Odon, one-legged Mandevil & anti-matter in Pale Fire

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Thu, 09/06/2018 - 09:19

In his Commentary to Shade’s poem Kinbote (who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla) mentions Odon (a world-famous actor and Zemblan patriot who helps the King to escape from Zembla) and a mad Mandevil who had lost a leg in trying to make anti-matter:

 

For almost a whole year after the King's escape the Extremists remained convinced that he and Odon had not left Zembla. The mistake can be only ascribed to the streak of stupidity that fatally runs through the most competent tyranny. Airborne machines and everything connected with them cast a veritable spell over the minds of our new rulers whom kind history had suddenly given a boxful of these zipping and zooming gadgets to play with. That an important fugitive would not perform by air the act of fleeing seemed to them inconceivable. Within minutes after the King and the actor had clattered down the backstairs of the Royal Theater, every wing in the sky and on the ground had been accounted for - such was the efficiency of the government. During the next weeks not one private or commercial plane was allowed to take off, and the inspection of transients became so rigorous and lengthy that international lines decided to cancel stopovers at Onhava. There were some casualties. A crimson balloon was enthusiastically shot down and the aeronaut (a well-known meteorologist) drowned in the Gulf of Surprise. A pilot from a Lapland base flying on a mission of mercy got lost in the fog and was so badly harassed by Zemblan fighters that he settled atop a mountain peak. Some excuse for all this could be found. The illusion of the King's presence in the wilds of Zembla was kept up by royalist plotters who decoyed entire regiments into searching the mountains and woods of our rugged peninsula. The government spent a ludicrous amount of energy on solemnly screening the hundreds of impostors packed in the country's jails. Most of them clowned their way back to freedom; a few, alas, fell. Then, in the spring of the following year, a stunning piece of news came from abroad. The Zemblan actor Odon was directing the making of a cinema picture in Paris!

It was now correctly conjectured that if Odon had fled, the King had fled too: At an extraordinary session of the Extremist government there was passed from hand to hand, in grim silence, a copy of a French newspaper with the headline: L'EX-ROI DE ZEMBLA EST-IL À PARIS? Vindictive exasperation rather than state strategy moved the secret organization of which Gradus was an obscure member to plot the destruction of the royal fugitive. Spiteful thugs! They may be compared to hoodlums who itch to torture the invulnerable gentleman whose testimony clapped them in prison for life. Such convicts have been known to go berserk at the thought that their elusive victim whose very testicles they crave to twist and tear with their talons, is sitting at a pergola feast on a sunny island or fondling some pretty young creature between his knees in serene security - and laughing at them! One supposes that no hell can be worse than the helpless rage they experience as the awareness of that implacable sweet mirth reaches them and suffuses them, slowly destroying their brutish brains. A group of especially devout Extremists calling themselves the Shadows had got together and swore to hunt down the King and kill him wherever he might be. They were, in a sense, the shadow twins of the Karlists and indeed several had cousins or even brothers among the followers of the King. No doubt, the origin of either group could be traced to various reckless rituals in student fraternities and military clubs, and their development examined in terms of fads and anti-fads; but, whereas an objective historian associates a romantic and noble glamor with Karlism, its shadow group must strike one as something definitely Gothic and nasty. The grotesque figure of Gradus, a cross between bat and crab, was not much odder than many other Shadows, such as, for example, Nodo, Odon's epileptic half-brother who cheated at cards, or a mad Mandevil who had lost a leg in trying to make anti-matter. (note to Line 171)

 

In a letter of Feb. 10, 1831, to Krivtsov (who had lost a leg in the battle of Kulm) Pushkin says ty bez nogi (you are one-legged), a ya zhenat (and I am married):

 

Посылаю тебе, милый друг, любимое моё сочинение. Ты некогда баловал первые мои опыты — будь благосклонен и к произведениям более зрелым. Что ты делаешь в своём уединении? Нынешней осенью был я недалеко от тебя. Мне брюхом хотелось с тобой увидаться и поболтать о старине — карантины мне помешали. Таким образом, бог ведает, когда и где судьба сведёт нас опять. Мы не так-то легки на подъём. Ты без ноги, а я женат.

