According to Kinbote (one of the three main characters in VNs novel Pale Fire, 1962, Shades commentator who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla), he was nicknamed the great beaver because of his brown beard:

 

One day I happened to enter the English Literature office in quest of a magazine with the picture of the Royal Palace in Onhava, which I wanted my friend to see, when I overheard a young instructor in a green velvet jacket, whom I shall mercifully call Gerald Emerald, carelessly saying in answer to something the secretary had asked: "I guess My Shade has already left with the great beaver." Of course, I am quite tall, and my brown beard is of a rather rich tint and texture; the silly cognomen evidently applied to me, but was not worth noticing, and after calmly taking the magazine from a pamphlet-cluttered table, I contented myself on my way out with pulling Gerald Emerald's bow-tie loose with a deft jerk of my fingers as I passed by him. (Foreword)

 

Gimn borode (A Hymn to the Beard, 1757) is a poem by Lomonosov. Lomonosov is the author of Pismo o polze stekla (Letter on the Use of Glass, 1752). According to Kinbote, Gradus (Shades murderer) was in the glass business:

 

Gradus never became a real success in the glass business to which he turned again and again between his win-eselling and pamphlet printing jobs. He started as a maker of Cartesian devils--imps of bottle glass bobbing up and down in methylate-filled tubes hawked during Catkin Week on the boulevards. He also worked as a teazer, and later as a flasher, at governmental factories--and was, I believe, more or less responsible for the remarkably ugly red-and-amber windows in the great public lavatory at rowdy but colorful Kalixhaven where the sailors are. He claimed to have improved the glitter and rattle of the so-called feuilles-d'alarme used by the grape growers and orchardmen to scare the birds. I have staggered the notes referring to him in such a fashion that the first (see note to line 17 where some of his other activities are adumbrated) is the vaguest while those that follow become gradually clearer as gradual Gradus approaches in space and time. (note to Line 171)

 

In his Index to Pale Fire Kinbote mentions Sudarg of Bokay, a mirror maker of genius:

 

Sudarg of Bokay, a mirror maker of genius, the patron saint of Bokay in the mountains of Zembla, 80; life span not known.

 

Sudarg of Bokay is Jakob Gradus in reverse. On the other hand, Sudarg suggest gosudar (sovereign) and its feminine form, gosudarynya. Lomonosov is the author of Oda na den vosshestviya na prestol eyo velichestva gosudaryni imperatritsy Elisavety Petrovny 1748 goda (Ode on the Anniversary of the Ascent to the Throne of her Majesty Empress Elizaveta Petrovna of the Year 1748). In Eugene Onegin (Five: XXV: 1-4) Pushkin parodies the opening lines of Lomonosovs poem:

 

ӧ ҧѧԧߧ ܧ 34

ѧ ֧ߧߧڧ էݧڧ

ӧէڧ ݧߧ֧ ٧ ҧ

֧קݧ ѧ٧էߧڧ ڧާ֧ߧڧ.

 

But lo, with crimson hand 34

Aurora from the morning dales

leads forth, with the sun, after her

the merry name-day festival.

 

Pushkins note 34: ѧէڧ ڧ٧ӧ֧ߧ ڧ ާߧӧ:

ѧ ҧѧԧߧ ܧ
֧ߧߧڧ ܧۧߧ ӧ
ӧէڧ ݧߧ֧ ٧ ҧ, .

 

a parody of Lomonosovs well-known lines:

 

Aurora with a crimson hand

from the calm morning waters

leads forth with the sun after her, etc.

In Chapter One of EO Pushkin describes Onegins day in St. Petersburg and (in One: XVI: 4) mentions Onegins bobrovyi vorotnik (beaver collar):

 

קާߧ: ѧߧܧ ѧէڧ.
"ѧէ, ѧէ!" - ѧ٧էѧݧ ܧڧ;
٧ߧ ݧ ֧֧ҧڧ
ԧ ҧҧӧ ӧߧڧ.

Talon4 ާѧݧ: ӧ֧֧,
ѧ اէק ֧ԧ ѧӧ֧ڧ.

