NABOKV-L post 0026586, Sat, 31 Oct 2015 01:06:59 +0300

first word & last line in Pale Fire
In Shade's poem the first word is "I":

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By the false azure in the windowpane (ll. 1-2)

At the beginning of Hodasevich's poem Pered zerkalom ("In Front of the
Mirror," 1924), with the epigraph Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita (the
opening line of Dante's Inferno), the word я (I) is repeated three times:

Я, я, я! Что за дикое слово!
Неужели вон тот - это я?
Разве мама любила такого,
Жёлто-серого, полуседого
И всезнающего, как змея?

Me, me, me. What a preposterous word!
Can that man there really be me?
Did Mama really love this face,

dull yellow with greying edges
like an ancient know-it-all snake?

(transl. Peter Daniels)

In the poem's last stanza Hodasevich mentions Virgil (Dante's guide in the

Да, меня не пантера прыжками
На парижский чердак загнала.
И Виргилия нет за плечами,-
Только есть одиночество - в раме
Говорящего правду стекла.

Well, there was no leaping panther
chasing me up to my Paris garret,
and there's no Virgil at my shoulder -
there's only my singular self in the frame
of the talking, truthtelling looking-glass.

Virgil is the author of the Aeneid. In Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (One: VI:
7-8) Onegin (who had enough knowledge of Latin to make out the epigraphs)
"remembered, though not without fault, two lines from the Aeneid." It seems
to me that Shade's unfinished poem needs dva stikha (two lines) to be

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

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

Dvoynik ("The Double," 1914) is a poem by Alexander Blok (the author of
Pesn' Ada, "the Song of Hell," 1909, written, like Dante's Inferno, in terza
rima). Dvoynik ends as follows:

Быть может, себя самого
Я встретил на глади зеркальной?

Perhaps, I met myself

On the mirror's smooth surface?

In his review of Hodasevich's Sobranie stikhov ("Collection of Poems," 1927)
VN says that in Hodasevich's poems written in blank verse one can perceive a
vague influence of Blok. On the other hand, VN speaks of an "optical" aspect
in Hodasevich's poetry and mentions numerous reflections in a mirror,
windowpane, etc. in his poems:

Очень интересен в творчестве Ходасевича некий
оптическо-аптекарско-химическо-анатомический налёт на многих его стихах.
Обыкновенно у него это прием заключительный: "в душе и мире есть пробелы,
как бы от пролитых кислот" (так кончается стихотворение "Автомобиль").
Другое стихотворение кончается так: ":светлый космос возникает под зыбким
пологом ресниц, он кружится и расцветает звездой велосипедных спиц". К той
же оптической области относятся многочисленные упоминания отражений в
зеркале, в оконном стекле и т. д. "Неузнанный проходит Каин с экземою между
бровей" или "и так отрадно, что в аптеке есть кисленький пирамидон" тоже
хорошие примеры заключительных аккордов Ходасевича.

Btw., Queen Disa (the wife of Charles the Beloved, the last king of Zembla)
and her villa Paradisa (that lost the first half of its name) hint at Dis
Pater (in the Aeneid the ruler of the underworld), the City of Dis (in
Dante's Inferno Lower Hell named after Virgil's Dis) and at Paradiso (the
third part of Dante's Divine Comedy). In the closing stanza of his poem
Ravenna (1909) that opens the cycle Italian Verses (1909) Blok mentions the
eagle-profiled shade of Dante (who died and was buried in Ravenna):

Лишь по ночам, склонясь к долинам,
Ведя векам грядущим счёт,
Тень Данта с профилем орлиным
О Новой Жизни мне поёт.

Only at night, bending over the valleys,

Counting the ages to come,

The eagle-profiled shade of Dante

Of Vita Nuova sings to me.

Dante was born in Florence. In VN's memory the tragic death of his father
was forever connected with Blok's poem about Florence (also included in
Italian Verses).


Alexey Sklyarenko

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