Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025074, Tue, 11 Feb 2014 20:09:08 +0000

Myers poem in Vane Sisters
One more little find. Way back in 1997, our list founder asked whether or not the poem ascribed to FWH Myers in “The Vane Sisters” was genuine or a Nabokovian invention.


The answer is a little of both. Here is part of a paragraph from Myers in Volume 7 of the Proceedings of the S.P.R:

“What is this power,” he will say, “from which no organ and no thought is exempt or free? which can charm away the pangs of childbirth, and shed sleep around the surgeon’s knife? What is this which can summon the secretions, and retard the pulses, and arrest the breath? which can check the perilous habit and dispel the dolorous dream? which can turn loathing and abhorrence into desire, and sway with an impalpable dominance the very tides of the human heart?” (Proc. SPR, V. 7, p. 348)


And here is the poem in “The Vane Sisters”:

What is this—a conjuror’s rabbit,
Or a flawy but genuine gleam—
Which can check the perilous habit
And dispel the dolorous dream?

The particular subject of the Myers quotation is that of hypnosis. I wonder if that last sentence doesn’t have some relationship to the narrator’s situation. His descriptions of both Sybil and Cynthia display abhorrence, yet some desire for them compels him.

Matt Roth

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