ק: ҧܧ ݧ,
ڧߧ ܧާ֧ ҧ٧ߧ ,
֧ ߧڧ roast-beef ܧӧѧӧݧ֧ߧߧ,
ݧ, ܧ ߧ ݧ֧,
ѧߧ٧ܧ ܧߧ ݧڧ ӧ֧,
ѧ٧ҧԧ ڧ ߧ֧ݧ֧ߧߧ
֧ ڧާҧԧܧڧ اڧӧ
ѧߧѧߧѧ ٧ݧ.

 

Its already dark. He gets into a sleigh.

The cry Way, way! resounds.

With frostdust silvers

his beaver collar.

To Talon's4 he has dashed off: he is certain

that there already waits for him [Kaverin];

has entered C and the cork goes ceilingward,

the flow of comet wine has spurted,

a bloody roast beef is before him,

and truffles, luxury of youthful years,

the best flower of French cookery,

and a decayless Strasbourg pie

between a living Limburg cheese

and a golden ananas.

 

Pushkins note 4: Well-known restaurateur.

 

In his Foreword to Shades poem Kinbote says that he is a strict vegetarian and likes to cook his own meals:

 

A few days later, however, namely on Monday, February 16, I was introduced to the old poet at lunch time in the faculty club. "At last presented credentials," as noted, a little ironically, in my agenda. I was invited to join him and four or five other eminent professors at his usual table, under an enlarged photograph of Wordsmith College as it was, stunned and shabby, on a remarkably gloomy summer day in 1903. His laconic suggestions that I "try the pork" amused me. I am a strict vegetarian, and I like to cook my own meals. Consuming something that had been handled by a fellow creature was, I explained to the rubicund convives, as repulsive to me as eating any creature, and that would include--lowering my voice--the pulpous pony-tailed girl student who served us and licked her pencil. Moreover, I had already finished the fruit brought with me in my briefcase, so I would content myself, I said, with a bottle of good college ale. My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. The usual questions were fired at me about eggnogs and milkshakes being or not being acceptable to one of my persuasion. Shade said that with him it was the other way around: he must make a definite effort to partake of a vegetable. Beginning a salad, was to him like stepping into sea water on a chilly day, and he had always to brace himself in order to attack the fortress of an apple.

 

According to Kinbote, he became a vegetarian after reading a story about an Italian despot:

 

When the fallen tyrant is tied, naked and howling, to a plank in the public square and killed piecemeal by the people who cut slices out, and eat them, and distribute his living body among themselves (as I read when young in a story about an Italian despot, which made of me a vegetarian for life), Gradus does not take part in the infernal sacrament: he points out the right instrument and directs the carving. (note to Line 171)

 

In VNs story Krug (The Circle, 1936) Tanya mentions the despot:

 

֧֧է ߧ ݧѧէڧݧѧ; ѧߧ, - ѧ, ӧ֧ݧ, ֧ ܧԧէ- ڧ ֧ӧݧڧߧߧ ڧѧ , ܧѧ է֧ ڧ֧, ԧ٧ߧ ҧܧӧ էѧӧߧ ߧ ֧ߧ ֧ڧ ܧ ܧӧѧ. "ԧڧާ ݧӧѧާ, ֧ӧѧ ֧ߧԧѧ٧֧",-- ܧѧ٧ѧ ѧ, ݧҧڧӧڧ ڧ. ӧߧڧݧ, ѧߧڧ ҧѧ اڧӧק ֧ݧڧߧ, ݧڧ٧ѧӧ֧ ѧӧݧӧߧ ڧߧݧѧ ѧܧѧ٧ӧѧ ߧק...

 

The Leshino topic was falling apart; Tanya, getting it all wrong, insisted that he used to teach her the pre-Revolution songs of radical students, such as the one about the despot who feasts in his rich palace hall while destinys hand has already begun to trace the dread words on the wall. In other words, our first stengazeta (Soviet wall gazette), remarked Kutaysov, a great wit. Tanyas brother was mentioned: he lived in Berlin, and the Countess started to talk about him.

