Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023681, Sun, 17 Feb 2013 11:35:15 -0300

Re: Gradus ad Parnassum
PS: Since I had in mind only Czerny and Clementi, I didn't read the entire entry on Gradus ad Parnassum following the link I brought up [ ,...the phrase has often been used to refer to various books of instruction, or guides, in which gradual progress in literature, language instruction, music, or the arts in general, is sought. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gradus_ad_Parnassum // ]

There are various interesting items to examine in connection to Nabokov and Pale Fire (perhaps in ADA, too, in relation to Mademoiselle) How could I not have read the article and kept in touch with wikipedia's constant developments and actualizations!.

The most important item relates to the explanation about the title and function of the "Thesaurus" ("an epitome of the work...combining declension, construction, scansion and figure"*), if we keep in mind CK's words about the role played by Gradus in the novel. Besides, it is musically related to counterpoint ** It would be worthwhile to check if only Gradus or the entire novel, and Shade's poem have preserved this kind of involutive (?) gradual construction. John Shade also mentions counterpoint:: "But all at once it dawned on me that this/ Was the real point, the contrapuntal theme;/ Just this: not text, but texture; not the dream../... topsy turvy coincidence..." and there are CK's note to Line 17: And then the gradual; Line 29: gray " "By an extraordinary coincidence (inherent perhaps in the contrapuntal nature of Shade's art) our poet seems to name here (gradual, gray) a man, whom he was to see for one fatal moment three weeks later, but of whose existence at the time (July 2) he could not have known.

and " Lines 734-735: probably... wobble... limp blimp... unstable: A third burst of contrapuntal pyrotechnics. The poet's plan is to display in the very texture of his text the intricacies of the "game" in which he seeks the key to life and death (see lines 808-829)." [ ] Line 830: Sybil, it is : This elaborate rhyme comes as an apotheosis crowning the entire canto and synthesizing the contrapuntal aspects of its "accidents and possibilities."

All those notes are certainly related to Gradus and to techniques of composition that might be related to Gradus ad Parnassum, particularly CK's note that refers back to line 17 and the "transcendental tramp", ie, his note to Lines 131-132: "I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by feigned remoteness in the windowpane".: Although Gradus availed himself of all varieties of locomotion - rented cars, local trains, escalators, airplanes - somehow the eye of the mind sees him, and the muscles of the mind feel him, as always streaking across the sky with black traveling bag in one hand and loosely folded umbrella in the other, in a sustained glide high over sea and land. The force propelling him is the magic action of Shade's poem itself, the very mechanism and sweep of verse, the powerful iambic motor. Never before has the inexorable advance of fate received such a sensuous form (for other images of that transcendental tramp's approach see note to line 17). (I cvouldn't resist the temptation to underline certain sentences..)

Paul Aler's and Joulet's Gradus ad Parnassum would have been a fascinating source for Nabokov (he did study ncient French lit. while at Cambrigde...)***

The fourth item may interest Matt Roth in particular, should I not be hastily incorrect: Bacchus's mountain in Parnassus called Lycoreia (if Lyco offers a connection between Bacchus/Dionysus and wolves, something I didn't check now)#

* *Then 'Parnassus' is a poetic figure alluding to the Muse (of poetry): and the second function of the Thesaurus is even so, to illustrate such figures. Therefore the whole expression Gradus ad Parnassum is not just a title but an epitome of the work itself, combining declension, construction, scansion and figure.

** Works entitled Gradus ad Parnassum include: a seminal textbook on counterpoint written by Johann Fux in 1725, but still used today for instruction in musical theory and composition; Leopold Mozart is said to have taught his son Wolfgang from its pages. Beethoven held it in great esteem, and Haydn meticulously worked out each of its exercises.

*** The Gradus ad Parnassum made famous under the name of Jesuit Paul Aler (1656-1727),[2] a schoolmaster, published in 1686, presented anew an earlier Thesaurus attributed to Pierre Joulet, sieur de Chastillon (1545-1621).[3] This was not a general dictionary but a thesaurus of synonyms, epithets, verses and phrases in classical poetic usage. The work in Alers' form existed into the 19th century with the definitions as well as the entries written in Latin.[ ]

#- a mountain range in central Greece, a few miles north of Delphi, of which the two summits, in Classical times, were called Tithorea and Lycoreia. In Greek mythology, one of the peaks was sacred to Apollo and the nine Muses, the inspiring deities of the arts, and the other to Bacchus

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