Jansy Mello adds:
James Twiggs sent me (off list) the original article by Socher, found at  http://tls.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,25360-1886449,00.html , The TLS: July 01, 2005 Shades of Frost by Abraham P. Socher ( A hidden source for Nabokov's Pale Fire ). It carries a commentary by a TLS reader, something which may interest the List when he informs that Frost has never had a poem published in "The New Yorker." . He also tries to give a more modest perspective for Socher's claims (applauded by Rosenbaum, and by B.Boyd too!) about the importance of Frost's "Questioning Faces" ("without which Nabokov's novel is almost unimaginable" ...Good grief!)*.
I discovered that I'd accidentaly stumbled upon, and associated with similar themes as those that Socher brought up (the reversed snow-prints, for one, and the icicles or the link with "plexed artistry"), as also the peculiar way Nabokov fins to introduce, quote, refer to an author whose importance he acknowledges but doesn't particularly appreciate - as it seems to have happened with Frost and his "dark" or pessimistic vision of the world - or whose snubs he resented.   
Unfortunately I have not at hand an information which seems to be missing from Socher's or John Ridland's (the commentator) overall picture about the waxwing crashing against a windowpane.  Nabokov told us that he once stayed at a house where birds crashed almost daily against the glass and how distressed he felt when he held their "ashen fluff" in his hands. When was this? Where? Anyway, it must have anteceded his encounter with Frost's clever owl.  I'll keep on the look out for this item but I hope someone remembers it faster than I'll find it myself.  
 The TLS ,October 21, 2005 ( Kinbote and Shade )
Sir, -Commenting on Nabokov's Pale Fire one runs the risk of turning into its protagonist, Professor Charles Kinbote, madly disgorging digressive information and misinformation. Abraham P. Socher ("Shades of Frost", July 1) mostly escapes this danger, though he skirts it by withholding for six columns his discovery of the "one short poem" of Frost's that Nabokov said he "really knew", one "without which Nabokov's novel is almost unimaginable". We might expect "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening", which Kinbote (optimistically) calls the "poem that every American schoolboy knows by heart", but Socher offers instead the little-known "Questioning Faces": The winter owl banked just in time to pass And save herself from breaking window glass And her wings straining suddenly aspread Caught color from the last of evening red In a display of underdown and quill To glassed-in children at the window sill.
When Kinbote alludes to a John Shade poem appearing in "the New York magazine The Beau and the Butterfly, some time in 1958" (playing on the New Yorker's annual spring cover cartoon), he raises Socher's hopes that one of Frost's had really been printed there and then. However, he reports, "Questioning Faces" was first published in the Saturday Review (of Literature) on April 12, 1958.
"Unfortunately", Socher found, "Frost did not publish a poem in the New Yorker that year." One might assume from this statement, and given Frost's immense fame, that his poems had appeared in the New Yorker in other years, but this is not so. Even though Frost had called it "our best literary magazine", he never published a poem there. Socher makes a case that Nabokov partially echoed "Questioning Faces" -"a minor poem by a major poet" -in the opening of Shade's "Pale Fire", where a waxwing fails to "bank in time", leaving a "smudge of ashen fluff" on the windowpane though not "breaking glass".
This is good for both Frost and Nabokov scholars to know, but Frost's own evaluation of "Questioning Faces" hints that it may deserve more respect than Socher and others allow it. Speaking to a huge, appreciative audience in Boston on December 2, 1962, eight weeks before his death, Frost commented pointedly, "This is one I'd like you to remember. This one is my favorite".
A larger question is how to evaluate John Shade's poem. One hopes that Nabokov composed "Pale Fire" in the same spirit that moved Chaucer to assign himself "The Tale of Sir Thopas" in The Canterbury Tales. "Pale Fire" is not a "major" poem on its own but a lengthy piece of light verse, heavy at times and wholly subsumed in the crazed narration of its fictitious annotator's commentary. It is crudely crafted in an often mechanical iambic pentameter -what Chaucer's Host calls "rym doggerel" - with sentences flying off and crashing against the invisible line ends:
I cannot understand why from the lake
I could make out our front porch when
I'd take Lake Road to school, whilst now, although no tree
Has intervened, I look but fail to see
Even the roof. (41-45)
Whether the "drasty rymyng" of "Pale Fire" is "worth a toord" or not, Professor Kinbote's droppings on it have fertilized the whole field of what Abraham Socher admires as "fantastically ingenious Pale Fire scholarship".
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