In my previous post (“shadow of the waxwing, Judge Goldsworth, Vinogradus, Leningradus & Starover Blue in Pale Fire”) I pointed out that the name Starover Blue (of a Professor at Wordsmith University) hints at parnasskiy starover (the Parnassian Old Believer) in Pushkin’s Epigramma (“Epigram,” 1829). But I forgot to mention Gradus ad Parnassum, a kind of Latin or Greek dictionary that also helps one to understand the principles of Latin verse composition, in relation to the values of the metrical feet. According to Kinbote (Shade’s mad commentator who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla), Gradus speculated that his name came from vinograd (grape):


Having a morbid affection for the ruddy Russia of the Soviet era, he contended that the real origin of his name should be sought in the Russian word for grape, vinograd, to which a Latin suffix had adhered, making in Vinogradus. (note to Line 17)


In the last stanza of her poem Zabolet’ by kak sleduet, v zhguchem bredu… (“If I could fall ill and in a hot delirium…” 1922) Anna Akhmatov mentions goluboy vinograd (the blue grape):


Заболеть бы как следует, в жгучем бреду

Повстречаться со всеми опять,

В полном ветра и солнца приморском саду

По широким аллеям гулять.


Даже мёртвые нынче согласны прийти,

И изгнанники в доме моём.

Ты ребёнка за ручку ко мне приведи,

Так давно я скучаю о нём.


Буду с милыми есть голубой виноград,

Буду пить ледяное вино

И глядеть, как струится седой водопад

На кремнистое влажное дно.


Vinograd in Anna Akhmatov’s poem rhymes with vodopad (waterfall). Derzhavin’s ode Vodopad (1794) begins as follows:


Алмазна сыплется гора
С высот четыремя скалами,
Жемчугу бездна и сребра
Кипит внизу, бьёт вверх буграми;
От брызгов синий холм стоит,
Далече рёв в лесу гремит.


The diamond mountain pours down

From the height in four rocks,

A lot of gems and silver

Boils beneath, etc.


The characters of Pale Fire include Andronnikov and Niagarin, the two Soviet experts hired by the new Zemblan government to find the crown jewels. Andronnikov is a character in Dostoevski’s novel Podrostok (“The Adolescent,” 1875). In his speech on Dostoevski Lunacharski (the minister of education in Lenin’s government) mentions the Niagara Falls. In a letter of Oct. 30, 1838 (Dostoevski’s seventeenth birthday), to his brother Mikhail the future author of “The Double” (1846) and Netochka Nezvanov (1849) twice uses the word gradus (degree). Shade shares with Kinbote and Gradus his birthday, July 5 (Shade was born in 1898, Kinbote and Gradus were born in 1915, seventeen years later). In his Foreword and Commentary Kinbote several times mentions Netochka (Prof. Nattochdag’s nickname).


In his book Derzhavin (1931) Hodasevich describes Derzhavin’s visit to Countess Branitski (Potyomkin’s beloved niece whose daughter Eliza married Count Vorontsov, the Governor of New Russia and a target of Pushkin’s epigrams) in the summer of 1813 and mentions Derzhavin’s “Waterfall” (in which the poet speaks of Potyomkin):


26 июля прибыли в Киев, провели там три дня, помолились в Лавре, осмотрели достопримечательности и поехали под Белую Церковь, в имение графини Браницкой, той самой племянницы Потёмкина, на руках у которой он умер дорогою в Николаев. Перед памятью дяди графиня благоговела; в его честь был воздвигнут ею род пантеона, где бюст Державина высился среди прочих. Графа Ксаверия Петровича не случилось дома. Зато Элиза, кокетливая и быстроглазая дочка графини, в любезности не отставала от матери. Державину был оказан приём зараз торжественный и сердечный — как автору «Водопада» и старому другу.


Charles Xavier Vseslav (the full name of Charles the Beloved) brings to mind Count Ksaveriy Petrovich (Eliza’s father who was absent at the time of Derzhavin’s visit). On the other hand, John Francis Shade (Shade’s full name) reminds one of Franciszek Ksawery Branicki (the Count’s Polish name).


In the preceding paragraph of his book on Derzhavin Hodasevich points out that the author of “Waterfall” loved all winged creatures and dedicated poems not only to different birds but even to the mosquito:


Как он любил всё крылатое! Недаром воспел не только орла, соловья, лебедя и павлина, но и ласточку, ястреба, сокола, голубя, аиста, пеночку, зяблика, снигиря, синичку, желну, чечётку, тетерева, бекаса и, наконец, даже комара…


At the beginning of his poem Pokhvala komaru (“In Praise of the Mosquito,” 1807) Derzhavin, among other poets, mentions Pope (who praised a lock of a woman’s hair), Lomonosov (who praised the dignity of mustache) and Virgil (to whom the authorship of Culex was ascribed):


Пиндар воспевал орла,
Митрофанов — сокола́,
А Гомер, хоть для игрушек,
Прославлял в грязи лягушек;
Попе — женских клок власов,
И Вольтер, я мню, в издевку
Величал простую девку,
Ломоносов — честь усов.
Я, в деревне, для забавы,
В подражание их славы,
Проворчу тара-бара.
Стройся, лира восхищенна,
Слышь Виргилья вновь, вселенна:
Я пою днесь Комара!


