NABOKV-L post 0015692, Thu, 22 Nov 2007 16:11:16 +1300

Re: Brian Boyd on Apples in PF
And from the inside, too, I’d duplicate
Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate.

I would like to propose another reason for the “apple on a plate,” which incidentally I do not see (pace R.S. Gwynn) as referring to Shade’s childhood any more than I think the rest of the first verse paragraph does. Kinbote in his Note may wish to “visualize John Shade in his early boyhood, a physically unattractive but otherwise beautifully developed lad,” but there is no reason I can see in Shade’s poem to assume the first twelve lines refer to his childhood. Indeed the quality of the imagination Shade attributes to himself here seems to me too sophisticated for the much more normally boyish, albeit bookish, young Shade depicted in the second half of Canto One.

Lines 5-6 above immediately follow the four lines on the waxwing. Lines 5-6 also emphasize doubling: in the reflection; in “too,” “duplicate” (“two,” “double,” and “duple” are etymological doubles); in the doubling of “I’D” inside “insIDe.” Note also the typically Shadean contrapuntal pyrotechnics of “duPLicate,” “apPLe,” and “PLate,” as well as the reversal of the PL pattern in “LamP.” Shade enjoys playing with rhyme, and particularly loves rime riche; “duPLicate” / “PLate” is not rime riche but a fascinating variant: it has a double consonne d’appui respectively two and one syllables from the line end, as if the doubling of the consonne d’appui should be divided by the double distance from the terminal.

Shade, the son of ornithologists and a keen naturalist and wordsmith, presumably knows, like Nabokov, that an older taxonymic synonym for the waxwing genus, Bombycillus, is Ampelis (W2 lists the synonym under “waxwing”). Nabokov draws on this in Kinbote’s first note, when he names the “Zemblan sampel (‘silktail’)”—“silktail” itself being a dialect synonym for waxwing (see Manfred Voss’s “How Not to Read Zemblan,” Nabokovian 25 [1990]: 44). I cannot help hearing the “lamp . . . apple” in the next couplet, after the four reverberating lines on the waxwing, as also duplicating the waxwing or “Ampelis” in another key.

Brian Boyd

-----Original Message-----
From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum on behalf of NABOKV-L
Sent: Thu 22/11/2007 2:15 PM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] THOUGHTS: Apples in PF

Sergei Soloviev: I have seen a lot of English and US homes with a beautiful
plate with fruits... in the sitting room, but they are not supposed to be
eaten...It seems that you, Jansy, take for granted that any apple on the
table is there to be eaten (is it so in Portugal and Brasilian culture?).
...I wonder how often the discussion on this site are coming from cultural
differences, how often due to them we see as a symbol something that is not.

JM: Sergei, on the matter of "symbols" we may argue that the Biblical apple
was incorrectly depicted and that the indicated fruit was another one. I had
no "forbidden fruit" in mind when Shade's mirrored apple (even if seen thru
a glass, darkly) shone in the yard and made me recall Kinbote's words, nor
did I think about it as a "symbol".
I have no idea about eating habits in Portugal, but when apples are served
on a plate we are iimplicitly invited to eat them and I always thought this
happened anywhere in the world.
Our List has readers from various nationalities and from different cultures,
therefore we'll certainly be offered discrepant readings, something
desirable as I see it because misunderstandings from an unconciously biased
point of view can be set straight.

I must confess that until I read RSGwynn's former message I had envisaged
the first verses in PF as a kind of "setting the stage for coming events"
( not as a description of an apple displayed in the Shade's sitting room or
in a nursery, even).

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