 

Tanyas brother, Fyodor Konstantinovich Godunov-Cherdyntsev, is the narrator and main character in VNs novel Dar (The Gift, 1937). The novels characters include the Chernyshevski couple: Alexander Yakovlevich and Alexandra Yakovlevna. After the suicide of their son Yasha (who neatly defined the mutual relationship between him, Rudolf and Olya as a triangle inscribed in a circle) poor Alexander Yakovlevich went mad. After the tragic death of his daughter Nadezhda (Hazel Shade of Kinbotes Commentary) Professor Vsevolod Botkin (an American scholar of Russian descent) went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus. There is a hope (nadezhda) that, when Kinbote completes his work on Shades poem and commits suicide, Botkin will be full again.

 

In his EO Commentary (note to One: XVI: 5-6) VN discusses the rhyme uveren (certain) C Kaverin and mentions the consonne dappui (intrusive consonant):

 

As in French orthometry, the punctilious spangle of the consonne dappui (reckoned tawdry in English) increases the acrobatic brilliance of the Russian rhyme.

 

In Canto Four of his poem Shade mentions his sensual love for the consonne dappui, Echos fey child:

 

Maybe my sensual love for the consonne
D'appui, Echo's fey child, is based upon
A feeling of fantastically planned,
Richly rhymed life. (ll. 967-970)

 

In Pushkins poem Rifma (Rhyme, 1830) Rhyme is the daughter of Phoebus (Apollo as the sun god) and Echo, a sleepless nymph:

 

, ҧ֧ߧߧѧ ߧڧާ, ܧڧѧݧѧ ҧ֧ԧ ֧ߧ֧.
        ֧, ӧڧէ֧ ֧, ѧڧ ߧ֧ ӧݧѧ.
ڧާ ݧ ߧ֧ݧ ӧԧ ӧݧҧݧקߧߧԧ ҧԧ;
        ֧ ԧӧݧڧӧ ߧѧ, ާѧ, ߧ էڧݧ
ڧݧ է. ڧݧ ѧާ ߧ֧ާ٧ڧߧ.
        ֧٧ӧѧ է֧ӧ ݧ ҧԧڧߧ-ѧߧڧ,
ѧ֧ ܧ էҧߧ, ݧߧ ѧާ ԧ,

        ٧ѧ ާڧݧ; ߧ ٧֧ާݧ ڧާ ٧ӧק ߧ.

 

In an earlier poem, Rifma, zvuchnaya podruga (Rhyme, the sonorous friend 1828), Rhyme turns out to be the daughter of Apollo and Mnemosyne (who is the mid-wife in Rhyme). In one of his poems addressed to Zina Mertz (a character in The Gift) Fyodor calls her polu-Mnemozina (Half-Mnemosyne).

 

In the above quoted stanza of EO (One: XVI: 8) Pushkin mentions vino komety (vin de la comte, champagne of the comet year, 1811). There is vino (wine) in vinograd (grapes). Vinograd (1824) and Vino (1833) are poems by Pushkin. At the end of his note to Line 171 Kinbote calls Gradus Vinogradus and Leningradus:

 

All this is as it should be; the world needs Gradus. But Gradus should not kill things. Vinogradus should never, never provoke God. Leningradus should not aim his peashooter at people even in dreams, because if he does, a pair of colossally thick, abnormally hairy arms will hug him from behind and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.

 

Lenin is the author of Lev Tolstoy kak zerkalo russkoy revolyutsii (Leo Tolstoy as the Mirror of the Russian Revolution, 1908). A strict vegetarian, Leo Tolstoy had a beard. In Tolstoys novel Voyna i mir (War and Peace, 1869) Pierre Bezukhov watches the Great Comet of 1811-12.