The author of The Rape of the Lock (1712), Pope mentions Zembla in his Essay on Man (1733-34):


But where th' extreme of vice, was ne'er agreed:

Ask where's the North? at York, 'tis on the Tweed;

In Scotland, at the Orcades; and there,

At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where:

No creature owns it in the first degree,

But thinks his neighbour farther gone than he! (Epistle Two, V)


Shade’s murderer, Gradus (whose name means “degree”) was in the glass business and 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 (Kinbote’s note to Line 17). Lomonosov is the author of Pis’mo o pol’ze stekla (“Letter on the Use of Glass,” 1752) and Gimn borode (“A Hymn to the Beard,” 1757), a poem in which Lomonosov praises chest’ usov (the dignity of mustache). Kinbote (who was nicknamed “the great beaver”) has a brown beard of a rather rich tint and texture. In Canto Four of his poem Shade describes shaving and mentions old Zembla’s fields:


And while the safety blade with scrap and screak
Travels across the country of my cheek,
Cars on the highway pass, and up the steep
Incline big trucks around my jawbone creep,
And now a silent liner docks, and now
Sunglassers tour Beirut, and now I plough
Old Zembla's fields where my gray stubble grows,
And slaves make hay between my mouth and nose. (ll. 931-38)


Senokos (“Haymaking,” 1856) is a poem by Apollon Maykov. In Maykov’s lyrical drama Tri smerti (“The Three Deaths,” 1851) Lucius mentions ritor borodatyi (a bearded teacher of rhetoric) and calls his rab (slave):


И что за счастье, что когда-то

Укажет ритор бородатый

В тебе для школьников урок!..

До тайн грядущих - нет мне дела!

И здесь ли кончу я свой век

Иль будет жить душа без тела -

Всё буду я не человек!..

Ну, а теперь, пока я в силе,

С почётом отпустить могу

Я тело - старого слугу...

Эй, раб!


In his essay “Derzhavin” (1916), written for the hundredth anniversary of Derzhavin’s death, Hodasevich says that Derzhavin could have repeated Lucius’ words:


Как бы он разворчался, как гневно бы запахнул халат свой, как нахлобучил бы колпак на лысое темя, видя, во что превратилась его слава, -- слава, купленная годами трудов, хлопот, неурядиц, подчас унижений -- и божественного, поэтического парения. С какой досадой и горечью он, этот российский Анакреон, "в мороз, у камелька" воспевавший Пламиду, Всемилу, Милену, Хлою, -- мог бы сказать словами другого, позднейшего поэта:


И что за счастье, что когда-то

Укажет ритор бородатой

В тебе для школьников урок!..


And what pleasure can be in the fact

That someday a bearded teacher of rhetoric

Will point at you as a lesson for the school children!


The action in “The Three Death” takes place in Rome during the reign of Nero (one of the three main characters is Seneca, Nero’s tutor and adviser). As he speaks to Lucan (the poet), Lucius says that in his “Epistle to Death” Lucan boldly took off from the skeleton of death the flowers of earthly fantasy:


"Посланье к смерти" помнишь ты?

В нём есть высокие черты!

С скелета смерти снял ты смело

Земной фантазии цветы...


Zemnoy fantazii tsvety (the flowers of earthly fantasy) bring to mind Fleur de Fyler, an elegant lady-in-waiting who appears in Kinbote’s Commentary:


Her presence at night did not kill insomnia, but at least kept at bay the strong ghost of Queen Blenda. Between exhaustion and drowsiness, he trifled with paltry fancies, such as getting up and pouring out a little cold water from a decanter onto Fleur’s naked shoulder so as to extinguish upon it the weak gleam of a moonbeam. Stentoriously the Countess snored in her lair. And beyond the vestibule of his vigil (here he began falling asleep), in the dark cold gallery, lying all over the painted marble and piled three or four deep agains the lock door, some dozing, some whimpering, were his new boy pages, a whole mountain of gift boys from Troth, Tuscany, and Albanoland.

