Miragarl, Arnor, three hundred camels & three fountains in Pale Fire

Submitted by dana_dragunoiu on Tue, 06/26/2018 - 07:57

From Kinbote’s note to Line 80 (“my bedroom”):

 

Our Prince was fond of Fleur as of a sister but with no soft shadow of incest or secondary homosexual complications. She had a small pale face with prominent cheekbones, luminous eyes, and curly dark hair. It was rumored that after going about with a porcelain cup and Cinderella's slipper for months, the society sculptor and poet Arnor had found in her what he sought and had used her breasts and feet for his Lilith Calling Back Adam; but I am certainly no expert in these tender matters. Otar, her lover, said that when you walked behind her, and she knew you were walking behind her, the swing and play of those slim haunches was something intensely artistic, something Arab girls were taught in special schools by special Parisian panders who were afterwards strangled. Her fragile ankles, he said, which she placed very close together in her dainty and wavy walk, were the "careful jewels" in Arnor's poem about a miragarl ("mirage girl"), for which "a dream king in the sandy wastes of time would give three hundred camels and three fountains.

 

          /                      /                 /            /

On sagaren werem tremkin tri stana
            /                    /            /            /
Verbalala wod gev ut tri phantana

 

(I have marked the stress accents.)

 

While miragarl seems to hint at Vyacheslav Ivanov’s play Lyubov’ – mirazh? (“Is Love a Mirage?” 1924), three hundred camels and three fountains bring to mind Tridtsat’ tri uroda (“Thirty-Three Abominations,” 1907), a short novel by Lydia Zinoviev-Annibal (Vyacheslav Ivanov’s wife). The main character in Tridtsat’ tri uroda is Vera (a beautiful Lesbian girl). In the Orthodox tradition Vera (Faith), Nadezhda (Hope) and Lyubov’ (Love) are the daughters of Sophia (Wisdom). The “real” name of Sybil Shade (the poet’s wife) seems to be Sofia Botkin (born Lastochkin), the “real” name of Hazel Shade (the poet’s daughter who always nursed a small mad hope) is Nadezhda Botkin. In Canto Two of his poem Shade says that Sybil’s pillow has been creased by her and his heads at least four thousand times:

 

We have been married forty years. At least
Four thousand times your pillow has been creased
By our two heads. Four hundred thousand times
The tall clock with the hoarse Westminster chimes
Has marked our common hour. How many more
Free calendars shall grace the kitchen door? (ll. 275-280)

 

In his memoirs Mezhdu dvukh revolyutsiy (“Between Two Revolutions,” 1934) Andrey Bely mentions “the Lesbian tale” of Lydia Zinoviev-Annibal and Vyacheslav Ivanov’s verses about 333 embraces:

 

Не любил я привздохов таких, после них пуще прежнего изобличая политику группочки; гневы мои заострились напрасно на Г. И. Чулкове; в прямоте последнего не сомневался; кричал благим матом он; очень бесили "молчальники", тайно мечтавшие на чулковских плечах выплыть к славе, хотя бы под флагом мистического анархизма; открыто признать себя "мистико-анархистами" они не решались; по ним я и бил, обрушиваясь на Чулкова, дававшего повод к насмешкам по поводу лозунгов, которые компрометировали для меня символизм; примазь уличной мистики и дешевого келейного анархизма казались мне профанацией; каждый кадетский присяжный поверенный в эти месяцы, руки засунув в штаны, утверждал: "Я, ведь, собственно... гм... анархист!" Я писал: Чехов более для меня символист, чем Морис Метерлинк; а тут - нате: "неизречённость" вводилась в салон; а анархия становилась свержением штанов под девизами "нового" культа; этого Чулков не желал; но писал неумно; вот "плоды" - лесбианская повесть Зиновьевой-Аннибал и педерастические стихи Кузмина; они вместе с программной лирикой Вячеслава Иванова о "333" объятиях брались слишком просто в эротическом, плясовом, огарочном бреде; "оргиазм" В. Иванова на языке желтой прессы понимался упрощенно: "свальным грехом"; почтенный же оргиаст лишь хитренько помалкивал: "Понимайте, как знаете!"

 

333 × 3 = 999. In its unfinished form Shade’s poem has 999 lines.

 

Lydia Zinoviev-Annibal is the author of Kol’tsa (“The Rings,” 1904), a play. Arnor is a fictional kingdom in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (1954). On the other hand, the name Arnor brings to mind Narr (“fool” in German). In Goethe’s Faust (1808) Faust mentions hunderttausend Narren (a hundred thousand fools):

 

Faust:

Was sagt sie uns für Unsinn vor?
Es wird mir gleich der Kopf zerbrechen.
Mich dünkt, ich hör ein ganzes Chor
Von hunderttausend Narren sprechen.

