Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027167, Thu, 8 Sep 2016 18:19:09 +0300

shadow of Sirin in Pale Fire
Shade's poem begins:

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By the false azure in the windowpane.

In his story Ten' ptitsy ("The Shadow of the Bird," 1907) Bunin quotes
Saadi's words "No one seeks shelter in the shadow of the owl, even if the
Huma bird does not exist:"

Кто знает, что такое птица Хумай? О ней говорит Саади:

"Нет жаждущих приюта под тенью совы, хотя бы птица Хумай и не существовала
на свете!"

И комментаторы Саади поясняют, что это -- легендарная птица и что тень её
приносит всему, на что она падает, царственность и бессмертие.

As Bunin points out, the commentators of Saadi explain that Huma is a
legendary bird whose shadow brings to everything on which it falls
kingliness and immortality.

The Persian Huma bird seems to be related to Gamayun (Hamayun), a bird of
Russian myths. Gamayun, ptitsa veshchaya ("Gamayun, the Prophetic Bird,"
1899) is a poem by Blok. Like Sirin i Alkonost, ptitsy radosti i pechali
("Sirin and Alkonost, the Birds of Joy and Sadness," 1899), it was inspired
by a painting of Vasnetsov. VN's Russian nom de plume was Sirin. (A bird of
Russian folklore, sirin is also the name of a small owl.)

In his poem Vozmezdie ("Retribution," 1910-21) Blok mentions sovinye kryla
(the wings of an owl) that Pobedonostsev spread over Russia and ten'
ogromnykh kryl (the shadow of huge wings):

В те годы дальние, глухие,

В сердцах царили сон и мгла:

Победоносцев над Россией

Простёр совиные крыла,

И не было ни дня, ни ночи

А только - тень огромных крыл;

Он дивным кругом очертил

Россию, заглянув ей в очи

Стеклянным взором колдуна;

Под умный говор сказки чудной

Уснуть красавице не трудно, -

И затуманилась она,

Заспав надежды, думы, страсти... (Chapter Two, Introduction)

Blok compares Pobedonostsev to koldun (a sorcerer) and mentions his
steklyannyi vzor (glassy look). According to Kinbote (the commentator of
Shade's poem), the Zemblan Revolution had flickered first at the famous
Glass Factory (note to Line 130). Gradus (Shade's murderer) was in the glass
business. Blok compares Russia to a beauty who fell asleep to the sorcerer's
fairy tale and in her sleep smothered her nadezhdy, dumy, strasti (hopes,
thoughts, passions). The "real" name of Hazel Shade (the poet's daughter who
committed suicide) seems to be Nadezhda Botkin.

In the First Chapter of "Retribution" Blok mentions ten' Lyutsiferova kryla
(the shadow of Lucifer's wing) that grew even blacker and huger in the
twentieth century, komety groznoy i khvostatoy uzhasnyi prizrak v vyshine (a
terrible ghost of the formidable and tailed comet in the sky) and an
airplane's first flight into the desert of unknown regions:

Двадцатый век... Еще бездомней,

Ещё страшнее жизни мгла

(Ещё чернее и огромней

Тень Люциферова крыла).

Кометы грозной и хвостатой

Ужасный призрак в вышине,

Безжалостный конец Мессины

(Стихийных сил не превозмочь),

И неустанный рёв машины,

Кующей гибель день и ночь,

Сознанье страшное обмана

Всех прежних малых дум и вер,

И первый взлёт аэроплана

В пустыню неизвестных сфер...

Lyutsifer (Lucifer, 1908) is a sonnet by Bunin. According to G. Ivanov, when
he asked Blok if a sonnet needed a coda, Blok replied that he did not know
what a coda was.

Kinbote believes that, to be completed, Shade's unfinished poem needs but
one line (Line 1000 identical to Line 1: "I was the shadow of the waxwing
slain"). But it seems to me that, like some sonnets, Shade's poem also needs
a coda (which means in Italian "tail"), Line 1001: "By its own double in the
windowpane." Dvoynik ("The Double," 1914) is a poem by Blok.

According to Kinbote (who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last
self-exiled king of Zembla), his father, king Alfin (Alfin the Vague,
1873-1918), was an aviation pioneer who perished when his monoplane flew
into the scaffolding of a huge hotel (note to Line 71). Alfin is an anagram
of final. At the beginning of VN's novel Priglashenie na kazn' ("Invitation
to a Beheading," 1935) Cincinnatus tries to make notes and several times
repeats the word final (finale):

Цинциннат написал: "и всё-таки я сравнительно. Ведь этот финал я
предчувствовал этот финал".

Cincinnatus wrote: "In spite of everything I am comparatively. After all I
had premonitions, had premonitions of this finale."

On the other hand, Alfin the Vague and his son Charles the Beloved bring to
mind Three Despots (Alexander the Misty, Nicholas the Chill and Nicholas the
Dull), a book by Otto Lederer mentioned by Professor Anuchin in his review
of Fyodor's Life of Chernyshevski in VN's novel Dar ("The Gift," 1937). In
VN's novel Zina Mertz affectionately calls Chernyshevski "Chernysh."
Chernysh (from chyornyi, "black") is a common Russian name of black cats.
According to Kinbote, the black cat came with the house that was rented for
him from Judge Goldsworth.

"The false azure" mentioned by Shade in the second line of his poem and the
name of Kinbote's landlord bring to mind Zoloto v lazuri ("Gold in the
Azure," 1904), a collection of poetry by Andrey Bely. Belyi is Russian for

Alexey Sklyarenko

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,dana.dragunoiu@gmail.com,shvabrin@humnet.ucla.edu
Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
AdaOnline: "http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada: http://vnjapan.org/main/ada/index.html
The VN Bibliography Blog: http://vnbiblio.com/
Search the archive with L-Soft: https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A0=NABOKV-L

Manage subscription options :http://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=NABOKV-L