Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026520, Sat, 10 Oct 2015 03:00:47 -0300

RES: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] more about Disa & Sybil

Carolyn Kunin: [ ] The trinity of Shade, Kinbote, Gradus is reflected in the threesome of Sybil, Sylvia and Disa [ ]. If Shade is related anagrammatically to Hades, Sybil is in her own name directly related to the underworld [ ].

Jansy Mello: [ ]I was reminded of T.S.Eliot’s epigraph to “The Wasteland”, from the Satyricon (Petronius), where one Sybil is mentioned (but I don’t imagine VN was thinking about that ever-shriveling prophet). Some of the comments…about the a swallow [ ] led me to…a 2008 posting by Matt Roth, referring to Eliot’s verses…in the “Game of Chess” [ ] <https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A3=ind0807&L=NABOKV-L&E=quoted-printable&P=770194&B=------_%3D_NextPart_001_01C8E1C1.3B3135A5&T=text%2Fhtml;%20charset=iso-8859-1> RE: [NABOKV-L] THOUGHTS: Shade's Mockingbird <https://listserv.ucsb.edu/.../wa> https://listserv.ucsb.edu/.../wa?... Matt Roth also mentions Shade’s transcription of a few bird sounds: “To-wee and Come here, come herrr (but not chippo, as far as I can tell) can be read as words from Hazel to her father. To-wee becomes "two, we" (we two) and Come here, come herrr becomes a plea for attention and a play on Shade's name, which is, in Spanish, "almost man," just as herr, in German, means ‘mister’." An additional reference, related to Philomel and Tereus and to birdsong…[leads us from] Thomas Nashe to an earlier John Lily and … the tenuous connection with Shade’s “To-wee” and Nashe’s “To-witta-woo”.

Jansy Mello: Since the point of departure of my first commentary (above) came from T.S.Eliot’s poetry and Benjamin Britten’s music, the links I looked for were mainly sonorous (Shade’s and other poets’ verbal rendition of birdcalls and songs), my quotations were mostly incidental.

After discovering the connection of Eliot’s swallow to Philomel and Matt Roth’s associations linking Philomel to John Shade’s mocking bird/nightingale and to a few more items in his query [ “What to make of the transcription of the bird's song? Why to-wee? Why Come here, come herrr'? …Mockingbirds can sing most any song. Shade is not borrowing some standard transcription of the mockingbird's song.” Or in: “If we accept that Hazel may be taking the form both of the pheasant and the mockingbird, a curious family unit snaps into view. As Jerry Friedman helpfully informed me (off-list), the northern mockingbird was often, especially in the 19th century, called the American nightingale …So then: Shade is a waxwing, Sybil a swallow (hirondelle), and Hazel a nightingale/pheasant” )], I also stopped to reconsider Matt Roth’s ideas and realized that his theories about incestuous relations, Hazel as a nightingale and Shade as “King” ( come herr’, “hombre”, etc. ), didn’t convince me.

Further research related to “Philomel” reveals that this theme has been developed and transformed since the times of Sophocles, Virgil, Ovid, sung by Chrétien de Troyes, retaken by Matthew Arnold and a host of 16th and 17th Century poets, or by Romantics like John Keats, before we come to TS Eliot and present day feminist authors. The extent of its developments in European literature convinces me that V.Nabokov couldn’t be unfamiliar with it and with the English and French works in which they appear, so references to it can be expected. The problem lies in how to interpret them after they are located.

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