 

Faust

What nonsense she declaims before us!
My head is nigh to split, I fear:
It seems to me as if I hear
A hundred thousand fools in chorus. (Part One, “Witches’ Kitchen”)

 

Mephistopheles calls the witch who declaims nonsense treffliche Sibylle (“excellent Sibyl”):

 

Mephistopheles:

Genug, genug, o treffliche Sibylle!
Gib deinen Trank herbei, und fülle
Die Schale rasch bis an den Rand hinan;
Denn meinem Freund wird dieser Trunk nicht schaden:
Er ist ein Mann von vielen Graden,
Der manchen guten Schluck getan.

 

Mephistopheles:

O Sibyl excellent, enough of adjuration!
But hither bring us thy potation,
And quickly fill the beaker to the brim!
This drink will bring my friend no injuries:
He is a man of manifold degrees,

And many draughts are known to him. (ibid.)

 

While treffliche Sibylle brings to mind Shade’s wife Sybil, ein Mann von vielen Graden (“a man of manifold degrees”) reminds one of Shade’s murderer Gradus.  In the same note to Line 80 Kinbote mentions Sudarg of Bokay (Jakob Gradus in reverse), a mirror maker of genius:

 

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.

 

In the same chapter of Goethe’s tragedy Faust gazes in the Zauberspiegel (magic mirror) and Mephistopheles compares himself to the King (who lacks the crown):

 

Faust (welcher diese Zeit über vor einem Spiegel gestanden, sich ihm bald genähert, bald sich von ihm entfernt hat):

Was seh ich? Welch ein himmlisch Bild
Zeigt sich in diesem Zauberspiegel!
O Liebe, leihe mir den schnellsten deiner Flügel,
Und führe mich in ihr Gefild!
Ach wenn ich nicht auf dieser Stelle bleibe,
Wenn ich es wage, nah zu gehn,
Kann ich sie nur als wie im Nebel sehn! –
Das schönste Bild von einem Weibe!
Ist's möglich, ist das Weib so schön?
Muß ich an diesem hingestreckten Leibe
Den Inbegriff von allen Himmeln sehn?
So etwas findet sich auf Erden?

 

Mephistopheles:

Natürlich, wenn ein Gott sich erst sechs Tage plagt,
Und selbst am Ende Bravo sagt,
Da muß es was Gescheites werden.
Für diesmal sieh dich immer satt;
Ich weiß dir so ein Schätzchen auszuspüren,
Und selig, wer das gute Schicksal hat,
Als Bräutigam sie heim zu führen!

 

(Faust sieht immerfort in den Spiegel. Mephistopheles, sich in dem Sessel dehnend und mit dem Wedel spielend, fährt fort zu sprechen.)

 

Hier sitz ich wie der König auf dem Throne,
Den Zepter halt ich hier, es fehlt nur noch die Krone.

 

Faust (who during all this time has been standing before a mirror, now approaching and now retreating from it)

What do I see? What heavenly form revealed
Shows through the glass from Magic’s fair dominions!
O lend me, Love, the swiftest of thy pinions,
And bear me to her beauteous field!
Ah, if I leave this spot with fond designing,
If I attempt to venture near,
Dim, as through gathering mist, her charms appear! —
A woman’s form, in beauty shining!
Can woman, then, so lovely be?
And must I find her body, there reclining,
Of all the heavens the bright epitome?
Can Earth with such a thing be mated?

 

Mephistopheles 

Why, surely, if a God first plagues Himself six days,
Then, self-contented, Bravo! says,
Must something clever be created.
This time, thine eyes be satiate!
I’ll yet detect thy sweetheart and ensnare her,
And blest is he, who has the lucky fate,
Some day, as bridegroom, home to bear her.

 

(Faust gazes continually in the mirror. Mephistopheles, stretching himself out on the settle, and playing with the brush, continues to speak.)

 

So sit I, like the King upon his throne:
I hold the sceptre, here — and lack the crown alone. (“Witches’ Kitchen”)

 

Kinbote calls the slapdash disheveled hag whom Shade has been said to resemble “the third in the witch row:”

 

"Take my own case," continued my dear friend ignoring Mr. H. "I have been said to resemble at least four people: Samuel Johnson; the lovingly reconstructed ancestor of man in the Exton Museum; and two local characters, one being the slapdash disheveled hag who ladles out the mash in the Levin Hall cafeteria."

