NABOKV-L post 0026653, Tue, 24 Nov 2015 18:45:43 +0300

knight, Pope, erlking & coda in Pale Fire
"And now what shall I do? My knight is pinned."

Who rides so late in the night and the wind?
It is the writer's grief. It is the wild
March wind. It is the father with his child. (ll. 661-664)

Note the inner rhyme: knight - night. Russian for "knight" (chessman), kon'
also means "horse" and rhymes with ogon' (fire); Russian for "night," noch'
rhymes with doch' (daughter). It seems that V. Botkin (the American scholar
of Russian descent) went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after the
suicide of his daughter Nadezhda (who becomes Hazel in Shade's poem). In
Russian, nadezhda means "hope," the word that rhymes with Pope (the poet on
whom Shade wrote a book:

I think she [Hazel] always nursed a small mad hope.

I'd finished recently my book on Pope. (ll. 383-384)

The title of Shade's book on Pope, Supremely Blest, can be traced back to
the lines in Pope's Essay on Man (Epistle Two, VI):

See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing,

The sot a hero, lunatic a king;

The starving chemist in his golden views

Supremely blest, the poet in his Muse.

In the same Epistle Two (V) of his Essay on Man Pope mentions Zembla
(Kinbote imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king
of Zembla):

But where th' extreme of vice, was ne'er agreed:

Ask where's the North? at York, 'tis on the Tweed;

In Scotland, at the Orcades; and there,

At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where:

No creature owns it in the first degree,

But thinks his neighbour farther gone than he!

Russian for "degree" is Gradus (according to Kinbote, Shade's neighbor in
New Wye, the name of Shade's murderer is Gradus).

As Kinbote points out in his Commentary, Line 662 of Shade's poem and indeed
the whole passage (
<> lines
653-664) allude to the well-known poem by Goethe about the erlking, hoary
enchanter of the elf-haunted alderwood, who falls in love with the delicate
little boy of a belated traveler. Kinbote quotes Goethe's ballad in English
and in Zemblan. In Dva lesnykh tsarya ("Two Forest Kings," 1933) Marina
Tsvetaev compares Lesnoy tsar' ("The Forest King," 1818), Zhukovski's
Russian version of Goethe's poem, to the original. The author begins her
essay offering her own word-for-word translation of Goethe's poem and

Остановимся сначала на непереводимых словах, следовательно - непередаваемых
понятиях. Их целый ряд. Начнём с первого: хвост. Хвост, по-немецки, и
Schwanz и Schweif; например - у собаки Schwanz и Schweif - у льва, у
дьявола, у кометы - и у Лесного Царя. Поэтому моим "хвостатым" и "с хвостом"
хвост у "Лесного Царя" принижен, унижен.

First of all, let's dwell on untranslatable words and therefore on notions
that cannot be rendered in another language. They are quite a few and the
first of them is khvost (tail). In German, khvost is both Schwanz and
Schweif: a dog has a Schwanz, but a lion, a devil, a comet and the forest
king have a Schweif.

It seems that to be completed Shade's unfinished poem needs two lines. Line
1000 (I was the shadow of the waxwing slain) is identical with Lines 1 and
131, Line 1001 (By its own double in the windowpane) is the poem's "coda."
In Italian, coda means "tail." While koda (Russ., coda; VN's Zoilus and
author of the sonnet with a coda, G. Ivanov affirms in his memoirs that
Alexander Blok did now know what a coda was) rhymes with oda (Russ., ode)
and with moda (Russ., fashion), khvost (tail) rhymes with prokhvost (Russ.,
scoundrel) and with most (Russ., bridge). The latter word occurs in VN's
poem Lastochka ("The Swift") from his novel Dar ("The Gift," 1937):

Однажды мы под вечер оба
стояли на старом мосту.
Скажи мне, спросил я, до гроба
запомнишь вон ласточку ту?
И ты отвечала: ещё бы!
И как мы заплакали оба,
как вскрикнула жизнь на лету:
До завтра, навеки, до гроба -
однажды, на старом мосту:

One night between sunset and river
On the old bridge we stood, you and I.
Will you ever forget it, I queried,
That particular swift that went by?
And you answered, so earnestly: Never!
And what sobs made us suddenly shiver,
What a cry life emitted in flight!
Till we die, till tomorrow, for ever,
You and I on the old bridge one night.

