We are first introduced to Prof. Blue in Shade’s poem as
“the index, lean and glum/College astronomer Starover Blue." (L 189)
When I first read the poem, I thought, ‘What’s the point of this children’s hand game?’ The point, of course, is that the astronomer “points” to the stars. Stars are a motif in PF.
Prof. Blue is associated with “index.” We now know, through James Ramey’s fantastic sleuthing, the importance of PF’s index. I don’t know exactly what the connection is but I suspect there is even much more to learn there.
Another “children’s game” is suggested in C 189 (p. 127)
Line 189: Starover Blue
"See note to line 267. This reminds one of the Royal Game of the Goose, but played here with little airplanes of painted tin: a wild-goose game, rather (go to square 209.)”
Game of the Goose is a European board game that jumps around, forward and back, intimating that the commentary is also a game and Starover plays a part. What part?
“Square 209” may have a clue:
Line 209: gradual decay
“Gradus is flying west; he has reached gray-blue Copenhagen."
Is there some kind of connection between gray Gradus and blue Starover? Note the important Masonic word “gradual.” When Gradus gets to Copenhagen and meets with Oswin Bretwit, he is expected to give a secret handshake. Masons and other secret societies employ secret handshakes with their brethren.
Starover Blue is not only an astronomer, but an astrologer! He lectures at the metaphysical IPH.
“The great Starover Blue reviewed the role/Planets had played as landfalls of the Soul” (L 627)
Masons are heavily into Astrology as were Alchemists. Freemasonry is replete with astrological and alchemical lore and symbolism. Alchemists and Freemasons believe the “star” in man is his “destiny” and the indestructible essence that reincarnates.
“Masonic blue,” a deep indigo, is the heraldic color of Masonry. Their logo is called the “Blazing Star,” a radiating diamond-like star on a Masonic blue field surrounded by a golden edge. It is a “star over blue.”
Furthermore, Masons venerate this Blazing Star as symbolic of the vision seen by many contemplatives and meditators, known in Hindu as the “Blue Pearl.” When the mind is steadied and focused at the “third eye” one may see a luminous indigo blot with a sort of ragged edge. The center of the blue opens up to a darker blue background with a radiating blue-white star. This may become larger and larger until the star turns into an indigo blot like the first and then that repeats. (I know because I meditate and have seen this. It reminds me of watching fractals.)
Nabokov suggests this image as Gradus is heading toward the occultic/Masonic home of Joseph Lavender.
"Upon stopping above a vineyard, at the rough entrance of an unfinished house, he was shown by the three index fingers of three masons the tiled roof of Lavender’s villa high up in the ascending greenery on the opposite side of the road. […]While he was trudging up the walled walk with his eye one the rabbit foot of a poplar which now hid the red root at the top of the climb, now disclosed it, the sun found a weak spot among the rain clouds and next moment a ragged blue hole in them grew a radiant rim." (C 153)
Note the "three masons" pointing with their "index" fingers and the "ragged blue hole" and "radiant rim."
The importance of the Star over Blue is clearly emphasized in the astronomer/astrologer’s history, despite Kinbote’s Nabokovian denial (and deflection).
Line 627: The Great Starover Blue
"This name, no doubt, is most tempting. The star over the blue eminently suits an astronomer, though actuall neither his first nor secon name bears any relation to the clestial vault: the first was given him in memory of his grandfaather, a Russian starover (accente, incidentally, on the ultima), that is, Old Believer (member of a schismatic sect), named Sinyavin, from siniy, Russ, "blue." This sinyavin migrated from Saratov to Seattle and begot a son who eventually changed his name to Blue and marriedd Stella Lazurchik, an Americanized Kashube. So it goes."
Turning now to “Count Starov” in LATH:
LATH seems to be Nabokov’s artistic biography, the plot following his successive muses. Vadim’s first muse is Iris, a near anagram of Sirin, VN’s youthful pen-name of the firebird as his muse. Vadim recounts:
“On the gray eve of poverty, the author, then a self-exiled youth (I transcribe from an old diary), discovered an unexpected patron in the person of Count Starov, a grave old-fashioned Mason who had graced several great Embassies during a spacious span of international intercourse, and who since 1913 had resided in London.” (p.2)
Note: Grey, grave, graced, great----Gradus??? – connection to Starover Blue?? Although “Starov” means only “old” I would argue that there is a very Nabokovian suggestion here of a hint to Pale Fire and thus to “Starover Blue.” Count Starov is a Mason, thus a connection to “blue.”
Since the “Iris” plot takes place in VN’s youthful “Sirin” era, we might wonder who/what does Count Starov imply?
In his youth, whilst in the Crimean, Nabokov was mentored spiritually by a neighbor and friend of his father, an old Mason, Vladimir Pohl. He dedicated his early poem about the hierarchy of angels to Pohl. Masons study the angelic hierarchy on their gradual assent of degrees.
What else did young Vladimir learn about from his mentor? After all, Nabokov's father was also a Mason, and this relationship seems to be at his behest.