In a message dated 26/12/2006 17:26:51 GMT Standard Time, jansy@AETERN.US
Thanks for the comment, Jansy. I was extremely mystified by this sight,
which was unique in my experience, but I now understand that for such as
Shackleton visions of this kind were an almost everyday occurrence, and, as DN
has stressed, for mountaineers as well.
What surprised me while reading the Shackleton report about the "third
man" was how often, before his lines in Chapter X, he various
optical effects without finding in them any kind of supernatural
Well, both he and Eliot are clearly suggesting a supernatural presence of
some sort, helping them along, or guiding perhaps, in Eliot's case. It's funny
how survivors will attribute their survival to God: non-survivors are unable to
give their account either of how God failed them, or what it's like wherever
they are now.
I still find it difficult to visualize exactly what Shade is describing in
the opening lines of his Pale Fire. Presumably, "from the inside", the
shadows of the room's furniture (bed as well as chair? --- from where precisely
is the light source coming?) are being projected out on the lawn, outside. Or is
it that the interior of the room is being reflected on the inside of the
windowpane, but by letting his eye pass through the glass, the man who is
looking upon it can simultaneously see the lawn outside, sometimes
covered with snow?
On another point. A.Bouazza's recommendation of John Payne's Omar
Kheyyam led me to examine this tome (1898) more closely than I had
previously. At first glance the translations of the quatrains struck me as
execrable, far worse than VN's Onegin, but by reading with much
greater concentration I began to appreciate what the man was doing, and what an
extraordinary effort he had made to reproduce in English the exact verse
structure and wording of the Persian originals; all 845 of the ones he offers.
It still isn't fully recognizable as English poetry, of course, but taken all in
all it is an impressive endeavour.
Again, I was moved to wonder if VN had known about this heroic feat, and
whether it had played any part in inspiring him to
In his very first note on Pale Fire, to lines 1-4, Kinbote
mentions that Shade's poem was begun "while I played chess with a young Iranian
enrolled in our summer school". It is generally agreed that FitzGerald was
homosexual, that he entered into a more or less forced and short-lived marriage,
and that the "thou" referred to in his paraphrases is a young Persian male. This
does not appear to be so in Payne's Kheyyam, however.
FitzGerald's "Chequerboard of Nights and Days", No 49 in the 1st
edition, is too well-known to repeat; but here is Payne's more literal
rendering, No 480:
We're the pieces Heaven moves on the chessboard of space
(No metaphor this, but the truth of the case);
Each awhile on Life's board plays his game and returns
In the box of nonentity back to his place.
To be perfectly blunt, I still prefer FitzGerald.