Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024502, Mon, 19 Aug 2013 13:44:54 -0300

Re: [SIGHTING] Enkrypted words and transparencies
Carolyn Kunin [ to:"Perhaps someone will track down references to these various "spirits." Dubonnet, for one?"] :I think Jansy may have hit on a pun, a dig at spiritualism perhaps. And how apropos that would be as I watched Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" last night...Anyway there was Dirk Bogarde reminiscing about the time he brought " mrs Lewis " back to her studio ... If you don't recall it, and now that Dmitri has gone over to the "Dubonnet side", who besides Stan and myself were around in those days"

Jansy Mello: Dont't forget Dirk Bogarde playing Herman in Fassbinder's vision of VN's "Desire".(1977).

So, Carolyn developped my point about "spirits," thanks to her amazing familiarity with old English classic movies. However, one of her first lines led me immediately to a poem by Percy B. Shelley that begins with "Hail to thee, blith Spirit!."

Because I didn't remember if the bird in question was a nightingale or a skylark, my first search led me to Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale." I was wrong - but not for long, poor plucked "alouette" (who knows that children's French song?) I found a link bt two Johns: Keats and Shade, one which I'd never seen before

Here is what wikipedia informs: " 'Ode to a Nightingale' is a poem by John Keats written in May 1819 ... Inspired by the bird's song, Keats composed the poem in one day...a personal poem that describes Keats's journey into the state of Negative Capability. The tone of the poem rejects the optimistic pursuit of pleasure found within Keats's earlier poems and explores the themes of nature, transience and mortality, the latter being particularly personal to Keats. The nightingale described within the poem experiences a type of death but does not actually die. Instead, the songbird is capable of living through its song, which is a fate that humans cannot expect...In the poem, Keats imagines the loss of the physical world and sees himself dead—as a "sod" over which the nightingale sings. The contrast between the immortal nightingale and mortal man, sitting in his garden, is made all the more acute by an effort of the imagination.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
//That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim: (lines 11–13, 19–20)
//Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy...

John Shade's investigation into death and IPH or the subtle allusion to Bede's sparrow crossing a lighted room are announced quite early in "Pale Fire," found in the deceiving mirrors and mirages of reality. His bird lives for ever but not by song, it's by its irresistible iambic flight, "the viewless wings of Poesy." Later on, just before being shot, Shade is sitting in his garden porch and imagines a flitting butterfly passing through light and shade.

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;

I was the smudge of ashen fluff — and I

Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.


A dark Vanessa with a crimson band
Wheels in the low sun, settles on the sand

And shows its ink-blue wingtips flecked with white.

And through the flowing shade and ebbing light

A man, unheedful of the butterfly —

Some neighbor’s gardener, I guess — goes by

Trundling an empty barrow up the lane.

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