Женат — или почти. Всё, что бы ты мог сказать мне в пользу холостой жизни и противу женитьбы, всё уже много передумано. Я хладнокровно взвесил выгоды и невыгоды состояния, мною избираемого. Молодость моя прошла шумно и бесплодно. До сих пор я жил иначе, как обыкновенно живут. Счастья мне не было. Il n’est de bonheur que dans les voies communes. Мне за 30 лет. В тридцать лет люди обыкновенно женятся — я поступаю как люди и, вероятно, не буду в том раскаиваться. К тому же я женюсь без упоения, без ребяческого очарования. Будущность является мне не в розах, но в строгой наготе своей. Горести не удивят меня: они входят в мои домашние расчёты. Всякая радость будет мне неожиданностию.

 

A week later, on Feb. 18, 1831, Pushkin finally married Natalia Goncharov. In a letter (quoted by Veresaev in “Pushkin in Life” and by Shchyogolev in “The Duel and Death of Pushkin”) of Feb. 19, 1831, to his brother A. Bulgakov predicts that Pushkin’s wife will be Milady Byron:

 

Итак, совершилась эта свадьба, которая так долго тя­нулась. Ну, да как будет хороший муж? То-то всех удивит, — никто не ожидает, а все сожалеют о ней. Я сказал Грише Корсакову: быть ей миледи Байрон. Он пересказал Пушкину, который смеялся только.

 

The epigraph to Chapter Eight of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin is from Byron’s famous poem to his wife:

 

Fare thee well, and if for ever
Still for ever fare thee well.

 

Byron.

 

In Chapter Two (XIV: 6-7) of EO Pushkin mentions dvunogikh tvarey milliony (the millions of two-legged creatures) who for us are orudie odno (only tools):

 

Но дружбы нет и той меж нами.
Все предрассудки истребя,

Мы почитаем всех нулями,
А единицами – себя.

Мы все глядим в Наполеоны;
Двуногих тварей миллионы
Для нас орудие одно;

Нам чувство дико и смешно.
Сноснее многих был Евгений;
Хоть он людей, конечно, знал
И вообще их презирал, —
Но (правил нет без исключений)
Иных он очень отличал
И вчуже чувство уважал.

 

But in our midst there’s even no such friendship:

Having destroyed all the prejudices,

We deem all people naughts

And ourselves units.

We all expect to be Napoleons;

the millions of two-legged creatures

for us are only tools;

feeling to us is weird and ludicrous.

More tolerant than many was Eugene,

though he, of course, knew men

and on the whole despised them;

but no rules are without exceptions:

some people he distinguished greatly

and, though estranged from it, respected feeling.

 

Odno (neut. of odin, “one”) = Odon = Nodo

 

At the end of his Commentary Kinbote says that he may join forces with Odon in a new motion picture and mentions a million photographers:

 

God will help me, I trust, to rid myself of any desire to follow the example of the other two characters in this work. I shall continue to exist. I may assume other disguises, other forms, but I shall try to exist. I may turn up yet, on another campus, as an old, happy, health heterosexual Russian, a writer in exile, sans fame, sans future, sans audience, sans anything but his art. I may join forces with Odon in a new motion picture: Escape from Zembla (ball in the palace, bomb in the palace square). I may pander to the simple tastes of theatrical critics and cook up a stage play, an old-fashioned melodrama with three principles: a lunatic who intends to kill an imaginary king, another lunatic who imagines himself to be that king, and a distinguished old poet who stumbles by chance into the line of fire, and perishes in the clash between the two figments. Oh, I may do many things! History permitting, I may sail back to my recovered kingdom, and with a great sob greet the gray coastline and the gleam of a roof in the rain. I may huddle and groan in a madhouse. But whatever happens, wherever the scene is laid, somebody, somewhere, will quietly set out--somebody has already set out, somebody still rather far away is buying a ticket, is boarding a bus, a ship, a plane, has landed, is walking toward a million photographers, and presently he will ring at my door--a bigger, more respectable, more competent Gradus. (note to Line 1000)

 

In his essay Pouchkine ou le vrai et le vraisemblable (“Pushkin, or the Real and the Plausible,” 1937) VN points out that, had Pushkin lived a couple of years longer, we would have had his photograph. Le vraisemblable in the title of VN’s French essay on Pushkin brings to mind resemblances mentioned by Shade in a conversation at the Faculty Club:

 

