NABOKV-L post 0018745, Thu, 5 Nov 2009 13:44:19 -0200

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Re: THOUGHTS: Frost, Tigris
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Jerry Friedman: The Socher article is available at Zembla. http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/socher.htm
Speaking of winter, if Yvor Winters was the model for Shade, I wonder how Nabokov felt about reality's having pre-empted the Frost-Winters pun...(to Tom Rymour: Tiger's eye or tiger-eye is sold in all American gem shops, too .... The Wikipedia article says most of it comes from South Africa, though.)
Clayton Smith "...While Frost was not the only model for Shade, Nabokov was certainly very aware of the man and his work, having lived almost in his shadow--renting Frost's house (a la Kinbote's habituation) and appearing along with him at several poetry readings." (CS also adds the address to Zemblan Socher)


JM: I wish Jerry and Tom Rymour had mentioned VN's inclusion of a "Felix tigris" in the American landscape, or my point concerning Nabokov's putative indication of Joyce's "nymphant/tigris eye/happy fault" in Lolita.

Fran Assa's instigation brought up many important references and themes. I selected parts of Socher's article to quote below because the discussion about Frost and Shade might be extended through his arguments.

Shade envisioned his (reversed?) footsteps, treading after his "antecessor's", as "oozy," with their gluey swampy associations to decay referred again in line 501 (with Hazel's suicide "in a night of frost"). Thanks to A.P.Socher's article in Zembla (Shades of Frost: A Hidden Source for Nabokov's Pale Fire) the two poet's distinct visions of a transcendent hereafter ellucidates what appears to be a pessimistic "darkness" in Frost set in contrast to Nabokov's "luminosity," which may be obtained by warring against cruelty and guilty sexuality. The most delicate butterflies after all gorge on decay...

For Socher, over "the past five decades a fantastically ingenious body of Pale Fire scholarship has developed. But the seemingly simple question of the relationship between the fictional Shade and the actual Frost has been touched on only glancingly, and unsatisfactorily..." He quotes Michael Wood: "Shade resembles Frost a little: in looks; slow, sly style of wit; fund of wily common sense. He is a milder character than Frost though; kinder"..."Wood does make a more substantive comparison between Frost and Shade a little later. In the fourth canto, John Shade detects (desperately, poignantly, but also trenchantly) signs of artistic design in the arrangements of his universe...Wood finds this aesthetic theodicy, which Nabokov certainly shared with Shade, profoundly unappealing, and compares it to Frost's famous sonnet of a spider and its prey... Frost's "Design," ("What brought the kindred spider to that height/Then steered the moth thither in the night?") is also about the seeming artistry of nature and the problem of evil, though it comes to a conclusion that admits no shade of Nabokovian consolation." Socher observes that "Nature, in all its intricate 'plexed artistry,' can bear opposing interpretations, if anything can, and theodicy can be a deep recognition of the terrors of life as well as a retreat from them."

The recurrence of the Arcadian theme in "Pale Fire" comes through Kinbote who, mad as he seems, also admits the presence of a chained dementia, evil and death in paradise, but who never denies beauty and goodness. CK's adventures in fantastic Zembla at times may parody Gothic novels's ominous castles with their mouldy hidden passages and their opposite dimension, with sunny worlds and undying wax-wings set in a pastoral, provincial, idyllic America.


It seems to me that even though VN may have modelled on Frost certain aspects of Shade, he realistically appraised his competence as "an American regional poet" so he made Shade behave modestly in relation to Frost. According to Socher, when Nabokov gave a poetry reading "at Filene's Department Store in Boston, to an audience assembled to hear (Frost,) New England's leading poet, not Nabokov" It was when "Nabokov read his recently composed 'An Evening of Russian Poetry,' which is about the virtual impossibility of writing poetry in English as a Russian exile." He quotes:"Beyond the seas where I have lost a scepter,/ I hear the neighing of my dappled nouns,/ Soft participles coming down the steps,/Treading on leaves and trailing their rustling gowns..." Nevertheless the voice that praises Frost, Kinbote's, is not devoid of irony.

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