Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015214, Wed, 2 May 2007 17:15:07 -0400

THOUGHTS: Bird of Wonder in PF
I am perplexed by something Kinbote says in his notes to lines 433-434. In
one passage, he talks about how the image of Disa attaches itself to
seemingly unrelated worries, a phenomenon he compares to the way "a battle
or a reform becomes a bird of wonder in a tale for children." I have done
some snooping around and am fairly certain that "bird of wonder" is a
reference to the phoenix. Shakespeare uses this term, clearly referring to
the phoenix, in the final scene of Henry VIII. Unfortunately, there is no
battle, reform or tale for children in that scene. I

've hit on another possibility, but I'm not sure what to do with it. In
S.T. Coleridge's translation of "The Death of Wallenstein," by Friedrich
Schiller, Wallenstein, in full armor, gives a rousing speech as he prepares
to lead his men into battle. Within the speech we find:

The plough, the workshop is forsaken, all
Swarm to the familiar long-lov'd banners;
And as the wood-choir rich in melody
Assemble quick around the bird of wonder,
When first his throat swells with his magic song,
So did the warlike youth of Germany
Crowd in around the image of my eagle.

Is this the odd juxtaposition of battle and children's tale of which
Kinbote speaks? If so, why call our attention to this?

A check of Wikipedia reveals that Wallenstein "was a Bohemian (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohemia ) soldier and politician who gave
his services (an army of 30,000 to 100,000 men) during the Danish Period of
the Thirty Years' War ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty_Years%27_War )
to Ferdinand II (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_II%2C_Holy_Roman_Emperor ) for no
charge except the right to plunder the territories that he conquered. A
successful generalissimo ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generalissimo ) who
ruled the Duchy of Friedland (
) in northern Bohemia, Wallenstein was released from service in 1630 after
Ferdinand grew wary of his ambition. Several Protestant victories over
Catholic armies induced Ferdinand to recall Wallenstein, who again turned
the war in favor of the Imperial cause. Dissatisfied with the emperor's
treatment of him, Wallenstein considered allying with the Protestants.
However, Ferdinand had the general assassinated [by Irish assassins] at Eger
(Cheb) ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheb )."

I should also note that VN was very familiar with Schiller. He mentions him
many times in his EO commentary, even mocking a French "translation" of "The
Death of Wallenstein" by Constance.

Matt Roth

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