NABOKV-L post 0017508, Sun, 21 Dec 2008 08:05:44 -0200

QUERY: Bend Sinister poem?
Dear Suellen, Matt, Fran, List...

In BS, as Matt quoted, there are lines extracted from Melville's Moby Dick. Its preceding lines are:
"He looked up various odds and ends [...] for an essay which he [...] would never write because by now he had forgotten its leading idea, its secret combination [...] A newspaper clipping mentioned that the State Entomologist had retired to become Adviser on Shade Trees" ( Nabokov, while writing BS, was working at the Harvard " laboratorial paradise")..."[...] and one wondered whether this was not some dainty oriental euphemism for death. On the next slip of paper he had transcribed passages from a famous American poem (...)
After that we read ..."the delicious death of an Ohio honey hunter (for my humour's sake I shall preserve the style in which I once narrated it at Thula to a lounging circle of my Russian friends)."

Bend Sinister's "famous American poem" mentions "The ship casts off her cables"... "these bashful bears/ These timid warrior whalemen...", extracted from Melville's book by means of a curious selection of items.

Borges, in his Lectures on English Literature, focuses on the kenningar to study metaphors and alliteration used as substitutes for rhyme and scansion. Many words in them derived from variations on "whaling" to constitute fixed metaphors.

The sea was described, and then regularly named, "the way of the whale".

Borges (as my only source on these matters) explains the name of sea-borne "Beowulf"as having originated from another metaphor: a "bee-wolf", ie,a bear.

The epic, itself, mingles verses from more ancient Virgil (The Eneid) thereby associating old Germanic wyrd legends to Latin syntaxic norms.*

Do you think VN might have added, to the Melville items in BS, allusions to ancient works (not a papyrus and not oriental at all as he indicates), also to ancient metaphoric and rythmic procedures - like those that were described later in P.F - namely, the Edda, Beowolf, Bede's manuscripts?

Or would the Ohio "honey hunter" refer only "honey" to "mel" in "Mel-ville"?

btw:Matt, did you ever consider, in Pale Fire, VN's references to "Monday" or "Sunday" ( Wednesday comes from Woden, or Odin), as some sort of indication of Kinbote or Shade (following your idea about a lunatic CK and sunny JS)?


* Perhaps you will be interested in an Oratorio, written in the early sixties, titled "Jonah". It was composed by Richard Dirksen ( Washington,DC).
Its libretto mingles lines from Melville and the Bible (the book of Jonah) and it offers a musical closure to one that has been left in suspension by VN: "the ship casts off her cables.../ all careening/ all careening glides to the sea". There are other rythmic features from Melville highlighted by Dirksen, such as "I saw the opening maws of hell" (which I somehow linked to Pale Fire's reference to "live is the song", from La Fontaine's "cigales/seagulls"...)

Concerning what one "sees" or "hears", in modern or ancient poetry, there was something else that occurred to me. Recently I saw the picture of a Damselfly and the photographer had captured the blurring effect of its white-spotted beating wings. These then formed a very clear and elegant white arc encircling them and belonging to their gestalt. I wondered if insects saw images like we do, when we visually "stop" them, or if they saw them closer to that which this "slow" camera showed, if they would react only to the actual spots on a wing, or also to their residues when captured in motion while performing, up-to-now unseen, designs.

Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2008 09:55:06 -0600
From: "Stringer-Hye, Suellen"
Subject: Re: QUERY: Bend Sinister poem?

If anyone really cares, I actually tracked the lines down to their
sources in MD at one time for an article I was writing about Melville
and VN...


Matthew Roth
Tuesday, December 16, 2008 9:34 AM
[NABOKV-L] QUERY: Bend Sinister poem?


Perhaps you are thinking of the Zemblan translation of T of A? That's in
Kinbote's note to line 39. If it's really BS you mean, are you thinking
of the poem in chapter 12, which VN made by combining lines from Moby
A curious sight--these bashful bears
These timid warrior whalemen
And now the time of the tide has come;
The ship casts off her cables
It is not shown on any map;
True places never are
This lovely light, it lights not me;
All loveliness is anguish--


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