Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024728, Wed, 30 Oct 2013 17:11:50 -0200

LRL: Chekhov's Chayka... chain and chêne...chat
Jansy Mello: ...and I only just now realized that the big chain around an oak may hide a deliberate wordplay "chain/chêne," not a coincidence, thus enchaining Pushkin, Chateaubriand, Chekhov, Shakespeare...)["and the big chain around the trunk of the rare oak, Quercus ruslan Chat."]
PS: I had to check a line in "Pale Fire" and the Boswell epigraph's "cat" glared at me with saucer eyes. "Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats." And then in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favorite cat, and said, "But Hodge shan't be shot: no, no, Hodge shall not be shot.," The insistent sounds of not only "chain-chêne," but in the names Chateaubriand,Chekhov, Shakespeare and even Pushkin, kept inviting me to probe further into trees and muscat games while I was writing my former post but I got, once again, nowhere. I'd forgotten that the chained oak indicates not only Chateaubriand (Chat) but also "cat"!
Now it occurred to me that the epigraph was merely chosen to enhance a hint concerning the importance of story-telling cats - and providinig some sort of link also to "PF" (besides its presence in ADA) and with Pushkin's Ruslan and Ludmilla.

Instead of the allusive and condensed wisdom often found in epigraphs, we'd simply get a pointer to... "mind the cat." *

While fleeing from Zembla, Kinbote sings (could it be the Schubert Lied, mentioned in VN's LRL in the Chekhov note I quoted yesterday? **) Goethe's lines related to another abductor, not Chernomor nor the old Finn***, namely, the Erlkönig. Kinbote's notes on the Alderking are associated to events that take place while John Shade describes the night he lost his daughter, Hazel (Kinbote mentions Shade's counterpoint critically, if memory serves me right, and not his own "counterpoint moves"). Whereas the tree theme moves from a shagbark onto the hickory (connected to Aunt Maud's Luna moth, besides Hazel's swing and JS's last lines ) and from there to the maidenhair, with Shade's poem about the muscat leaf in "The Sacred Tree," quoted and noted by CK, as acknowledged by CK: "Or poet shared with the English masters the noble knack of transplanting trees into verse with their sap and shade..." besides his various translations of tree names related to IPH (are there oaks, elms or birches in New Wye or in Zembla? Strange, I cannot remember those)

*- widely discussed in the VN-L List and where I find that Alexey Sklyarenko got there first - somewhat dreamily and with corrections by Stan Kelly-Bootle (the link bt. ADA and PF through the epigraph)
A.Sklyarenko: "To the second edition (1828) of his Ruslan and Lyudmila (1820) Pushkin added a wonderful introductory poem that begins:
U lukomor'ya dub zelyonyi,
Zlataya tsep' na dube tom.
I dnyom i noch'yu kot uchyonyi
Vsyo khodit po tsepi krugom.
Poidyot napravo - pesn' zavodit,
Nalevo - skazku govorit.
("A green oak grows at the sea, / A golden chain is on that oak. / Night and day a learned cat / Paces the chain round the tree. / When he goes to the right, he sings a song, / When he goes to the left, he tells a fairy tale.")
Samuel Johnson being a savant, his cat, Hodge, must be as learned an animal as the cat in Pushkin's poem. Pushkin's fairy tale cat paces a golden chain that winds round the oak (cf. Quercus ruslan Chat. that grows in Ardis park: Ada, 2.7; "Chat." hints at Chateaubriand, but chat is also French for "cat"). When he goes to the right, he sings a song ("Pale Fire" the poem consists of Cantos, i. e. "songs"), when he goes to the left, he tells a fairy tale (Kinbote's Zembla that makes up most of his Commentary is a fairy tale; note that, as a homosexual, Kinbote is "sexually left-handed" and that, in the political sense, "left" is associated with Revolutions and social disasters of the type that happened in Nabokov's Russia and Kinbote's Zembla).

** - "Sorin sings a few bars of a Schubert song, then checks himself ..."

*** - Song One (prologue) from wikipedia: In a brief prologue, the narrator of the story describes a green oak by the sea, and makes reference to several other elements common in Russian folktales, such as a hut on hen's legs (??????? ?? ?????? ??????), Baba Yaga (????-???), and KingKoschei (???? ?????[5]). Bound to the tree by a golden chain is a story-telling cat. The narrator remembers one of the cat's stories in particular, namely the one that follows.The story opens with a feast given by Prince Vladimir (????????) to celebrate the marriage of his daughter, Ludmila, to the bold warrior Ruslan. Among the guests are Ruslan's jealous rivals, the bold warrior Rogday (??????), the boastful Farlaf (??????), and the young khazar Khan Ratmir (??????). On their wedding night, as Ruslan prepares to consummate the marriage, a strange presence fills the bedroom, accompanied by thunder and lightning. Ruslan finds that his bride has mysteriously vanished.On hearing of Ludmila's disappearance, the angered Vladimir annuls the marriage and promises his daughter's hand to whoever is able to return her safely. Ruslan and his three rivals set off on horseback. Ruslan encounters an old man in a cavern who tells him that Ludmila had been abducted by the sorcerer Chernomor (????????), and that Ruslan would find her unharmed. The old man himself is a Finn who tells the story of how he had fallen in love with a beautiful young maiden, Naina (?????), who spurned his attention. In order to win her love he tried to become a glorious warrior, but when she rejected him, spent years learning the magical arts instead. He finally cast a spell to win Naina's love, only to find that she herself was actually an old crone, who now was bent on revenge.

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