As two last retainers, the cook and the night watchman, scurried across the lawn toward a horseless trap or break, that stood beckoning them with erected thills (or was it a rickshaw? Uncle Dan once had a Japanese valet), Van was delighted and shocked to distinguish, right there in the inky shrubbery, Ada in her long nightgown passing by with a lighted candle in one hand and a shoe in the other as if stealing after the belated ignicolists. (1.19)
Ignicolist is a whorshipper of fire. One of the poems in Balmont's cycle Ogon' ("Fire," 1905) begins:
Огнепоклонником я прежде был когда-то,
Огнепоклонником останусь я всегда.
Моё индийское мышление богато
Разнообразием рассвета и заката,
5 Я между смертными — падучая звезда.
I was an ignicolist sometime before,
I shall always remain an ignicolist.
My Indian thinking is rich
in the variety of dawn and sunset,
Among the mortals I'm a shooting star.
Van's, Ada's and Lucette's mother Marina (who with almost the entire household of Ardis went to the site of fire) believes that in one of her former incarnations she was a dancing girl in India:
'It's not a very old religion, anyway, as religions go, is it?' said Marina (turning to Van and vaguely planning to steer the chat to India where she had been a dancing girl long before Moses or anybody was born in the lotus swamp). (1.14)
According to Van, the element that eventually destroys Marina (who dies of cancer) is fire:
Three elements, fire, water, and air, destroyed, in that sequence, Marina, Lucette, and Demon. Terra waited. (3.1)
Balmont is the author of "Fire," "Water," "Air" and "Earth" (the four cycles of poems).
'Look, gipsies,' she [Ada] whispered, pointing at three shadowy forms - two men, one with a ladder, and a child or dwarf - circumspectly moving across the gray lawn. They saw the candlelit window and decamped, the smaller one walking à reculons as if taking pictures. (1.19)
A child or dwarf who takes pictures is, no doubt, Kim Beauharnais, the kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis whom Ada bribed to set the Barn on fire. Nine years later Van blinds Kim for spying on him and Ada and attempting to blackmail Ada:
But, you know, there's one thing I regret,' she [Ada] added: 'Your use of an alpenstock to release a brute's fury - not yours, not my Van's. I should never have told you about the Ladore policeman. You should never have taken him into your confidence, never connived with him to burn those files - and most of Kalugano's pine forest. Eto unizitel'no (it is humiliating).'
'Amends have been made,' replied fat Van with a fat man's chuckle. 'I'm keeping Kim safe and snug in a nice Home for Disabled Professional People, where he gets from me loads of nicely brailled books on new processes in chromophotography.' (2.11)
In Kipling's novel Kim (1900) the action takes place in India. Kim Beauharnais' surname hints at Napoleon's first wife. Napoleon was Marina Tsvetaev's sole idol and influence (see "A Living Word about the Living Man," Marina Tsvetaev's essay on Maximilian Voloshin). In her essay Bal'montu ("To Balmont," 1925) Marina Tsvetaev mentions two people who visited Hades while still alive: earthly Odysseus and heavenly Orpheus. According to the author, even if Orpheus were blind, like Homer, he would have found his Eurydice:
Двое, Бальмонт, побывали в Аиде живыми: бытовой Одиссей и небесный Орфей. Одиссей, помнится, не раз спрашивал дорогу, об Орфее не сказано, доскажу я. Орфея в Аид, на свидание с любимой, привела его тоска: та, что всегда ходит — своими путями! И будь Орфей слеп, как Гомер, он все равно нашёл бы Эвридику.
The Burning Barn in Ada brings to mind the fire of Voron'ya slobodka ("A Crow's Nest") in Ilf and Petorv's "The Golden Calf" (1931). One of the novel's chapters is entitled "Homer, Milton and Panikovski."
The speakers at Balmon't anniversary in 1920, in Moscow, included Iname, a Japanese girl. In her essay Marina Tsvetaev mentions Iname's guttural, somewhat Gipsy sound of speech:
И японочка Инамэ — бледная, безумно-волнующаяся: «Я не знаю, что мне Вам сказать. Мне грустно. Вы уезжаете. Константин Дмитриевич! Приезжайте к нам в Японию, у нас хризантемы и ирисы. И...» Как раскатившиеся жемчужины, японский щебет. («До свидания», должно быть.) Со скрещенными ручками — низкий поклон. Голос глуховатый, ясно слышится биение сердца, сдерживаемое задыхание. Большие перерывы. — Ищет слов. — Говор гортанный, немножко цыганский. Личико жёлто-бледное. И эти ручки крохотные!
Balmont was a friend of Bryusov, the author of Ognennyi angel ("The Fiery Angel," 1907). In Geroy truda ("The Hero of Toil," 1925), Marina Tsvetaev's essay on Bryusov, the author's eight-year-old daughter Alya (Ariadna Efron) compares Bryusov to Shere Khan, the tiger in Kipling's Jungle Book, and Bryusov's mistress Adalis, to one of the young wolves.
Alexey Sklyarenko
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