NABOKV-L post 0014449, Thu, 21 Dec 2006 11:31:31 -0500

Waxwings (interesting association), New Wye, diana and atlantis,
quality of the poem
To Don Johnson: I took the "interesting association belatedly
realized" to be to /Bombycilla shadei/, that is, the bird named
for Shade's father was a waxwing. (One could then see the
"waxwing slain" as Shade's father--though I don't think I would.)

To all who discussed the geography, thanks. I had foolishly
assumed that Roanoke was on the coast. I now see it's at
an altitude of 1000 feet or a bit more, which is not too
far from New Wye's 1500 feet. (Note to Jansy: eastern
North America is so deprived of mountains that West Virginia,
with an average altitude of 1500 feet, is nicknamed the
Mountain State. I speak here as a resident of New Mexico--
and wonder what Tibetans say about the mere 13,000-foot
"mountains" in my state.)

I wonder whether Nabokov put New Wye at altitude of 1500 feet
to give it a climate and flora and fauna similar to Ithaca,
lower but farther north. From the Wikipedia article on
West Virginia: "On the southeastern state line with Virginia,
high peaks in the Monongahela National Forest region give rise
to an island of colder climate and ecosystems similar to those
of northern New England and eastern Canada." I still want
to know what the diana and atlantis (in the quotation given
by Mary Bellino) are, though. Butterflies?

To Jim Twiggs and Charles Harrison Wallace: I noticed today
that one part of "Pale Fire", around lines 260-280, might
conceivably have some purposely bad lines (perhaps to go
with "Instead of poetry divinely terse,/ Disjointed notes,
Insomnia's mean verse!") Still, it boggles my mind that
anyone would think the end of Canto 2 was intentionally bad
or /poshliy/. That final couplet is one of my favorite parts
of the poem, and seeing how poetry looks when you change the
meter doesn't strike me as a fair analytical technique.
(Another favorite of mine is "Retake! Retake!", which Charles
mentioned earlier). Evidence that Nabokov considered it
good is cited in Alexandrov's book, /Nabokov's Otherworlds/.
Of course, the quality of the poem is subjective, but one
might be able to deduce Nabokov's idea of it. And I'm not
going to say anything more on the subject.

Jerry Friedman

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