Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0014134, Tue, 21 Nov 2006 20:05:03 +0000

On 20/11/06 17:52, "D. Barton Johnson" <chtodel@COX.NET> wrote:

> FROM: Don Johnson
> Jansy's comment on ill-understood reminded me that a few days ago I, albeit
> belatedly, got to wondering about that "sublimated grouse" in the lines below:
> Whose spurred feet have crossed
> From left to right the blank
> page of the road?
> Reading from left to right
> in winter¹s code:
> A dot, an arrow pointing
> back; repeat:
> Dot, arrow pointing back...
> A pheasant¹s feet!
> Torquated beauty, sublimated
> grouse,
> Finding your China right
> behind my house.
> "Torquated," I knew because the common English name for the pheasant is
> "ring-necked ---"torquated" meaning "collared." I was puzzled, however, by
> that "SUBLIMATED grouse." In my, Freud-saturated society, "sublimated"
> =repressed, pushed down into the subconscious". WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!
> "Sublimated" means "made 'sublime,'' i.e. the rather plain-looking grouse
> (almost certainly the "Ruffed grouse" --the usual grouse of Appalachia) is
> viewed here as a grouse made SUBLIME, i.e., the elegant, showy pheasant.
> If one adopts Brian Boyd's theory of the mousey Hazel being postmortally
> transformed into a glamorous Wood duck (Aix sponsa-"a bride", perhaps the
> mousey grouse's transformation into a splendid pheasant is a foreshadowing
> thereof.
> Don: you seem to rule out the real possibility that VN chose Œsublimated¹
> precisely because it has several meanings/resonances? Isn¹t deliberate
> ambiguity one of the Œtricks¹ that distinguishes poetry and poetic-prose from,
> say, carefully drafting a legal or technical document to be as free from
> misunderstandings as natural language allows. The latter demands comparable
> (some may argue superior!) skills and command of language¹s quirks to those of
> the poet! Writers of VN¹s genius can switch between these Œmodes¹ or Œgenres¹
> ON DEMAND, as it were. In Pale Fire he has invented Shade as a rather strange
> wannabe-poet Popeian-scholar (with echoes of the staff he encountered in real
> colleges, and, as many listers have noted, some self-mocking hints in Kinbote
> of his own Annotated Pushkin), hence the wonderful mix of Œheroic¹ verse and
> bathetic doggerel.
> Back to Œsublimated¹: others more versed [sic] in Freud and Chemistry [!] may
> point out that the FORMAL meaning is NOT Œrepressed¹ but rather the
> OPPOSITE**: Œ[of a desire/impulse] RAISED, diverted or transferred from the
> primitive or instinctual level to one socially or culturally preferable.¹ The
> chemical context is similar: a substance made Œfiner.¹ BTW: I also read GROUSE
> as Œannoying COMPLAINT. Prove me wrong.
> ** Your three WRONGS make a WRONG? But I agree: some people (including you) do
> take Œsublimated¹ as Œrepressed.¹ Which goes to show that words SELDOM have
> ONE CORRECT MEANING ‹ and that MUST be the meaning intended by the author.
> Stan Kelly-Bootle

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