Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025418, Tue, 27 May 2014 11:03:57 +0300

Belokonsk in Ada
She [Marina] had ample time, too, to change for the next scene, which started with a longish intermezzo staged by a ballet company whose services Scotty had engaged, bringing the Russians all the way in two sleeping cars from Belokonsk, Western Estoty. (1.2)

The Russian twin of 'Whitehorse' (city in N. W. Canada), "Belokonsk" comes from belyi kon' (white horse). Marina Tsvetaev's Georgiy ("St George," 1921, a cycle of nine poems addressed to Sergey Efron, Marina Tsvetaev's husband who was in the White Army) has the following refrain:

И плащ его — был — красен,
И конь его — был — бел.

And his [St George's] cloak was red,
And his horse was white.

Demon Veen (Van's and Ada's father) married Marina's twin sister Aqua on St George's Day (April 23, 1869):

The modest narrator has to remind the rereader of all this, because in April (my favorite month), 1869 (by no means a mirabilic year), on St George's Day (according to Mlle Lariviere's maudlin memoirs) Demon Veen married Aqua Veen - out of spite and pity, a not unusual blend. (1.3)

According to Marina Tsvetaev, St. George's horse is brezgliv (squeamish):

Безропотен Всадник,
А конь брезглив.

Resigned is the Horseman,
And the horse is squeamish.

The son of Demon and Marina, Van is exceptionally brezgliv:

Our young man, being exceptionally brezgliv (squeamish, easily disgusted), had no desire to share a few cubic meters of chlorinated celestino ('blues your bath') with two other fellows. (1.32)

This seems to confirm that Van and Ada (even though they are not "freckled red-haired lads") are konskie deti, children of the Sun Horse. Hors is the Slavic sun god mentioned in "The Song of Igor's Campaign." The action in Slovo begins on April 23, 1185, the day of solar eclipse. In the opening lines of Georgiy Marina Tsvetaev compares St George's eyes to the suns eclipsed by the bashfulness of his eyelashes:

Ресницы, ресницы,
Склонённые ниц.
Стыдливостию ресниц
Затмённые — солнца в венце стрел!

G. A. Vronsky (the film director who makes the movie of Mlle Lariviere's novel Enfants Maudits, 1.32) left Marina for another long-lashed Khristosik:

...to her [Aqua] it meant that only a brief black nightmare had obliterated the radiant fact of her having slept with her husband all along - ever since Shakespeare's birthday on a green rainy day, but for most other people, alas, it meant that Marina (after G. A. Vronsky, the movie man, had left Marina for another long-lashed Khristosik as he called all pretty starlets) had conceived, c'est bien le cas de le dire, the brilliant idea of having Demon divorce mad Aqua and marry Marina who thought (happily and correctly) she was pregnant again. (1.3)

Aleksey Vronski is Anna's lover in Tolstoy's Anna Karenin. According to Lidia Varavka (Klim's step-sister and lover in Gorky's "The Life of Klim Samgin"), in Anna Karenin "everybody is a horse [vse loshadi]: this Anna, and Vronski, and all the rest."

According to the poet Sluchevski ("The Diary of a One-Sided Man"),

Мы все немного скакуны с рожденья.
We all were born a bit fast horses.

In one of his most famous poems (included in Pesni iz Ugolka, "Songs from Ugolok," 1898-1902) Sluchevski compares a wayward rhyme and poetry to Princess Yaroslavna weeping at dawn on the rampart:

Ты не гонись за рифмой своенравной
И за поэзией — нелепости оне:
Я их сравню с княгиней Ярославной,
С зарёю плачущей на каменной стене.

Ведь умер князь, и стен не существует,
Да и княгини нет уже давным-давно;
А всё как будто, бедная, тоскует,
И от неё не всё, не всё схоронено.

Но это вздор, обманное созданье!
Слова — не плоть... Из рифм одежд не ткать!
Слова бессильны дать существованье,
Как нет в них также сил на то, чтоб убивать...

Нельзя, нельзя... Однако преисправно
Заря затеплилась; смотрю, стоит стена;
На ней, я вижу, ходит Ярославна,
И плачет, бедная, без устали она.

Сгони её! Довольно ей пророчить!
Уйми все песни, все! Вели им замолчать!
К чему они? Чтобы людей морочить
И нас — то здесь, то там — тревожить и смущать!

Смерть песне, смерть! Пускай не существует!..
Вздор рифмы, вздор стихи! Нелепости оне!..
А Ярославна всё-таки тоскует
В урочный час на каменной стене...

Sluchevski is the author of two interesting narrative poems: V snegakh ("In the Snows," 1878), about incest, and Larchik ("A Small Box," 1878), about adultery.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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