slavic iva, Gaulish ivos and hence Modern French if..."
"The yew's reputation for long life is due to the unique way in which the tree grows. Its branches grow down into the ground to form new stems, which then rise up around the old central growth as separate but linked trunks. After a time, they cannot be distinguished from the original tree. So the yew has always been a symbol of death and rebirth, the new that springs out of the old."


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Jerry Friedman: Both the poem and the notes makes it clear that Shade wasn't Frost, so obviously he must have been. QED! Seriously, in my limited reading of /Pale Fire/ commentary, I don't remember anything that said Frost was the model for Shade... Frost didn't like to use rare words the way Shade did. And in my opinion, though Shade has his moments, Frost can be far better--Shade and Kinbote hit the nail on the head...I find it hard to believe Frost was more than a small part of Nabokov's inspiration. I think that if he were The Original of Shade, Nabokov would have researched him thoroughly...
V. Mylnikov: this is a really strong point and I far as I understand the nature of Pale Fire, there is no definite prototype or models but politype and polimodels... I believe John Shade has some features (poetic) from VN himself, from Robert Frost, from Pushkin etc. but I don't think it is possible to set a line between them and taxonomy. Again, I think it is a great question.
M.Glynn: There are several links - the fact that Frost is invoked by name in the text (p 41 of Penguin edition) is one factor. Shade is also a Frostian with his philosophical/transcendental tendencies etc .
JM:"Shade knew quite well that he was "a slimy step behind" him.I suppose that snow in New England, school days and puritan childhood must have been quite different from what Shade experienced in New Wye."

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