Pictures of the King had not infrequently appeared in America during the first months of the Zemblan Revolution. Every now and then some busybody on the campus with a retentive memory, or one of the clubwomen who were always after Shade and his eccentric friend, used to ask me with the inane meaningfulness adopted in such cases if anybody had told me how much I resembled that unfortunate monarch. I would counter with something on the lines of "all Chinese look alike" and change the subject. One day, however, in the lounge of the Faculty Club where I lolled surrounded by a number of my colleagues, I had to put up with a particularly embarrassing onset. A visiting German lecturer from Oxford kept exclaiming, aloud and under his breath, that the resemblance was "absolutely unheard of," and when I negligently observed that all bearded Zemblans resembled one another - and that, in fact, the name Zembla is a corruption not of the Russian zemlya, but of Semblerland, a land of reflections, of "resemblers" - my tormentor said: "Ah, yes, but King Charles wore no beard, and yet it is his very face! I had [he added] the honor of being seated within a few yards of the royal box at a Sport Festival in Onhava which I visited with my wife, who is Swedish, in 1956. We have a photograph of him at home, and her sister knew very well the mother of one of his pages, an interesting woman. Don't you see [almost tugging at Shade's lapel] the astounding similarity of features - of the upper part of the face, and the eyes, yes, the eyes, and the nose bridge?"

"Nay, sir" [said Shade, refolding a leg and slightly rolling in his armchair as wont to do when about to deliver a pronouncement] "there is no resemblance at all. I have seen the King in newsreels, and there is no resemblance. Resemblances are the shadows of differences. Different people see different similarities and similar differences." (note to Line 894)

 

Describing the King’s escape from Zembla, Kinbote mentions young Baron Mandevil (the mad inventor’s brother) who was the King’s throne page on Coronation Day:

 

Waiting for the Russian couple to recede, the King stopped beside the bench. The mosaic-faced man folded his newspaper, and one second before he spoke (in the neutral interval between smoke puff and detonation), the King knew it was Odon.

"All one could do at short notice," said Odon, plucking at his cheek to display how the varicolored semi-transparent film adhered to his face, altering its contours according to stress. "A polite person," he added, "does not, normally, examine too closely a poor fellow's disfigurement." "I was looking for shpiks [plainclothesmen]" said the King. "All day," said Odon, "they have been patrolling the quay. They are dining at present." "I'm thirsty and hungry," said the King. "That's young Baron Mandevil - chap who had that duel last year. Let's go now." "Couldn't we take him too?" "Wouldn't come - got a wife and a baby. Come on, Charlie, come on, Your Majesty." "He was my throne page on Coronation Day." Thus chatting, they reached the Rippleson Caves. I trust the reader has enjoyed this note. (note to Line 142)

 

At the end of his Commentary Kinbote quotes a Zemblan saying “God makes hungry, the Devil thirsty:”

Many years ago--how many I would not care to say--I remember my Zemblan nurse telling me, a little man of six in the throes of adult insomnia: "Minnamin, Gut mag alkan, Pern dirstan" (my darling, God makes hungry, the Devil thirsty). Well, folks, I guess many in this fine hall are as hungry and thirsty as me, and I'd better stop, folks, right here. (note to Line 1000)

 

The name Mandevil seems to hint at a line in Byron’s Don Juan:

 

And sharp Adversity, will teach at last

Man — and, as we would hope — perhaps the devil,

That neither of their intellects are vast:

While youth’s hot wishes in our red veins revel,

We know not this — the blood flows on too fast;

But as the torrent widens towards the ocean,

We ponder deeply on each past emotion. (Canto the Fourth, II)

 

In his poem Net, ya ne Bayron, ya drugoy… (“No, I’m not Byron, I’m another…” 1832) Lermontov mentions nadezhd razbitykh gruz (a load of broken hopes) that lies in his soul, as in the ocean:

Нет, я не Байрон, я другой,
Ещё неведомый избранник,
Как он, гонимый миром странник,
Но только с русскою душой.
Я раньше начал, кончу ране,
Мой ум немного совершит;
В душе моей, как в океане,
Надежд разбитых груз лежит.
Кто может, океан угрюмый,
Твои изведать тайны? Кто
Толпе мои расскажет думы?
Я — или Бог — или никто!

