-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: Boyd's next note
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 17:08:07 +1300
From: "Brian Boyd (FOA ENG)" <b.boyd@auckland.ac.nz>
To: "'Vladimir Nabokov Forum'" <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>


Let me add my thanks to Alexey, because in looking up my note on Chose, I could not help noticing my next note,

18.25-26: "a distortive glass of our distorted glebe": a distorting mirror of our distorted planet. Glebe means "soil, sod. . . . an earthlike mineral; an earth" (W2), but itself looks like a distorted form of globe.

The full context is this:

As Van Veen himself was to find out, at the time of his passionate research in terrology (then a branch of psychiatry) even the deepest thinkers, the purest philosophers, Paar of Chose and Zapater of Aardvark, were emotionally divided in their attitude toward the possibility that there existed “a distortive glass of our distorted glebe” as a scholar who desires to remain unnamed has put it with such euphonic wit. (Hm! Kveree-kveree, as poor Mlle L. used to say to Gavronsky. In Ada’s hand.)

Now if this is not a provocation, I don’t know what is. And I didn’t get it until just now (about 25 years after starting to work intensely on ADA). It is of course to an obscure work by an obscure author, an obscure passage VN had recently memorably invoked; a marvellous example of his dangling something obvious up and down under our nose:

GHOST (after telling Hamlet of the murder):
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be

A couch for luxury and damned incest.

But howsoever thou pursuest this act,

Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive

Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven,

And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge

To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once.

The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,

And gins to pale his uneffectual fire.

Adieu, adieu, Hamlet. Remember me.

HAMLET:

O all you host of heaven! O earth! What else?

And shall I couple hell? O fie! Hold, hold, my heart,

And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,

But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee?

Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat

In this distracted globe.

(1.5.82-97)

Distracted indeed.

We might also remember, given the “distortive glass,” Hamlet’s advice to the players: “anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature.” (3.2.20-22)