 

In his poem Portret (The Portrait, 1828) Pushkin compares Agrafena Zakrevski (portrayed as Cleopatra of the Neva in Chapter Eight of EO) to bezzakonnaya kometa v krugu raschislennom svetil (a lawless comet in the circle of calculated planets):

 

ӧ֧ ݧѧ֧ է,
ӧڧާ ҧߧާ ѧާ,
اקߧ ֧ӧ֧, ާ֧ ӧѧާ
ߧ ӧݧ֧
ާڧާ ӧ֧ ݧӧڧ ӧ֧
֧ާڧ է ѧ ڧ,
ѧ ҧ֧٧٧ѧܧߧߧѧ ܧާ֧
ܧԧ ѧڧݧ֧ߧߧ ӧ֧ڧ.

 

A comet has a tail.  In his fragment Rim (Rome, 1842) Gogol mentions the Italian sonnetto colla coda (sonnet with the coda) and in a footnote explains that in Italian coda means tail. Chapter Four of The Gift, Fyodors book Zhizn Chernyshevskogo (The Life of Chernyshevski), begins and ends with the sonnet. Coda rhymes with oda (ode) and with goda (Gen. of god, year). In the title of Lomonosovs Oda na den vosshestviya na prestol eyo velichestva gosudaryni imperatritsy Elisavety Petrovny 1748 goda the first word is oda and the last word is goda.

 

It seems that, to be completed, Shades unfinished poem needs not only Line 1000 (identical to Line 1: I was the shadow of the waxwing slain), but also a coda (Line 1001: By its own double in the windowpane).

 

Kinbotes Foreword to Shades poem is dated Oct. 19, 1959 (on this day Kinbote completes his work on Shades poem and commits suicide). In a letter of October 19, 1836, to Chaadaev Pushkin says that the only difference between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox priests is that the latter are bearded:

 

Je conviens que notre clerg actuel est en retard. En voulez-vous savoir la raison? cest quil est barbu; voil tout.

 

In a letter of August 24, 1831, to Pushkin Vyazemski wonders if he should write a treatise about the Greek faith of our old grammarians or botanists who attributed the rose to masculine gender:

 

֧ݧӧ֧ܧ ڧ٧ӧ֧ߧԧ ӧܧ ӧѧݧڧݧ էߧ է֧ӧܧ ԧӧڧݧ: ߧ ܧѧ ٧. ԧӧڧ, ܧѧ ٧, ߧ էѧا ܧѧ ٧ѧ, ӧ֧ѧ ֧ݧӧ֧ ڧ٧ӧ֧ߧԧ ӧܧ. ҧ ߧ էާѧ, ӧ ֧ҧ ѧߧ֧ܧէ, ֧ ٧ѧӧڧ, ާ֧ԧ ڧߧ֧ߧڧ. ߧѧڧѧ ݧ ѧܧѧ ԧ֧֧ܧ ڧӧ֧էѧߧڧ ߧѧڧ ѧڧߧߧ ԧѧާѧ֧֧ ڧݧ ҧѧߧڧܧ, ܧ ߧ֧ݧ ٧ ާا֧ܧާ է?

 

In the presence of a man of certain tastes a girl was praised: she is as beautiful as roza (a rose). The man of certain tastes replied: she is even as beautiful as rozan.

 

A masculine form of roza, rozan (accented on the second syllable) brings to mind Rozanov, the author of Lyudi lunnogo sveta (People of the Moonlight, 1912). By people of the moonlight Rozanov (who argues that Leo Tolstoy and the philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, another bearded vegetarian, displayed the features of urningists) means homosexuals. Shades alter ego, Kinbote is gay.

 

In his review of Koncheyevs Communication Christopher Mortus (a loathsome critic in The Gift) quotes Rozanov:

 