No, I'm not Byron, I’m another
yet unknown chosen man,
like him, a persecuted wanderer,
but only with a Russian soul.
I started sooner, I will end sooner,
my mind won’t achieve much;
in my soul, as in the ocean,
lies a load of broken hopes.
Who can, gloomy ocean,
find out your secrets? Who
will tell to the crowd my thoughts?
Myself – or God – or none at all!

 

The last word in Lermontov’s poem is nikto (nobody). Nik. T-o was I. Annenski’s penname. One of the essays in Annenski’s Kniga otrazheniy (“The Book of Reflections,” 1906) is entitled Yumor Lermontova (“Lermontov’s Humor”). In one of his conversations with Kinbote Shade mentioned Russian humorists:

 

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)

 

In his essay Problema Gamleta (“The Problem of Hamlet”) included in “The Second Book of Reflections” (1909) Annenski says that an artist’s envy is not like other people’s envy and compares Hamlet to Salieri (the envious composer in Pushkin’s little tragedy “Mozart and Salieri”):

Видите ли: зависть художника не совсем то, что наша...

Для художника это - болезненное сознание своей ограниченности и желание делать творческую жизнь свою как можно полнее. Истинный художник и завистлив и жаден... я слышу возражение - пушкинский Моцарт. - Да! Но ведь Гамлет не Сальери. Моцарта же Пушкин, как известно, изменил: его короткая жизнь была отнюдь не жизнью праздного гуляки, а сплошным творческим горением. Труд его был громаден, не результат труда, а именно труд.

 

In Mozart and Salieri” (1830) Mozart uses the phrase nikto b (none would):

Когда бы все так чувствовали силу
Гармонии! Но нет: тогда б не мог
И мир существовать; никто б не стал
Заботиться о нуждах низкой жизни;
Все предались бы вольному искусству.

If all could feel like you the power

of harmony! But no: the world

could not go on then. None would

bother about the needs of lowly life;

All would surrender to free art. (Scene II)

Nikto b is Botkin (Shade’s, Kinbote’s and Gradus’ “real” name) in reverse. 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). In Zhizn’ Chernyshevskogo (“The Life of Chernyshevski”), Chapter Four of VN’s novel Dar (“The Gift,” 1937), Fyodor mentions Nadezhdin (a critic whom Pushkin called Nevezhdin, “Mr. Ignoramus”) and points out that Chernyshevski (a radical critic) repeated Count Vorontsov’s words about Pushkin:

 

Говоря, что Пушкин был «только слабым подражателем Байрона», Чернышевский чудовищно точно воспроизводил фразу графа Воронцова: «Слабый подражатель лорда Байрона». Излюбленная мысль Добролюбова, что «у Пушкина недостаток прочного, глубокого образования» – дружеское аукание с замечанием того же Воронцова: «Нельзя быть истинным поэтом, не работая постоянно для расширения своих познаний, а их у него недостаточно». «Для гения недостаточно смастерить Евгения Онегина», – писал Надеждин, сравнивая Пушкина с портным, изобретателем жилетных узоров, и заключая умственный союз с Уваровым, министром народного просвещения, сказавшим по случаю смерти Пушкина: «Писать стишки не значит ещё проходить великое поприще».

 

When Chernyshevski said that Pushkin was “only a poor imitator of Byron,” he reproduced with monstrous accuracy the definition given by Count Vorontsov (Pushkin’s boss in Odessa): “A poor imitator of Lord Byron.” Dobrolyubov’s favorite idea that “Pushkin lacked a solid, deep education” is in friendly chime with Vorontsov’s remark: “One cannot be a genuine poet without constantly working to broaden one’s knowledge, and his is insufficient.” “To be a genius it is not enough to have manufactured Eugene Onegin,” wrote the progressive Nadezhdin, comparing Pushkin to a tailor, an inventor of waistcoat patterns, and thus concluding an intellectual pact with the reactionary Count Uvarov, Minister of Education, who remarked on the occasion of Pushkin’s death: “To write jingles does not mean yet to achieve a great career.”


The surname Nadezhdin comes from nadezhda (hope). In his famous epigram (1824) on Vorontsov Pushkin mentions nadezhda:

 

Полу-милорд, полу-купец,
Полу-мудрец, полу-невежда,
Полу-подлец, но есть надежда,
Что будет полным наконец.

 

Half-milord, half-merchant,

Half-sage, half-ignoramus,

Half-scoundrel, but there is hope

That he will be a full one at last.

