Barrie Akin: “I've noted a few postings on the List referring to literary uses of "bobolink" before it appears in PF (e.g. by Emily Dickinson) but none that I have looked at suggests any thematic link (sorry) between those earlier uses and VN's use of the word in PF[…] In "Camelot" (Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe) - first run 3 December 1960 to 5 January 1963, it appears in the introductory recitative to the well known "How to Handle a Woman."
"And what of teaching me by turning me to animal and bird? / From beaver to the smallest bobolink/ I should have had the whirl/To change into a girl/To learn the way the creatures think!" VN was in New York during the first runs of both musicals (clear from Brian Boyd's VNAY) and he co-operated with Lerner on the stillborn "Lolita, My Love" some ten years after "Camelot", so presumably he was impressed with Lerner's lyrics. Could VN have seen either or both musicals? Did he have any interest in "musical theatre"? Or did he read any of Lerner's librettos before writing PF?”
Jansy Mello: There aren’t many easy references in the VN-L to the bobolink. Here’s the address to one of those: https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A3=ind0612&L=NABOKV-L&E=7bit&P=619155&B=--&T=text%2Fplain;%20charset=US-ASCII&header=1.
Barrie Akin’s indication of Lerner’s lyrics in Camelot adds an important detail for the two animals specifically mentioned in them are the “beaver” and the “bobolink” and, of course, “beaver” strongly suggests C.Kinbote’s beard and nickname…