The last word in the poem's English version, "night" is a homophone of
"knight." Russian for "knight" (person) is rytsar'. In rytsar' there is
tsar' (tsar). In his sonnet Poetu ("To a Poet," 1830), in which ogon' (fire)
and podvig (noble feat) are mentioned, Pushkin addresses a poet and says: ty
tsar': zhivi odin (you are a king, live alone):

Поэт! не дорожи любовию народной.
Восторженных похвал пройдёт минутный шум;
Услышишь суд глупца и смех толпы холодной,
Но ты останься твёрд, спокоен и угрюм.

Ты царь: живи один. Дорогою свободной
Иди, куда влечёт тебя свободный ум,
Усовершенствуя плоды любимых дум,
Не требуя наград за подвиг благородный.

Они в самом тебе. Ты сам свой высший суд;
Всех строже оценить умеешь ты свой труд.
Ты им доволен ли, взыскательный художник?

Доволен? Так пускай толпа его бранит
И плюет на алтарь, где твой огонь горит,
И в детской резвости колеблет твой треножник.

Poet! do not cling to popular affection.
The temporary noise of ecstatic praises will pass;
You will hear the fool's judgment, the laugh of the cold crowd,
But you must remain firm, calm, and morose.

You are a king; live alone. By way of the free road
Go wherever your free mind draws you,
Perfecting the fruits of your beloved thoughts,
Not asking any rewards for your noble feat.

They are inside you. You are your highest judge;
More strictly than anyone can you appraise your work.
Are you satisfied with it, exacting artist?

Satisfied? Then let the crowd treat it harshly
And spit on the altar, where your fire burns
And shake your tripod in childish playfulness.

(transl. Diana Senechal)

Koleblemyi trenozhnik ("The Shaken Tripod," 1921) is the title of
Hodasevich's speech in which the author announces that Pushkin is the
parole, the password, by which cultured Russians will recognize each other
in the "encroaching darkness" of the twilight of civilization. Another
speaker at Pushkinskiy vecher (the Pushkin Evening) in February, 1921, was
Blok who read his article O naznachenii poeta ("On a Poet's Destination") in
which taynaya svoboda ("a secret freedom," a phrase used by Pushkin in one
of his early poems) is mentioned. Kinbote's Zembla has a lot in common with
Martin's and Sonya's Zoorland in VN's novel Podvig ("Glory," 1932).

In Pushkin's poem Zhil na svete rytsar' bednyi: ("There was once a poor
knight:" 1829), recited by Aglaya Epanchin in Dostoevski's novel Idiot
(1869), bednyi (poor) rhymes with blednyi (pale):

Жил на свете рыцарь бедный,
Молчаливый и простой,
С виду сумрачный и бледный,
Духом смелый и прямой.

There was once a poor knight,

Taciturn and simple,

Gloomy and pale in appearance,

With a spirit courageous and straightforward.

In his poem "Kak v Gretsiyu Bayron, o bez sozhalen'ya ("Like Byron to
Greece, oh without regret:" 1927) G. Ivanov mentions blednyi ogon' (pale
fire). In his Ode to Count Khvostov (1825) Pushkin compares Khvostov (whose
name comes from khvost, tail) to Byron. In his EO Commentary VN calls Byron
"Pope's pupil" (vol. II, p. 521) and quotes Byron and Pope in a note to his
translation of Pushkin's poem Razgovor knigoprodavtsa s poetom
("Conversation of Bookseller with Poet," 1824):

Byron went to Pope and Pushkin went to Pichot [Byron's translator]. Pope (An
Essay on Man, ep. IV, 237-38) has:

"What's Fame? a fancy'd life in others breath,

A thing beyond us, ev'n before our death."

Byron (Don Juan), I, ccxviii, 1-2, 7-8) has

"What is the end of Fame? 'tis but to fill

A certain portion of uncertain paper:


To have, when the original is dust,

A name, wretched picture and worse bust." (vol. II, p. 15)

According to Pushkin's Bookseller, slava (fame) is merely "a gaudy patch
upon the songster's threadbare rags." Slava (1942) is a poem by VN. Slava
rhymes with Poltava (a city in E Ukraine). Poltava (1829) is a long poem by
Pushkin. In his Vozrazhenie kritikam "Poltavy" ("A Reply to the Critics of
Poltava," 1830) Pushkin mentions Byron's poem Mazeppa (1819) and says that
Byron (who knew Mazepa only as portrayed by Voltaire in his "History of
Charles XII") was merely startled by the picture of a man who is tied to a
wild horse and tears along the steppes.

Кстати о Полтаве критики упомянули однако ж о Байроновом Мазепе; но как они
понимали его! Байрон знал Мазепу только по Вольтеровой Истории Карла XII. Он
поражён был только картиной человека, привязанного к дикой лошади и
несущегося по степям.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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