 

There is a hope that, when Kinbote completes his work on Shade's poem and commits suicide (on Oct. 19, 1959, the anniversary of Pushkin's Lyceum), Botkin, like Count Vorontsov (a target of Pushkin's epigrams, "half-milord, half-merchant, etc."), will be full again.

 

Shade’s poem is almost finished when the author is killed by Gradus. Kinbote believes that, to be completed, Shade’s poem needs but one line (Line 1000, identical to Line 1: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain”). But it seems that, like some sonnets, Shade’s poem also needs a coda (Line 1001: “By its own double in the windowpane”). Dvoynik (“The Double”) is a short novel (1846) by Dostoevski, and poems by Annenski (1904), V. Ivanov (1906) and A. Blok (1909).

 

In his fragment Rim (“Rome,” 1842) Gogol describes a carnival in Rome, mentions the Italian sonnets with a coda and explains what a coda is. “A bigger, more respectable, more competent Gradus” mentioned by Kinbote at the end of his Commentary brings to mind the real Inspector whose arrival is announced at the end of Gogol’s play Revizor (“The Inspector,” 1836). The characters of Gogol’s play include the postmaster Shpekin (whose hobby is reading the correspondence he handles). Konstantin Bulgakov (whose brother Alexander predicted that Pushkin’s wife will be Milady Byron) was the Director of the Moscow and St. Petersburg Post Offices.

 

Anti-matter that a mad Mandevil tried to make brings to mind perpetuum mobile that Chernyshevski wanted to invent. On the other hand, it reminds one of “a domestic anti-Karlist” (as Kinbote calls Shade’s wife Sybil):

 

Perhaps an allusion to Zembla, my dear country. After this, in the disjointed, half-obliterated draft which I am not at all sure I have deciphered properly:

 

Ah, I must not forget to say something

That my friend told me of a certain king.

 

Alas, he would have said a great deal more if a domestic anti-Karlist had not controlled every line he communicated to her! Many a time have I rebuked him in bantering fashion: "You really should promise to use all that wonderful stuff, you bad gray poet, you!" And we would both giggle like boys. But then, after the inspiring evening stroll, we had to part, and grim night lifted the drawbridge between his impregnable fortress and my humble home. (note to Line 12)

 

In a letter of 25 Feb. – 8 Mar., 1837, to Count Benckendorff (the Chief of Police) Zhukovski says that Pushkin was an enemy of the July Revolution and a Karlist (advocate of Charles X, king of France in 1824-30):

 

Пушкин был враг Июльской революции. По убеждению своему он был карлист…

 

According to Kinbote, he moved into Judge Goldsworth’s house on Feb. 5, 1959:

 

Never shall I forget how elated I was upon learning, as mentioned in a note my read shall find, that the suburban house (rented for my use from Judge Goldsworth who had gone on his Sabbatical to England) into which I moved on February 5, 1959, stood next to that of the celebrated American poet whose verses I had tried to put into Zemblan two decades earlier! (Foreword)

 

In Istoriya posledney dueli Pushkina (“The Story of Pushkin’s Last Duel,” 1916) Shchyogolev points out that d’Anthès (Pushkin’s adversary in his fatal duel) was born on Feb. 5, 1812, and mentions king Charles X who promised to Duchess de Berry the only page vacancy:

 

Жоржъ-Шарль Дантесъ родился 5 февраля 1812 г. нов. ст. Онъ былъ третьимъ ребёнкомъ въ семьѣ и первымъ сыномъ. Учился онъ первоначально въ коллежѣ въ Альзасѣ, потомъ въ Бурбонскомъ Лицеѣ. Отецъ хотѣлъ отдать его въ пажи, но въ ноябрѣ 1828 года не оказалось свободной вакансіи: была одна, и ту Карлъ X обѣщалъ горцогинѣ Беррійской.

 

Pushkin’s poem Pazh, ili Pyatnadtsatyi god (“The Page, or at Age Fifteen,” 1830) has the epigraph: C'est l'âge de Chérubin. Chérubin is a character in Beaumarchais’s play La Folle Journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (1778). In Pushkin’s “Mozart and Salieri” Salieri mentions Beaumarchais’s advice:

 

Сальери

И, полно! что за страх ребячий?