He awoke to find her standing with a comb in her hand before his—or, rather, his grandfather’s—cheval glass, a triptych of bottomless light, a really fantastic mirror, signed with a diamond by its maker, Sudarg of Bokay. She turned about before it: a secret device of reflection gathered an infinite number of nudes in its depths, garlands of girls in graceful and sorrowful groups, diminishing in the limpid distance, or breaking into individual nymphs, some of whom, she murmured, must resemble her ancestors when they were young—little peasant garlien combing their hair in shallow water as far as the eye could reach, and then the wistful mermaid from an old tale, and then nothing. (note to Line 80)


Sudarg of Bokay is Jakob Gradus in reverse. In Kinbote’s Index to Pale Fire there is an entry on him:


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


In Nadpis’ na knige (“The Inscription on the Book,” 1940), the first poem in her collection Nechet (“Odd,” 1936-46), Anna Akhmatov mentions Sada Letnego reshyotka (the fence of the Letniy Sad), osnezhyonnyi Leningrad (Leningrad covered by snow) and mgla magicheskikh zerkal (the mist of magical mirrors):


И Сада Летнего решётка,

И оснежённый Ленинград
Возникли, словно в книге этой
Из мглы магических зеркал...
И над задумчивою Летой
Тростник оживший зазвучал.


In his Commentary Kinbote mockingly calls Gradus “Leningradus” and “Vinogradus:”


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. (note to Line 171)


In Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (One: III: 14) Monsieur l’Abbé (Onegin’s French tutor) took the boy to the Letniy Sad (Le Jardin d’Eté, a public park on the Neva embankment) for walks. As a young man, Onegin remembered, though not without fault, two lines from Virgil’s Aeneid (One: VI: 7-8). It seems that, to be completed, Shade’s almost finished poem needs two lines:


I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By its own double in the windowpane. [ll. 1000-1001]


Thus, in both unfinished and finished form the total number of lines in Shade’s poem is odd. In the first line of the second poem in her cycle V Tsarskom Sele (“In Tsarskoe Selo,” 1911) Anna Akhmatov mentions her mramornyi dvoynik (marble double):


А там мой мраморный двойник,
Поверженный под старым клёном,
Озёрным водам отдал лик,
Внимает шорохам зелёным.

И моют светлые дожди
Его запёкшуюся рану…
Холодный, белый, подожди,
Я тоже мраморною стану.


Dvoynik rhymes with vorotnik (collar). In Chapter One of EO Pushkin mentions Onegin’s bobrovyi vorotnik (beaver collar) and female feet trampling veshnie tsvety (vernal flowers). Fleur de Fyler is “defiler of flowers.” In the first line of her epistle (1940) to her main rival Anna Akhmatov calls Marina Tsvetaev (whose surname comes from tsvet, “flower; color”) nevidimka, dvoynik, peresmeshnik (the invisible woman, the double, the mockingbird):


Невидимка, двойник, пересмешник...

Что ты прячешься в чёрных кустах?

То забьёшься в дырявый скворешник,

То блеснёшь на погибших крестах...

То кричишь из Маринкиной башни:

"Я сегодня вернулась домой,

Полюбуйтесь, родимые пашни,

Что за это случилось со мной!

Поглотила любимых пучина,

И разграблен родительский дом..."

Мы сегодня с тобою, Марина,

По столице полночной идём,

А за нами таких миллионы,

И безмолвнее шествия нет...

А вокруг погребальные звоны

Да московские хриплые стоны

Вьюги, наш заметающей след.


In Canto One of his poem Shade mentions the naive, the gauzy mockingbird:


TV's huge paperclip now shines instead
Of the stiff vane so often visited
By the naive, the gauzy mockingbird
Retelling all the programs that she had heard;
Switching from chippo-chippo to a clear
To-wee, to-wee; then rasping out: come here,
Come here, come herrr'; flitting her tail aloft,
Or gracefully indulging in a soft
Upward hop-flop, and instantly (to-wee!)
Returning to her perch--the new TV. (ll. 61-70)


Kinbote completes his work on Shade’s poem and commits suicide on October 19, 1959 (the anniversary of Pushkin’s Lyceum). In her poem Smuglyi otrok brodil po alleyam… (“The dark-skinned boy walked along the avenues…”) Anna Akhmatov mentions the hardly audible rustle of Pushkin’s footsteps in the park of Tsarskoe Selo (where the Lyceum was founded in 1811):


Смуглый отрок бродил по аллеям,
У озёрных грустил берегов,
И столетие мы лелеем
Еле слышный шелест шагов.

Иглы сосен густо и колко
Устилают низкие пни…
Здесь лежала его треуголка
И растрёпанный том Парни.


Nizkie pni (the low tree-stumps) in line 6 bring to mind Pnin, the title character of a novel (1957) by VN. In Anna Akhmatov’s poem pni rhymes with Parni (Parny in Russian spelling). Accented on the first syllable, parni (pl. of paren’) means “lads.” A homosexual, Kinbote prefers lads to lasses. In his poem Podrazhanie arabskomu (“Imitation of the Arabic,” 1835) Pushkin tells otrok milyi, otrok nezhnyi (sweet lad, tender lad) that they are dvoynoy oreshek (a twin kernel) under the single nut-shell. “The Arabian Nights” are also known “One Thousand and One Nights.”


