Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0014124, Mon, 20 Nov 2006 13:51:27 -0500

Re: Monroe, merits of Shade's poem
To Matthew Ross And Charles,

I apologize for repeating this and won¹t do it again, after this. Let me
just say for the last time, that the many errors and offenses of the PF
³poem² are the result of its having been written in haste, and as a
narrative in verse. Not as a poem. It is a miserable poem. It is an almost
okay verse narrative. Of course important poetic considerations have been
sacrificed to the two ends of speed of composition and use of a form that
few have practiced successfully since the death of Byron. (The key to
success is, first, to have something exciting to say. Few poets do.

The zesty skaters are not merely used as information on escape routes from
Zembla, but to complete the end of the alphabet: X, Y Z. Obviously, it is
silly to describe skaters as ³zesty.²

In addition, the poem is not written in English and is not an example of
English poetry. The Saga of Pale Fire is written in American, as well it
should be. After all, its author was part American. I have explained the
linguistic differences between English and American poetry and it would bore
me to do it again. Besides, the N-List academics could not give the idea a
moment¹s thought since they had never heard a fellow academic say it before.
So they ignored it. As for the hurry, Shade was in such a sweat to get the
thing over with that he couldn¹t trust himself to put the pistol to his
temple. He had to clumsily turn it and just point to any vulnerable-seeming
part of the body. And at that point, they all felt vulnerable.

Andrew Brown

On 11/18/06 10:27 PM, "Chaswe@AOL.COM" <Chaswe@AOL.COM> wrote:

> Both Jerry and Matthew Roth lambast Monroe's essay. One says it contains so
> much bunk, and the other says it makes him mad.
> While I would say it is not at all as well written as the Morris essay, it
> does draw attention to certain features of Shade's composition which I find
> bathetic, and for that reason I am, to an extent, in agreement with Monroe.
> Take the passage from lines, say, 488 to 500.
> where zesty skaters crossed/From Exe to Wye on days of special frost.
> This appears to contain a totally out-of-context trivial joke --- X to Y.
> "Zesty" and "special" are imprecise adjectives lacking in register and tone,
> apparently introduced in order to lengthen the lines into decasyllables. There
> is a constant conflict in English verse between the octosyllabic and the
> decasyllabic line. Inferior decasyllables can be recognized by striking out
> the adjectival space-fillers.
> where skaters crossed/From Exe to Wye on days of frost.
> "Exe to Wye" is still aesthetically offensive. The struggle to find rhymes is
> obtrusive and disconcerting almost throughout the passage:
> might have lost her way/ ... and some say
> I know. You know./It was a night of thaw, a night of blow.
> Black spring/Stood just around the corner, shivering
> A night of blow??? This simply is not skilful or convincing verse, let alone
> poetry. Genuinely great English poetry succeeds in employing rhyme without
> drawing attention to its rhymes, in spite of the difficulty of incorporating
> rhymed verse-forms, which is inherent in the language. Even Keats,
> notoriously, falters now and then. But only now and then.
> A matter of taste, in the end. My taste is not broad enough to accommodate
> Pale Fire into the canon of great poetry. Shade, imho, would have done better
> to follow Wordsworth's, or even Shakespeare's, blank verse more closely.
> Charles
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