Рассей пустую думу. Бомарше

Говаривал мне: "Слушай, брат Сальери,

Как мысли черные к тебе придут,

Откупори шампанского бутылку

Иль перечти "Женитьбу Фигаро"".

 

Моцарт

Да! Бомарше ведь был тебе приятель;

Ты для него "Тарара" сочинил,

Вещь славную. Там есть один мотив...

Я все твержу его, когда я счастлив...

Ла ла ла ла... Ах, правда ли, Сальери,

Что Бомарше кого-то отравил?

 

Сальери

Не думаю: он слишком был смешон

Для ремесла такого.

 

Моцарт

Он же гений,

Как ты да я. А гений и злодейство -

Две вещи несовместные. Не правда ль?

 

Salieri

        Come, come!
What sort of childish fright is this? Dispel
These empty fancies. Beaumarchais would often
Say to me "Listen, Salieri, old friend,
When black thoughts come your way, uncork the champagne
Bottle, or reread the Marriage of Figaro."

 

Mozart

Yes, you and Beaumarchais were pals, weren’t you?
It was for him you wrote Tarare, a lovely
Work. There is one tune in it, I always
Hum it to myself when I feel happy . . .
La la la la . . . Salieri, is it true
That Beaumarchais once poisoned somebody?

 

Salieri

I don’t think so. He was too droll a fellow
For such a trade.

 

Mozart

     Besides, he was a genius,
Like you and me. And genius and villainy
Are two things incompatible, aren’t they? (Scene II)

 

In a letter of Sept. 29, 1830, to Pletnyov Pushkin mentions chyornye mysli (black thoughts) that seized him when his wedding was postponed again:

 

Вероятно, я выразился дурно; но это вас не оправдывает. Вот в чём было дело: тёща моя отлагала свадьбу за приданым, а уж, конечно, не я. Я бесился. Тёща начинала меня дурно принимать и заводить со мною глупые ссоры; и это бесило меня. Хандра схватила, и чёрные мысли мной овладели. Неужто я хотел иль думал отказаться? но я видел уж отказ и утешался чем ни попало. Всё, что ты говоришь о свете, справедливо; тем справедливее опасения мои, чтоб тётушки, да бабушки, да сестрицы не стали кружить голову молодой жене моей пустяками. Она меня любит, но посмотри, Алеко Плетнев, как гуляет вольная луна, etc. Баратынский говорит, что в женихах счастлив только дурак; а человек мыслящий беспокоен и волнуем будущим. Доселе он я — а тут он будет мы. Шутка! Оттого-то я тёщу и торопил; а она, как баба, у которой долог лишь волос, меня не понимала да хлопотала о приданом, чёрт его побери.

 

Pushkin quotes Baratynski who said that, as a bridegroom, only a fool is happy. Baratynski is the author of Piry (“The Feasts,” 1821). Pushkin’s little tragedies (all of them written in Boldino in the fall of 1830) include Pir vo vremya chumy (“A Feast in Time of Plague,” 1830). In Pushkin’s poem Krivtsovu (“To Krivtsov,” 1817) the last word is pirov (Gen. pl. of pir, “feast”):

 

Не пугай нас, милый друг,
Гроба близким новосельем:
Право, нам таким бездельем
Заниматься недосуг.
Пусть остылой жизни чашу
Тянет медленно другой;
Мы ж утратим юность нашу
Вместе с жизнью дорогой;
Каждый у своей гробницы
Мы присядем на порог;
У пафосския царицы
Свежий выпросим венок,
Лишний миг у верной лени,
Круговой нальём сосуд —
И толпою наши тени
К тихой Лете убегут.
Смертный миг наш будет светел;
И подруги шалунов
Соберут их лёгкий пепел
В урны праздные пиров.

 

In his poem Pushkin mentions nashi teni (our shades) that in a crowd will run away to the silent Lethe.

 

In his Sonet ("A Sonnet," 1830) Pushkin says that, in our days, Wordsworth (whose line "Scorn not the sonnet, critic" Pushkin used as the epigraph) chose sonnet as his tool (orudiem izbral). In Vivian Calmbrood’s poem “The Night Journey” (1931) Chenstone mentions his neighbor, the young Wordsworth:


Вообразите гладь речную,
берёзы, вересковый склон.
Там жил я, драму небольшую
писал из рыцарских времён;
ходил я в сюртучке потёртом,
с соседом, молодым Вордсвортом,
удил форелей иногда
(его стихам вредит вода,
но человек он милый), -- словом,
я счастлив был -- и признаюсь,
что в Лондон с манускриптом новым
без всякой радости тащусь.