ާߧ ܧ - ܧѧا֧, ٧ѧߧ, ԧӧڧ ԧէ-", - ߧѧڧߧѧ, ܧѧէڧ, ; , ڧӧ֧է ֧ӧ ߧ֧էӧ֧ߧ ڧѧ, ܧѧܧ- ާݧ, ܧ֧- ӧܧѧ٧ѧߧߧ ѧڧاܧ ܧѧ ݧ ֧- ݧ֧ܧڧ, ߧѧڧߧѧ اڧӧѧ ڧܧӧ֧ߧߧ ܧԧ ӧܧ "ҧ֧ߧڧ" ߧ֧֧ӧ, ڧק է ܧߧ ѧ ߧ ܧѧѧݧ ֧ߧ, ݧܧ ڧ٧֧էܧ ߧѧѧӧݧ ߧ֧ާ ާ֧ާ֧ڧ֧ܧڧ ا֧ ӧߧ֧ߧߧ֧ԧ ܧԧ - ܧاڧݧ. ݧѧݧ ߧ֧ ӧէ ֧ קߧ ڧѧݧ֧ ߧ ܧѧߧߧ ܧԧѧ, ܧ, ҧ֧٧ާߧ ֧ާݧ֧ߧڧ ҧѧڧ ާڧ֧ߧ, ҧ֧ܧߧ֧ߧ ӧѧѧ ӧڧڧߧѧ ҧ֧ݧڧߧܧڧ ާا֧ߧߧڧܧ.


I do not remember who saidperhaps Rozanov said it somewhere, began Mortus stealthily; and citing first this unauthentic quotation and then some thought expressed by somebody in a Paris caf after someones lecture, he began to narrow these artificial circles around Koncheyevs Communication; but even so, to the very end he never touched the center, but only directed now and then a mesmeric gesture toward it from the circumferenceand again revolved. The result was something in the nature of those black spirals on cardboard circles which are everlastingly spinning in the windows of Berlin ice-cream parlors in a crazy effort to turn into bulls-eyes. (Chapter Three)

 

The Russian word mortus comes from Latin mortuus (dead) and denotes a hospital attendant  who took away corpses during the epidemics, particularly, during the plague. Such an attendant appears at the end of Pushkins little tragedy Pir vo vremya chumy (A Feast in Time of Plague, 1830). In Pushkin's little tragedy "Mozart and Salieri" (1830) Salieri says that he cut up music like a corpse and Mozart uses the phrase nikto b (none would). Nikto b is Botkin (Shade's, Kinbote's and Gradus' "real" name) backwards.

 

In Chapter Three of The Gift Fyodor describes his juvenile metromania and mentions his collection of rhymes:

 

ڧާ ާ֧ ާ֧ ٧ ߧڧާ ݧاڧݧڧ ާ֧ߧ ѧܧڧ֧ܧ ڧ֧ާ ߧ֧ܧݧܧ ܧѧ֧ߧԧ էܧ. ߧ ҧݧ ѧ֧է֧ݧ֧ߧ ֧ާ֧ۧܧѧ, ݧѧݧڧ ԧߧ֧٧է ڧ, ֧ۧ٧ѧا ڧ. "֧ڧ" ѧ٧ ҧڧѧ ߧѧ ܧѧާ اԧ֧ ߧ ߧ֧ާڧߧ֧ էҧ. "֧ҧܧݧ" ߧѧѧӧݧ ާ٧ ҧѧݧܧߧ ܧѧ٧ӧѧ ֧ ߧ ܧݧ֧. "ӧ֧" է٧ӧѧݧ ާ֧, ߧ , ֧է ֧ާߧ. ӧ֧, ݧ֧, ӧ֧ ֧ ٧էѧӧѧݧ ҧ ѧާ֧ ѧӧ֧ܧԧ ҧѧݧ, ֧ߧܧԧ ܧߧԧ֧ ԧҧ֧ߧѧܧڧ ڧާ֧ߧڧ. "ݧѧ٧" ڧߧ֧ݧ ҧ֧ӧ ҧڧ٧, ԧ٧ ֧ܧ - ݧ ҧݧ ڧ ߧ ԧѧ. "֧֧ӧ" ܧߧ ݧ ѧ "ܧ֧ӧ", - ܧѧ ߧѧҧߧ ڧԧ "ԧէ", ӧ֧ڧ ҧݧ ֧էѧӧݧ֧ߧ ݧܧ էӧާ ԧէѧާ ( ѧߧڧ, , - էӧ֧ߧѧէѧ!). "֧֧" ҧ էڧߧ - ݧܧ ӧէѧݧ ҧ֧ԧѧ ߧ֧ڧӧݧ֧ܧѧ֧ݧߧ ֧֧, - է ݧ٧ӧѧݧѧ ֧ԧ ֧էݧاߧ ѧէ֧ا ܧާܧѧ ԧ, էڧ֧ݧߧ - ڧԧݧѧѧ ԧ֧ާ֧. ݧ ֧էܧڧ ܧ٧֧ާݧ - ާ ާ֧ѧާ, ѧӧݧ֧ާާ էݧ էԧڧ ֧էѧӧڧ֧ݧ֧ ֧ڧ, ӧէ "ѧާ֧ڧӧ", ܧާ ߧ ѧ٧ էܧѧ "֧֧ݧڧӧѧ" ӧ֧֧ߧߧ ߧ֧ڧާ֧ߧڧާԧ ߧ֧ڧӧԧ ڧѧӧ. ݧӧ, ҧݧ ֧ܧѧߧ ѧ٧ާ֧֧ߧߧѧ ܧݧݧ֧ܧڧ, ӧ֧ԧէ ާ֧ߧ ҧӧѧ ܧ.


