NABOKV-L post 0020480, Sat, 7 Aug 2010 13:13:22 -0400

Re: from Ron Rosenbaum re Pale Firings
I think that I am disinclined,
even at five in the afternoon,
to sing a chorus of Prickly Pear!

Nonetheless I feel obliged
to say that to my untaught eye
there's little here, specifically,
that argues to, convincingly,
a role for Hazel in the act
of charting out her dad's last poem.

Who doubts New Wye is spiritual?
Old Pan still calls from every hill,
And Browning's Pippa's singing still!
Birds, cicadas, butterflies,
in song and flight memorialize
Hazel's plight and Shade's lament.
Alas, enough is still not spent
to buy a ghost a sure by-line.

And in conclusion let me pray
no spirits flag in disarray,
so that at sunset all might say:

Luminous, numinous,
et cum spiritu tuo, Sanctus,


On Aug 7, 2010, at 3:10 AM, wrote:

> I don’t want to recapitulate my whole argument, but ... just ask
> about one detail in Pale Fire ...which no one else seems to account
> for?
> Nabokov goes out of his way to introduce an allusion to Robert
> Browning’s Pippa Passes in the note on the Haunted Barn (Commentary
> 347)...
> Now Pippa Passes is about a young woman... who influences four
> people in major ways without their recognizing it.
> And this note shows Hazel obsessed with what she takes to be the
> ghostly light in the Haunted Barn...Hazel’s jottings from the
> barn ... the transcribed message pada ata lane pad not ogo old wart
> alan ther tale feur far rant lant tal told.
> ... both Vladimir and Vera Nabokov separately explained this as ...
> “father not to go across the lane to Goldsworth’s where a tale from
> a foreign land will be told” (NPF 273-74n5). seems evidence
> that the characters in the novel cannot see, but that we can ...,
> that there is ghostly signalling to the living in the world of the
> novel, and that Kinbote... wants to read the message as a
> foreshadowing of Hazel’s suicide, and ... imagines a dramatized ...
> stage direction “Life is hopeless, afterlife heartless,” is ...
> thoroughly mistaken.
> ... the word atalanta, as in the butterfly Vanessa atalanta, recurs
> three times in this message--
> pada ATA LANe pad noT go ld wArT ALAN Ther tAle feur far rAnT LANT
> Ant tal told
> --a pattern ... this second resonance inside the first, ... links
> with the ... Vanessa atalanta that flies around Shade... just after
> he writes line 999 and ... just before he is shot.
> ... this same note also ends with ... “The Nature of Electricity,”
> where Shade playfully imagines ghosts as the forces behind electric
> lights... and streetlight number 999, perhaps, “is an old friend of
> mine.” Shade writes a 999-line poem with a title drawn from
> Shakespeare’s phrase ...
> ...the uninterpreted message from a ghostly light in the haunted
> barn; Shade’s writing a poem about ghostly lights, including
> Shakespeare and a ghost in streetlamp 999; the underworld and
> Shakespeare in Onhava and the Shakespearean trees in New Wye; and
> the atalanta that visits Shade after he finishes 999 and unknowingly
> ignores the message in the haunted barn as he walks across the lane
> to his death.
> Now why does Nabokov ... link into this note on the Haunted Barn the
> allusion to Browning’s Pippa Passes ...?
> Will it have nothing to do with the daughter whom Shade introduces
> into his poem by referring to “the phantom of my little daughter’s
> swing” and then by Sybil greeting “her ghost,” and who in this very
> note shows her own obsession with the ghostly, and actually records
> what we and the Nabokovs, but no mortal within the novel, can read
> as a prophetic ghostly message?
> Kinbote ... cannot recognize the source of the Shakespearean phrase
> “pale fire.” He also names for us... the trees he recognizes in “the
> famous avenue of all the trees mentioned by Shakespeare” (C.
> 47-48)... he does not recognize the hazel that features in The
> Taming of the Shrew. (And that just after the initial mention of
> “the famous avenue of all the trees mentioned by Shakespeare” in C.
> 47-48 comes the phrase “the hint of a haze.”)
> ... Should we ignore these? ...
> Brian Boyd

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