"The third in the witch row," I precised quaintly, and everybody laughed.

"I would rather say," remarked Mr. Pardon - American History - "that she looks like Judge Goldsworth" ("One of us," interposed Shade inclining his head), "especially when he is real mad at the whole world after a good dinner." (note to Line 894) 

 

In the same chapter of his memoirs “Between Two Revolutions” Bely quotes Goethe (who warns that from boundless romanticism to brothel is but a step) and mentions pesok sofizmov (the sand of sophisms) that some writers throw in women’s wide-open eyes:

 

Зная факты вредительства психик и помня предостережение Гёте, что от бескрайной романтики до публичного дома один только шаг, - я писал: "Лицевая сторона Фальков – эклектизм, в котором видел смерть Ницше... Песком софизмов бросают они в доверчиво раскрытые глаза женщины, чтобы она, потеряв зрение, не отбивалась от их объятий..." ("Арабески", стр. 10).

 

Bely makes a reference to his collection of essays Arabeski (“The Arabesques,” 1911). Arabeski (1835) is also the title of Gogol’s collection of stories. In his fragment Rim(“Rome,” 1842) Gogol describes a carnival in Rome and mentions the Italian sonnets with a coda. It seems that, to be completed, Shade’s 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”). In his Rimskie sonety (“Roman Sonnets,” 1924) Vyacheslav Ivanov (who spent his last years and died in Rome) mentions fountains and describes “the queen of fountains, Trevi.” In Canto Three of his poem Shade mentions a tall white fountain that he saw during a heart attack and describes his visits to Mrs Z. (who had a similar vision) and to Jim Coates (a reporter who wrote about Mrs Z.’s near-death experience). According to Jim Coates, “fountain” in his article should be “mountain:”

 

                                  I also called on Coates.
He was afraid he had mislaid her notes.
He took his article from a steel file:
"It's accurate. I have not changed her style.
There's one misprint--not that it matters much:
Mountain, not fountain. The majestic touch."
 (ll. 797-802)

 

In Pushkin’s Skazka o myortvoy tsarevne i semi bogatyryakh (“The Tale of the Dead Princes and the Seven Knights,” 1833) gora (mountain) rhymes with nora (hole, cave):

 

«Постой, —
Отвечает ветер буйный, —
Там за речкой тихоструйной
Есть высокая гора,
В ней глубокая нора;
В той норе, во тьме печальной,
Гроб качается хрустальный
На цепях между столбов.
Не видать ничьих следов
Вкруг того пустого места;
В том гробу твоя невеста».

 

"O hear!"
Said the Wind in turmoil blowing.
"Where a quiet stream is flowing
Stands a mountain high and steep
In it lies a cavern deep;
In this cave in shadows dismal
Sways a coffin, made of crystal.
Hung by chains from pillars six.

 

Arnor, nora (accented on the second syllable) and North have nor in them. In Pushkin’s “Tale of the Dead Princess” the Queen has a magic looking-glass:

 

Ей в приданое дано
Было зеркальце одно;
Свойство зеркальце имело:
Говорить оно умело.
С ним одним она была
Добродушна, весела,
С ним приветливо шутила
И, красуясь, говорила:
«Свет мой, зеркальце! скажи
Да всю правду доложи:
Я ль на свете всех милее,
Всех румяней и белее?»
И ей зеркальце в ответ:
«Ты, конечно, спору нет;
Ты, царица, всех милее,
Всех румяней и белее».

 

In her dowry rich and vast
Was a little looking-glass.
It had this unique distinction:
It could speak with perfect diction.
Only with this glass would she
In a pleasant humour be.

Many times a day she'd greet it
And coquettishly entreat it:
"Tell me, pretty looking-glass,
Nothing but the truth, I ask:
Who in all the world is fairest
And has beauty of the rarest?"
And the looking-glass replied:
"You, it cannot be denied.
You in all the world are fairest
And your beauty is the rarest."

 

The apple with which the evil Queen poisons her step-daughter brings to mind “the fortress of an apple” mentioned by Shade in his first conversation with Kinbote:

 

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 suggestion 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. (Foreword)

 

There is Blok in yabloko (apple). In his Epistle to Bryusov (1912) Alexander Blok mentions Bryusov’s collection Zerkalo teney (“The Mirror of Shadows”). Shade’s murderer, Gradus is a member of the Shadows, a regicidal organization which commissioned Gradus to assassinate the self-banished king of Zembla.