As my hunt for them progressed, rhymes settled down into a practical system somewhat on the order of a card index. They were distributed in little familiesrhyme-clusters, rhymescapes. Letuchiy (flying) immediately grouped tuchi (clouds) over the kruchi (steeps) of the zhguchey (burning) desert and of neminuchey (inevitable) fate. Nebosklon (sky) let the muse onto the balkon (balcony) and showed her a klyon (maple). Tsvety (flowers) and ty (thou) summoned mechty (fancies) in the midst of temnoty (darkness). Svechi, plechi, vstrechi, and rechi (tapers, shoulders, meetings, and speeches) created the old-world atmosphere of a ball at the Congress of Vienna or on the town governors birthday. Glaza (eyes) shone blue in the company of biryuza (turquoise), groza (thunderstorm), and strekoza (dragonfly), and it was better not to get involved in the series. Derevya (trees) found themselves dully paired with kochevya (nomad encampments) as happens in the game in which one has to collect cards with the names of cities, with only two representing Sweden (but a dozen in the case of France!). Veter (wind) had no mate, except for a not very attractive setter running about in the distance, but by shifting into the genitive, one could get words ending in meter to perform (vetra-geometra). There were also certain treasured freaks, rhymes to which, like rare stamps in an album, were represented by blanks. Thus it took me a long time to discover that ametistovyy (amethystine) could be rhymed with perelistyvay (turn the pages), with neistovyy (furioso), and with the genitive case of an utterly unsuitable pristav (police constable). In short, it was a beautifully labeled collection that I had always close to hand.

 

In Chapter Four of EO (XLII: 1-4) Pushkin rhymes rozy (roses) with morozy (frosts):

 

ӧ ا ֧ѧ ާ٧
֧֧ҧ ֧է ݧ֧...
(ڧѧ֧ݧ اէ֧ ڧާ ٧;
, ӧ ӧ٧ާ ֧ ܧ֧!)

 

And there the frosts already crackle

and silver midst the fields

(the reader now expects the rhyme froze-rose C

here you are, take it quick!).

 

In his EO Commentary (vol. II, pp. 470-471) VN points out that morozy C rozy is a Russian example of what Pope calls (in his Essay on Criticism, ll. 349-351) sure returns still-expected rhymes:

 

Where-eer you find the cooling western breeze,

In the next line, it whispers thro the trees

 

Shade is an authority on Pope. In Canto Two of his poem Shade speaks of his daughter and mentions his book on Pope:

 

I think she always nursed a small mad hope.

 

I'd finished recently my book on Pope. (ll. 383-384)

 

Alexey Sklyarenko

Google Search
the archive
Contact
the Editors
NOJ Zembla Nabokv-L
Policies
Subscription options AdaOnline NSJ Ada Annotations L-Soft Search the archive VN Bibliography Blog

All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.