Liza Bogolepov (Pnin’s ex-wife) writes poetry imitating Anna Akhmatov. There is Bog (God) in Liza’s surname. Bog (1784) is the second of Derzhavin’s great odes. The first great ode of Derzhavin is Felitsa (1782). Felitsa is the feminine form of Felix. In VN’s novel Otchayanie (“Despair,” 1934) Hermann kills Felix, the man in whom Hermann sees his perfect double. Hermann’s patronymic, Karlovich, brings to mind Charles the Beloved.


Oda (ode) rhymes with coda. The (unwritten) last line of Shade’s poem (and Kinbote’s Commentary) is its coda. In his fragment “Rome” (1842) Gogol explains what a coda is. In his poem Gogol (1853) Vyazemski calls Gogol peresmeshnik nash zabavnyi (our amusing mockingbird) and Gamlet nash (our Hamlet):


Ты, загадкой своенравной
Промелькнувший на земле,
Пересмешник наш забавный
С думой скорби на челе.


Гамлет наш! Смесь слёз и смеха,
Внешний смех и тайный плач,
Ты, несчастный от успеха,
Как другой от неудач.


In his famous monologue in Shakespeare’s play (3.1) Hamlet mentions “a bare bodkin.” In his Index entry on Botkin, V. Kinbote mentions “botkin or bodkin, a Danish stiletto:”


Botkin, V., American scholar of Russian descent, 894; king-bot, maggot of extinct fly that once bred in mammoths and is thought to have hastened their phylogenetic end, 247; bottekin-maker, 71; bot, plop, and boteliy, big-bellied (Russ.); botkin or bodkin, a Danish stiletto.


In his “Silhouettes of Russian Writers” the critic Yuli Ayhenvald compares Griboedov’s style to a stiletto:


Диалог, живой, блестящий, скорый, движется непринужденно и грациозно, и каждый раз вспыхивают, как чешуя змеи, красивые искры остроумия, и точно скрещиваются перед вами гибкие рапиры. Вообще, много острого, умного, колкого. У Грибоедова не стиль, а стилет.


The title of Griboedov’s comedy, Gore ot uma (“Who from Wit,” 1824), brings to mind Gorenko (Anna Akhmatov’s real name).


At the end of his essay on Anna Akhmatov in “The Silhouettes of Russian Writers” Ayhenvald quotes Anna Akhmatov’s poem Ya sprosila u kukushki… (“I asked the cuckoo…” 1919), calls Anna Akhmatov “the last flower of the noble Russian culture” and mentions nadezhda na budushchee (hope for the future):


Я спросила у кукушки,

Сколько лет я проживу...

Сосен дрогнули верхушки.

Жёлтый луч упал в траву.

Но ни звука в чаще свежей...

Я иду домой,

И прохладный ветер нежит

Лоб горячий мой.


Было бы очень счастливо для русской поэзии, если бы кукушка ошиблась. Ибо нужна духовной России Анна Ахматова, последний цветок благородной русской культуры, хранительница поэтического благочестия, такое олицетворение прошлого, которое способно утешить в настоящем и подать надежду на будущее.


At the end of Pnin the hero leaves Waindell in his sedan and appears again in Pale Fire, as the Head of the bloated Russian Department at Wordsmith University. In his Commentary Kinbote mentions Prof. Pnin and Prof. Botkin in the same note:


Speaking of the Head of the bloated Russian Department, Prof. Pnin, a regular martinet in regard to his underlings (happily, Prof. Botkin, who taught in another department, was not subordinated to that grotesque "perfectionist"): "How odd that Russian intellectuals should lack all sense of humor when they have such marvelous humorists as Gogol, Dostoevski, Chekhov, Zoshchenko, and those joint authors of genius Ilf and Petrov." (note to Line 172)


Shade’s, Kinbote’s and Gradus’ “real” name seems to be Botkin. An American scholar of Russian descent, Professor Vsevolod Botkin went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after the tragic death of his daughter Nadezhda (“Hazel Shade” of Kinbote’s commentary). There is a hope that after Kinbote’s suicide Botkin, like Count Vorontsov (“half-milord, half-merchant, etc.”), will be full again.


Here is a revised version of the third anagram in my previous post:


khlev + Kinbote + Lolita = Khlebnikov + telo/leto + tail/lait


khlev – stable; Jesus Christ was born among the animals in the stable

Lolita – in Canto Three of his poem Shade mentions Hurricane Lolita that swept from Florida to Maine

telo – body

leto – summer

lait – Fr., milk


Alexey Sklyarenko

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