NABOKV-L post 0006037, Wed, 20 Jun 2001 11:08:26 -0700

[Fwd: Matthew Arnold, Pale Fire and Ulysses]
EDITOR's NOTE. This is worth discussion.

David Haan wrote:

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> Though Nabokov famously denied that John Shade's and Stephen Dedalus'
> nail-paring was anything more than a coincidence, I've never been able to
> extirpate the feeling that the shaving rite in Canto Four of Pale Fire
> alludes to the introit to Joyce's Ulysses. This past Bloomsday, a particular
> sentence from the latter caught my attention:
> "A deaf gardener, aproned, masked with Matthew Arnold's face, pushes his
> mower in the sombre lawn watching narrowly the dancing motes of grasshalms."
> (Ulysses, pg 7)
> The gardener reference piqued my interest, especially the dancing echo with
> the disregarded butterfly at the close of the poem; Jen Parsons pointed out
> the corresponding reference in Kinbote's commentary to L1000, wherein
> gardeners real and faux play their parts:
> "Oh, he was aiming at me all right but missing me every time, the
> incorrigible bungler, as I instinctively backed, bellowing and spreading my
> great strong arms (with my left hand still holding the poem, "still
> clutching the inviolable Shade," to quote Matthew Arnold, 1822-1888) ..."
> The quote is from 'The Scholar-Gipsy', first published in Arnold's 1853
> revised edition. This edition also includes Arnold's first critical writing,
> a preface on his theory of poetry; and the poem 'Sohrab and Rustum', which
> contains the following gardener allusion, L631-9, after the latter has slain
> the former in combat:
> ... And he saw that Youth,
> Of age and looks to be his own dear son,
> Piteous and lovely, lying on the sand,
> Like some rich hyacinth which by the scythe
> Of an unskilful gardener has been cut,
> Mowing the garden grass-plots near its bed,
> And lies, a fragrant tower of purple bloom,
> On the mown, dying grass--so Sohrab lay,
> Lovely in death, upon the common sand.
> 'Sohrab and Rustum' replaced 'Empedocles at Etna' from an earlier edition;
> Mark Seigchrist ('78) pointed out the constructive reliance on
> counterweighting dualities, but critics have debated whether the poem truly
> satisfies the criteria Arnold set forth in his preface; this, and the theme
> of the poem, is often seen as emblematic of Arnold's own career, as are
> these lines, from 'Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse' in the same edition:
> Wandering between two worlds, one dead,
> The other powerless to be born
> As an aside, I'll note that Arnold's best-known poem, 'Dover Beach', refers
> to a "distant northern sea". Even should this prove a false trail, it seems
> deliberately planted. Has this ground been well worked previously?
> David Haan (
> _________________________________________________________________