Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027155, Thu, 18 Aug 2016 23:42:25 +0300

Law of the Muscovite in Pale Fire
My previous post ("Milton, Flatman & Altamira animals in Pale Fire") should
have ended as follows:

There is dar in nedarom (not in vain), the word used by Pushkin in the line
Nedarom - net! - promchalas' chetvert' veka! ("A quarter of century has
flown by not in vain, oh no!"). And, vice versa, there is mir (world; peace)
- a word used by Pushkin in the line vrashshaetsya ves' mir vkrug cheloveka
("the whole world turns around man") - in Altamira (cf. "Altamira animals"
mentioned by Kinbote, an allusion to cave paintings in the Cave of Altamira
in Spain) and in umirat' ("to die;" cf. Conmal's last words: Comment dit-on
'mourir' en anglais?), a verb used by Pushkin in zaviduya tomu, kto umirat'
("envying those who [went] to die"), the fourth line of the fifth stanza of
his poem Byla pora: nash prazdnik molodoy: ("The was a time: our young

Вы помните: текла за ратью рать,
Со старшими мы братьями прощались
И в сень наук с досадой возвращались,
Завидуя тому, кто умирать
Шёл мимо нас... и племена сразились,
Русь обняла кичливого врага,
И заревом московским озарились
Его полкам готовые снега.

I zarevom Moskovskim ("and by the glow of the Moscow fire") in the stanza's
penultimate line brings to mind "the Law of the Muscovite" in Kipling's poem
The Rhyme of the Three Sealers quoted by Kinbote.

In Ne setuyte: takov sud'by zakon (Don't lament: such is the law of Fate),
the sixth line of the third stanza of his poem Byla pora: nash prazdnik
molodoy:, Pushkin mentions sud'by zakon (the law of Fate):

Всему пора: уж двадцать пятый раз
Мы празднуем лицея день заветный.
Прошли года чредою незаметной,
И как они переменили нас!
Недаром - нет! - промчалась четверть века!
Не сетуйте: таков судьбы закон;
Вращается весь мир вкруг человека, -
Ужель один недвижим будет он?

In the penultimate line of Byla pora: nash prazdnik molodoy: (a poem that,
like Shade's Pale Fire, remained unfinished) Pushkin mentions zemlya

И над землёй сошлися новы тучи,
И ураган их...

And the new thunderclouds gathered over Earth,

and their hurricane:

The phrase vkrug cheloveka (around man) in the line vrashshaetsya ves' mir
vkrug cheloveka ("the whole world turns around man") brings to mind Pope's
Essay on Man (1733-34) in which Zembla is mentioned.

In Pushkin's famous epigram on Count Vorontsov, Polu-milord, polu-kupets:
("Half-milord, half-merchant:" 1824), polu-nevezhda (half-ignoramus) rhymes
with nadezhda. According to the poet, there is nadezhda (a hope) that one
day Vorontsov will be "full" at last. Kinbote completes his work on Shade's
poem and commits suicide on Oct. 19, 1959 (the Lyceum anniversary). There is
a hope that, after Kinbote's suicide, Professor Vsevolod Botkin (an American
scholar of Russian descent who went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus
after the tragic death of his daughter Nadezhda) will be "full" again.

Altamira + form = Fialta + mramor = Malta + mir/Rim + fora/faro = altar +
rifma/firma + molitva - Litva

Fialta - the city on the Adriatic in which the action in VN's story Vesna v
Fial'te ("Spring in Fialta," 1936) takes place; the narrator/main character
of SF recalls the words of a sobbing ballad:

On dit que tu te maries,

Tu sais que j'en vais mourir,--

mramor - marble; VN's poem Kakoe sdelal ya durnoe delo: ("What is the evil
deed I have committed:" 1959) ends in the lines:

ten' russkoy vetki budet kolebat'sya

na mramore moey ruki.

a Russian branch's shadow shall be playing

upon the marble of my hand.

Rim - Russian name of Rome

fora - Russ., advantage (in the phrase dat' foru - "to give odds, to give a
start"); in Pushkin's "Fragments of Onegin's Journey" a young beauty's
husband naps in the opera behind his wife and half-wakes up to cry Fora!

faro - a gambling game (Pharaoh)

altar - in lines 7-8 of the fourth stanza of his poem Byla pora: nash
prazdnik molodoy: Pushkin says that people's blood crimsoned the altars now
of Fame, now of Freedom, now of Pride:

Припомните, о други, с той поры,
Когда наш круг судьбы соединили,

Чему, чему свидетели мы были!
Игралища таинственной игры,
Металися смущённые народы;

И высились и падали цари;
И кровь людей то Славы, то Свободы,
То Гордости багрила алтари.

Lines 4-6 of the stanza, Igralishcha tainstvennoy igry, metalisya
smushchyonnye narody; i vysilis' i padali tsari (The playthings of a
mysterious game, confused nations rushed about; and the kings rose and
fell), bring to mind Lines 811-815 (the Lyceum was founded in 1811, Napoleon
lost the battle of Waterloo and was banished to St. Helena in 1815!) of
Shade's poem:

Yes! It sufficed that I in life could find
Some kind of link and bobolink, some kind
Or correlated pattern in the game,
Plexed artistry, and something of the same
Pleasure in it as they who played it found.

rifma - rhyme; in Line 970 of his poem Shade mentions "richly rhymed life:"

Maybe my sensual love for the consonne
D'appui, Echo's fey child, is based upon
A feeling of fantastically planned,

Richly rhymed life. (ll. 967-970)

In his poem Rifma ("Rhyme," 1830) written in hexameter Pushkin says that
Rhyme's parents are Echo (a sleepless nymph) and Phoebus.

firma - firm

molitva - prayer

Litva - Lithuania

Alexey Sklyarenko

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