According to Chenstone, in the country he used to fish trout with Wordsworth, a nice person for whose poetry water is harmful, though (like Southey and Coleridge, Wordsworth was a Lake Poet). Chenstone is a fictitious poet to whom Pushkin ascribed his little tragedy Skupoy rytsar' (“The Covetous Knight”). Vivian Calmbrood is VN's penname. In Nochnoe puteshestvie ("The Night Journey") VN satirizes G. Ivanov (a poet who attacked Sirin in the Paris émigré review "Numbers") as Johnson. In his memoirs "The St. Petersburg Winters" G. Ivanov describes his first meeting with Alexander Blok in the fall of 1909. According to Ivanov, to his question "does a sonnet need a coda" Blok replied that he did not know what a coda is:

 

Зачем Блок писал длинные письма или вёл долгие разговоры со мной, желторотым подростком, с вечными вопросами о технике поэзии на языке? Время от времени какой-нибудь такой вопрос с моего языка срывался.
-- Александр Александрович, нужна ли кода к сонету? -- спросил я как-то. К моему изумлению, Блок, знаменитый "мэтр", вообще не знал, что такое кода...

 

In his rude article in Chisla ("Numbers," 1930, #1) G. Ivanov calls Sirin (VN's Russian nom de plume) kukharkin syn (a female cook's son). A hundred years earlier Bulgarin's coarse article in Northern Bee provoked Pushkin to compose his poem Moya rodoslovnaya ("My Pedigree," 1830). According to Bulgarin, Pushkin's great-grandfather Ibrahim (Abram) Gannibal was acquired for a bottle of rum. In his EO Commentary VN mentions Abram Gannibals' son (Pushkin's granduncle) Pyotr:

 

"Incidentally, Pyotr Gannibal, our poet's granduncle and country neighbor, was, like the MS Larin, a passionate distiller of gin, vodka." (vol. II, p. 295)

 

In Tynyanov's novel "Pushkin" (1936) Pyotr Gannibal mentions gradus kreposti (alcohol percentage) of the liquor he distills:

 

- Я, сударыня сестрица, - сказал он Марье Алексеевне, - настойки в простом виде не пью, я её перегоняю. Я возвожу в известный градус крепости. Чтоб вишня, горечь, чтоб сад был во рту. (Part One. Childhood. 1.1.6)

 

According to Kinbote, the whole clan of Gradus was in the liquor business:

 

Jakob Gradus called himself variously Jack Degree or Jacques de Grey, or James de Gray, and also appears in police records as Ravus, Ravenstone, and d'Argus. 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 it Vinogradus. His father, Martin Gradus, had been a Protestant minister in Riga, but except for him and a maternal uncle (Roman Tselovalnikov, police officer and part-time member of the Social-Revolutionary party), the whole clan seems to have been in the liquor business. Martin Gradus died in 1920, and his widow moved to Strasbourg where she soon died, too. (note to Line 17)

 

Vinograd ("The Grapes," 1824) is a poem by Pushkin. The name Tselovalnikov comes from tseloval’nik (obs., inn-keeper, publican; hist., tax-collector). In Rodoslovnaya moego geroya (“The Pedigree of my Hero,” 1836) Pushkin mentions Mityushka tseloval’nik (Mityushka the tax-collector):

 

Кто б ни был ваш родоначальник,
Мстислав, князь Курбский, иль Ермак,
Или Митюшка целовальник,
Вам всё равно.

 

Whoever your ancestor were,

Mstislav, Prince Kurbski, or Yermak,

or Mityushka the tax-collector,

you do not care.

 

The characters of Pushkin's drama "Boris Godunov" (1825) include the son of Prince Andrey Kurbski (an intimate friend and then a leading political opponent of the tsar Ivan the Terrible). At the beginning of his letter to Krivtsov Pushkin says: "I'm sending you my favorite work." Lyubimoe sochinenie (favorite work) that Pushkin sent to Krivtsov was "Boris Godunov." A character in Pushkin's drama, Pimen (the old monk and chronicler) says: Eshchyo odno poslednee skazan'ye, i letopis' okonchena moya (one last tale and my chronicle is finished).