Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015959, Fri, 8 Feb 2008 16:33:21 -0500

THOUGHTS: Conchology
Something to compare:

1) Pnin (88): "...those Bulgarian kings or Mediterranean princes who used to be world-famous experts in butterflies or sea shells."

2) PF (75): "How often is it that kings engage in some special research? Conchologists among them can be counted on one maimed hand." (Kinbote then goes on to say how he came to teach English Lit).

3) from Wet Magic, a children's novel about mermaids and mermen, by Edith Nesbit Bland (1913):
"Yes," he said, "I quite understand. I am only an exiled Professor, teaching Conchology to youthful aliens, but I retain some remains of the wisdom of my many years. I know that I am not what I seem, and that you are not what you seem, and that your desire to learn my special subject is not sincere and whole-hearted, but is merely, or mainly, the cloak to some other design. Is it not so, my child?"
No one answered. His question was so plainly addressed to the Princess. And she must have felt the question, for she turned and said, "Yes, O most wise King."
"I am no King," said the Professor, "rather I am a weak child picking up pebbles by the shore of an infinite sea of knowledge."
"You are," the Princess was beginning impulsively, when Ulfin interrupted her.
Next moment the Princess was clasped in his arms, and the moment after that, still clasped there, was beginning a hurried explanation; but be stopped her.
"I know, my child, I know," he said. "You have brought me the charm which gives back to me my memory and makes a King of Merland out of a Professor of Conchology."
Has it ever occurred to you," said the King, "that we have no memories of our childhood, of our youth-?"
"I believe," said the Queen slowly, "that we have tasted in our time of the oblivion-cup. There is no one like us in this land. If we were born here, why can we not remember our parents who must have been like us? And dearest - the dream that comes to me most often is that we once had a child and lost it - and that it was a child like us-"
4) "PF" 519-524: For we die every day, oblivion thrives / Not on dry thighbones but on blood-ripe lives / ... / I'm ready to become a floweret / Or a fat fly, but never to forget.
5) This is from Yeats' essay on Shelley (quoted in my post on "Shade and Shelley" two days ago) which contains the adjacent quotations from two Shelley poems, both of which may be connected to Shade's poems. He is referring to the constellation Crater, the Cup of Oblivion, where souls on their way to entering a human form drink to lose their memory of their former spirit life:
"Though I do not think that Shelley needed to go to Porphyry’s account of the cold intoxicating cup, given to the souls in the constellation of the Cup near the constellation of Cancer, for so obvious a symbol as the cup..."
Matt Roth

Search the archive: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/archives/nabokv-l.html
Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm