Pompeianella & Traverdiata in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Tue, 08/10/2021 - 13:45

In VN’s novel Ada (1969) Van and Ada find out that they are brother and sister thanks to Marina’s old herbarium that they discovered in the attic of Ardis Hall:

 

The two kids’ best find, however, came from another carton in a lower layer of the past. This was a small green album with neatly glued flowers that Marina had picked or otherwise obtained at Ex, a mountain resort, not far from Brig, Switzerland, where she had sojourned before her marriage, mostly in a rented chalet. The first twenty pages were adorned with a number of little plants collected at random, in August, 1869, on the grassy slopes above the chalet, or in the park of the Hotel Florey, or in the garden of the sanatorium neat: it (‘my nusshaus,’ as poor Aqua dubbed it, or ‘the Home,’ as Marina more demurely identified it in her locality notes). Those introductory pages did not present much botanical or psychological interest; and the fifty last pages or so remained blank; but the middle part, with a conspicuous decrease in number of specimens, proved to be a regular little melodrama acted out by the ghosts of dead flowers. The specimens were on one side of the folio, with Marina Dourmanoff (sic)’s notes en regard.

 

Ancolie Bleue des Alpes, Ex en Valais, i.IX.69. From Englishman in hotel. ‘Alpine Columbine, color of your eyes.’

Epervière auricule. 25.X.69, Ex, ex Dr Lapiner’s walled alpine garden.

Golden [ginkgo] leaf: fallen out of a book’ The Truth about Terra’ which Aqua gave me before going back to her Home. 14.XII.69.

Artificial edelweiss brought by my new nurse with a note from Aqua saying it came from a ‘mizernoe and bizarre’ Christmas Tree at the Home. 25.XII.69.

Petal of orchid, one of 99 orchids, if you please, mailed to me yesterday, Special Delivery, c’est bien le cas de le dire, from Villa Armina, Alpes Maritimes. Have laid aside ten for Aqua to be taken to her at her Home. Ex en Valais, Switzerland. ‘Snowing in Fate’s crystal ball,’ as he used to say. (Date erased.)

Gentiane de Koch, rare, brought by lapochka [darling] Lapiner from his ‘mute gentiarium’ 5.I.1870.

[blue-ink blot shaped accidentally like a flower, or improved felt-pen deletion] (Compliquaria compliquata var. aquamarina. Ex, 15.I.70.

Fancy flower of paper, found in Aqua’s purse. Ex, 16.II.1870, made by a fellow patient, at the Home, which is no longer hers.

Gentiana verna (printanière). Ex, 28.III.1870, on the lawn of my nurse’s cottage. Last day here.

 

The two young discoverers of that strange and sickening treasure commented upon it as follows:

‘I deduce,’ said the boy, ‘three main facts: that not yet married Marina and her. married sister hibernated in my lieu de naissance; that Marina had her own Dr Krolik, pour ainsi dire; and that the orchids came from Demon who preferred to stay by the sea, his dark-blue great-grandmother.’

‘I can add,’ said the girl, ‘that the petal belongs to the common Butterfly Orchis; that my mother was even crazier than her sister; and that the paper flower so cavalierly dismissed is a perfectly recognizable reproduction of an early-spring sanicle that I saw in profusion on hills in coastal California last February. Dr Krolik, our local naturalist, to whom you, Van, have referred, as Jane Austen might have phrased it, for the sake of rapid narrative information (you recall Brown, don’t you, Smith?), has determined the example I brought back from Sacramento to Ardis, as the Bear-Foot, B,E,A,R, my love, not my foot or yours, or the Stabian flower girl’s — an allusion, which your father, who, according to Blanche, is also mine, would understand like this’ (American finger-snap). ‘You will be grateful,’ she continued, embracing him, ‘for my not mentioning its scientific name. Incidentally the other foot — the Pied de Lion from that poor little Christmas larch, is by the same hand — possibly belonging to a very sick Chinese boy who came all the way from Barkley College.’

‘Good for you, Pompeianella (whom you saw scattering her flowers in one of Uncle Dan’s picture books, but whom I admired last summer in a Naples museum). Now don’t you think we should resume our shorts and shirts and go down, and bury or burn this album at once, girl. Right?

‘Right,’ answered Ada. ‘Destroy and forget. But we still have an hour before tea.’ (1.1)

 

Pompeyanka (“A Pompeian Woman,” 1901) is a poem by Valeriy Bryusov:

 

«Мне первым мужем был купец богатый,
 Вторым поэт, а третьим жалкий мим,
 Четвёртым консул, ныне евнух пятый,
 Но кесарь сам меня сосватал с ним.

Меня любил империи владыка,
Но мне был люб один нубийский раб,
Не жду над гробом: «casta et pudica»,
Для многих пояс мой был слишком слаб.

Но ты, мой друг, мизиец мой стыдливый!
Навек, навек тебе я предана.
Не верь, дитя, что женщины все лживы:
Меж ними верная нашлась одна!»

Так говорила, не дыша, бледнея,
Матрона Лидия, как в смутном сне,
Забыв, что вся взволнована Помпея,
Что над Везувием лазурь в огне.

Когда ж без сил любовники застыли
И покорил их необорный сон,
На город пали груды серой пыли,
И город был под пеплом погребён.

Века прошли; и, как из алчной пасти,
Мы вырвали былое из земли.
И двое тел, как знак бессмертной страсти,
Нетленными в объятиях нашли.

Поставьте выше памятник священный,
Живое изваянье вечных тел,
Чтоб память не угасла во вселенной
О страсти, перешедшей за предел!

 

‘My first husband was quite a wealthy merchant,

My next - a poet, third - a piteous mime,

The fourth - a consul, now “five” is a eunuch,

But Caesar married us himself this time.

 

The master of the empire loved me madly,

but I was fond of one Nubian slave.

My belt undid for many. And I never

Dreamed Casta et Pudica above my grave.

 

But you, young friend, my shy one from Mysia,

Forever… ever… I am yours alone. 

Love, don’t believe that all women are liars;

Among them there was found a faithful one!’

 

And so she spoke, and she was pale and breathless…

Lydia, a matron, as in some vague dream,

Forgetting that all Pompei was in panic 

And that Vesuvius’ sky was flame and steam.

 

And when the lovers tired and became quiet

And they were overcome with potent sleep,

Masses of gray dust fell upon the city,

And it was buried under ashes deep.


Centuries passed, and as from greedy jawbones,

We tore the past from earth here in this place.

We found a symbol of immortal passion:

Two bodies well-preserved in their embrace.

               
Erect the sacred monument still higher:

Live sculpture of eternal bodies found!

So memory will keep the world reminded

Of passion which transcended every bound.

 

In his essay on Bryusov in “The Silhouettes of Russian Writers” Yuli Ayhenvald says that Bryusov prefers herbarium to live flowers:

 

И, однако, при этом зове к иссушению жизни, при этом предпочтении гербария цветам, Брюсов думает, что

 

Быть может, всё в жизни - лишь средство
Для ярко-певучих стихов.

 

In her memoirs Zhivye litsa (“The Live Faces,” 1925) Zinaida Hippius devotes to Bryusov a chapter entitled Oderzhimyi ("The Possessed Man") in which she states that, like many people, Bryusov had his "ape," the poet Igor Severyanin:

 

У очень многих людей есть «обезьяны». Возможно даже, что есть своя у каждого мало-мальски недюжинного, только не часто их наблюдаешь вместе. Я говорю об «обезьяне» отнюдь не в смысле подражателя. Нет, но о явлении другой личности, вдруг повторяющей первую, отражающей ее в исковерканном зеркале. Это исковерканное повторение, карикатура страшная, схожесть — не всем видны. Не грубая схожесть. На больших глубинах ее истоки. «На мою обезьяну смеюсь»,— говорит в «Бесах» Ставрогин Верховенскому. И действительно, Верховенский, маленький, суетливый, презренно мелкий и гнусный,— «обезьяна» Иван-Царевича, Ставрогина. Как будто и не похожи? Нет, похожи. Обезьяна — уличает и объясняет.
Для Брюсова чёрт выдумал (а чёрт забавник тонкий!) очень интересную обезьяну. Брюсов — не Ставрогин, не Иван-Царевич, и обезьяна его не Верховенский. Да и жизнь смягчает резкости.
Брюсовская обезьяна народилась в виде Игоря Северянина.
Можно бы сделать целую игру, подбирая к чертам Брюсова, самым основным, соответственные черточки Северянина, соответственно умельченные, окарикатуренные. Чёрт даже перестарался, слишком их сблизил, слишком похоже вылепил обличительную фигурку. Сделал ее тоже «поэтом». И тоже «новатором», «создателем школы» и «течения»... через 25 лет после Брюсова.

 

At the picnic on Ada’s sixteenth birthday Mlle Larivière (Lucette’s governess who writes fiction under the penname Guillaume de Monparnasse) says that England dares ape France:

 

Greg, assuming with touching simplicity that Ada would notice and approve, showered Mlle Larivière with a thousand little attentions — helping her out of her mauve jacket, pouring out for her the milk into Lucette’s mug from a thermos bottle, passing the sandwiches, replenishing, replenishing Mlle Larivière’s wineglass and listening with a rapt grin to her diatribes against the English, whom she said she disliked even more than the Tartars, or the, well, Assyrians.

‘England!’ she cried, ‘England! The country where for every poet, there are ninety-nine sales petits bourgeois, some of suspect extraction! England dares ape France! I have in that hamper there an English novel of high repute in which a lady is given a perfume — an expensive perfume! — called "Ombre Chevalier," which is really nothing but a fish — a delicious fish, true, but hardly suitable for scenting one’s handkerchief with. On the very next page, a soi-disant philosopher mentions "une acte gratuite" as if all acts were feminine, and a soi-disant Parisian hotelkeeper in the story says "je me regrette" for "je regrette"!’

‘D’accord,’ interjected Van, ‘but what about such atrocious bloomers in French translations from the English as for example —’

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, at that very moment Ada emitted a Russian exclamation of utmost annoyance as a steel-gray convertible glided into the glade. No sooner had it stopped than it was surrounded by the same group of townsmen, who now seemed to have multiplied in strange consequence of having shed coats and waistcoats. Thrusting his way through their circle, with every sign of wrath and contempt, young Percy de Prey, frilled-shifted and white-trousered, strode up to Marina’s deckchair. He was invited to join the party despite Ada’s trying to stop her silly mother with an admonishing stare and a private small shake of the head. (1.39)

 

A dozen of townsmen who surround Percy de Prey's car seem to be the apostles (a comrade of the mysterious pastors whom they dispatched and buried is Judas). In his poem V polyote (“In Flight,” 1908) Severyanin says that Earth has a face and that it is the face of Judas:

 

Давно иль недавно, когда — безразлично,
Но я полюбил!
Давно иль недавно, когда — безразлично,
Но я полюбил поэтично
Шуршание крыл
Мечты фосфоричной.
И в воздух взлетел я! и вижу оттуда:
Лицо у земли!..
И в воздух взлетел я, и вижу оттуда:
Лицо у земли, и лицо то… Иуды!..
Очнулся в пыли —
Мне сделалось худо…

 

In March, 1905, Demon Veen (Van’s and Ada’s father) perishes in a mysterious airplane disaster above the Pacific. Van does not realize that his father died because Ada (who could not pardon Demon his forcing Van to give her up) managed to persuade the pilot to destroy his machine in midair. Demon finds out about his children’s affair thanks to Valerio, a waiter at the Monaco (a restaurant in the entresol of the tall building crowned by Van’s penthouse apartment):

 

With the simple and, combinationally speaking, neat, thought that, after all, there was but one sky (white, with minute multicolored optical sparks), Demon hastened to enter the lobby and catch the lift which a ginger-haired waiter had just entered, with breakfast for two on a wiggle-wheel table and the Manhattan Times among the shining, ever so slightly scratched, silver cupolas. Was his son still living up there, automatically asked Demon, placing a piece of nobler metal among the domes. Si, conceded the grinning imbecile, he had lived there with his lady all winter.

‘Then we are fellow travelers,’ said Demon inhaling not without gourmand anticipation the smell of Monaco’s coffee, exaggerated by the shadows of tropical weeds waving in the breeze of his brain. (2.10)

 

Valerio is a ginger-haired elderly Roman. In her memoir essay on Bryusov, Geroy truda ("The Hero of Toil," 1925), Marina Tsvetaev says that Bryusov was trizhdy rimlyanin (a threefold Roman):

 

Три слова являют нам Брюсова: воля, вол, волк. Триединство не только звуковое - смысловое: и воля - Рим, и вол - Рим, и волк - Рим. Трижды римлянином был Валерий Брюсов: волей и волом - в поэзии, волком (homo homini lupus est) в жизни.

 

Bryusov dedicated to Severyanin a sonnet-acrostic with a coda:

 

И ты стремишься ввысь, где солнце — вечно,
Где неизменен гордый сон снегов,
Откуда в дол спадают бесконечно
Ручьи алмазов, струи жемчугов.

Юдоль земная пройдена. Беспечно
Свершай свой путь меж молний и громов!
Ездок отважный! слушай вихрей рев,
Внимай с улыбкой гневам бури встречной!

Еще грозят зазубрины высот,
Расщелины, где тучи спят, но вот
Яснеет глубь в уступах синих бора.

Назад не обращай тревожно взора
И с жадной жаждой новой высоты
Неутомимо правь конем, — и скоро

У ног своих весь мир увидишь ты!

 

In his reply to Bryusov (also a sonnet-acrostic) Severyanin compares Bryusov to the ocean:

 

Великого приветствует великий,
Алея вдохновением. Блестит
Любовью стих. И солнечные блики
Елей весны ручьисто золотит.

Ручьись, весна! Летит к тебе, летит
Июнь, твой принц, бессмертник неболикий!
Юлят цветы, его гоньбы улики,
Божит земля, и все на ней божит.

Рука моя тебе, собрат-титан!
Юнись душой, плескучий океан!
Самодержавный! мудрый! вечный гордо!

О близкий мне! мой окрылитель! ты —
Ваятель мой! И царство Красоты —
У нас в руках. Мне жизненно! мне бодро!

 

Van's and Ada's half-sister Lucette commits suicide by jumping from Admiral Tobakoff into the Atlantic. In Lucette's Tobakoff cabin there is a steeplechase picture of ‘Pale Fire with Tom Cox Up:’ 

 

Quite kindly he asked where she thought she was going.

To Ardis, with him — came the prompt reply — for ever and ever. Robinson’s grandfather had died in Araby at the age of one hundred and thirty-one, so Van had still a whole century before him, she would build for him, in the park, several pavilions to house his successive harems, they would gradually turn, one after the other, into homes for aged ladies, and then into mausoleums. There hung, she said, a steeplechase picture of ‘Pale Fire with Tom Cox Up’ above dear Cordula’s and Tobak’s bed, in the suite ‘wangled in one minute flat’ from them, and she wondered how it affected the Tobaks’ love life during sea voyages. Van interrupted Lucette’s nervous patter by asking her if her bath taps bore the same inscriptions as his: Hot Domestic, Cold Salt. Yes, she cried, Old Salt, Old Salzman, Ardent Chambermaid, Comatose Captain! (3.5)

 

In VN’s novel Pale Fire (1962) Shade’s poem is almost finished when the author is killed by Gradus. The poet's murderer, Gradus is a member of the Shadows (a regicidal organization). Bryusov is the author of Zerkalo teney ("The Mirror of Shadows," 1912). Shade’s mad Commentator who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla, 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”). In his Poeza o tysyacha pervom znakomstve (“A Poem about the Thousand-and-First Acquaintance,” 1914) Severyanin compares himself to Alfred and his hostess, to Traviata:

 

Лакей и сен-бернар — ах, оба баритоны! —
Встречали нас в дверях ответом на звонок.
Камелии. Ковры. Гостиной сребротоны.
Два пуфа и диван. И шесть безшумных ног.

Мы двое к ней пришли. Она была чужою.
Он знал ее, но я представлен в этот раз.
Мне сдержанный привет, и сен-бернару Джою
Уйти куда-нибудь и не мешать — приказ.

Салонный разговор, удобный для аббата,
Для доблестной ханжи и столь же для гетер.
И мы уже не мы: Альфред и Травиата.
И вот уже оркестр. И вот уже партер.

Так: входим в роли мы совсем непроизвольно.
Но режет сердце мне точеный комплимент.
Как больно говорить! Как нестерпимо больно,
Когда предвидишь вот любой, любой момент!

Все знаем наперед: и будет то, что смято
Когда-то, кем-то, как и где — не все равно ль?
И в ужасе, в тоске, — Альфред и Травиата, —
Мы шутим — как тогда! Лелея нашу боль…

 

At the picnic on Ada’s sixteenth birthday Marina sings the Green Grass aria from “Traverdiata” (as Verdi’s opera is known on Demonia, aka Antiterra, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set). In answer to something Percy de Prey wants to know Marina says ‘The Accursed Children:’

 

In the meantime, Uncle Dan, very dapper in cherry-striped blazer and variety-comic straw hat, feeling considerably intrigued by the presence of the adjacent picnickers, walked over to them with his glass of Hero wine in one hand and a caviar canapé in the other.

‘The Accursed Children,’ said Marina in answer to something Percy wanted to know.

Percy, you were to die very soon — and not from that pellet in your fat leg, on the turf of a Crimean ravine, but a couple of minutes later when you opened your eyes and felt relieved and secure in the shelter of the macchie; you were to die very soon, Percy; but that July day in Ladore County, lolling under the pines, royally drunk after some earlier festivity, with lust in your heart and a sticky glass in your strong blond-haired hand, listening to a literary bore, chatting with an aging actress and ogling her sullen daughter, you reveled in the spicy situation, old sport, chin-chin, and no wonder. Burly, handsome, indolent and ferocious, a crack Rugger player, a cracker of country girls, you combined the charm of the off-duty athlete with the engaging drawl of a fashionable ass. I think what I hated most about your handsome moon face was that baby complexion, the smooth-skinned jaws of the easy shaver. I had begun to bleed every time, and was going to do so for seven decades. (1.39)

 

Les Enfants Maudits ("The Accursed Children") is a novel by Mlle Larivière. Its characters (at least, in the English version) include Nell:

 

On that secret islet (forbidden to Sunday couples — it belonged to the Veens, and a notice-board calmly proclaimed that ‘trespassers might get shot by sportsmen from Ardis Hall,’ Dan’s wording) the vegetation consisted of three Babylonian willows, a fringe of alder, many grasses, cattails, sweet-flags, and a few purple-lipped twayblades, over which Ada crooned as she did over puppies or kittens.

Under the shelter of those neurotic willows Van pursued his survey.

Her shoulders were intolerably graceful: I would never permit my wife to wear strapless gowns with such shoulders, but how could she be my wife? Renny says to Nell in the English version of Monparnasse’s rather comic tale: ‘The infamous shadow of our unnatural affair will follow us into the low depths of the Inferno which our Father who is in the sky shows to us with his superb digit.’ For some odd reason the worse translations are not from the Chinese, but from plain French. (1.35)

 

Stikhi Nelli ("Nelly's Verses," 1913) is a collection (a hoax) by Bryusov. Except the dedication, all twenty-nine poems in it are written from the standpoint of a woman. Bryusov's book was a fruit of his romance with Nadezhda Lvov (1891-1913), a budding poet who committed suicide. The "real" name of Hazel Shade (the poet's daughter in Pale Fire) seems to be Nadezhda Botkin. After her tragic death her father, Professor Vsevolod Botkin, went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus. Hazel Shade drowned in Lake Omega. In a poem addressed to Bryusov Sergey Solovyov says that in the book of Russian verse Pushkin is alpha and Bryusov, omega:

 

Прах, вспоённый влагой снега,

Режет гения соха.

Звука Пушкинского нега!

Пушкин – альфа, ты – омега

В книге русского стиха.

 

In his memoir essay Bryusov (1924) Hodasevich speaks of Bryusov's collaboration with the Bolsheviks and mentions nadezhda (hope) and gradusy (degrees):

 

Брюсову представлялось возможным прямое влияние на литературные дела; он мечтал, что большевики откроют ему долгожданную возможность «направлять» литературу твёрдыми административными мерами. Если бы это удалось, он мог бы командовать писателями, без интриг, без вынужденных союзов с ними, — единым окриком. А сколько заседаний, уставов, постановлений! А какая надежда на то, что в истории литературы будет сказано: «в таком-то году повернул русскую литературу на столько-то градусов».

And what hope that in the history of literature it will be said: “in the year of grace so-and-so he [Bryusov] has turned Russian literature to so-and-so many degrees.”

 

In his poem Podrugam ("To Girl Friends," 1921) Severyanin mentions dni razvala Pompei, dni padeniya Troi (the days of the destruction of Pompeii, the days of the fall of Troy):

 

Как тебя она любит! как тобою любима!
Вы — как два дьяволенка! вы — как два серафима!
Вы — всегдашние дети моря, леса и поля!
Вы — художницы чувства! вы свободны, как воля!
Мне она полюбилась, став навеки моею.
То возлюблено мною, что возлюблено ею.
Раз тебя она любит, — мне близка поневоле
Ты, подруга любимой, дочь природы и воли.
Раз меня она любит, — ты меня полюбила.
Это есть, это будет, как всегда это было.
Мы всегда были вместе, мы всегда были трое:
В дни развала Помпеи, в дни падения Трои.
Так не бойся при встрече целовать меня смело:
Ты, ее полюбивши, стать мне близкой сумела!

 

When Ada refuses to leave her sick husband, Andrey Vinelander, Van calls her "Helen of Troy, Ada of Ardis:"

 

As had been peculiar to his nature even in the days of his youth, Van was apt to relieve a passion of anger and disappointment by means of bombastic and arcane utterances which hurt like a jagged fingernail caught in satin, the lining of Hell.

‘Castle True, Castle Bright!’ he now cried, ‘Helen of Troy, Ada of Ardis! You have betrayed the Tree and the Moth!’

‘Perestagne (stop, cesse)!’

‘Ardis the First, Ardis the Second, Tanned Man in a Hat, and now Mount Russet —’

‘Perestagne!’ repeated Ada (like a fool dealing with an epileptic).

‘Oh! Qui me rendra mon Hélène —’

‘Ach, perestagne!’

‘— et le phalène.’

‘Je t’emplie ("prie" and "supplie"), stop, Van. Tu sais que j’en vais mourir.’

‘But, but, but’ — (slapping every time his forehead) — ‘to be on the very brink of, of, of — and then have that idiot turn Keats!’

‘Bozhe moy, I must be going. Say something to me, my darling, my only one, something that might help!’

There was a narrow chasm of silence broken only by the rain drumming on the eaves.

‘Stay with me, girl,’ said Van, forgetting everything — pride, rage, the convention of everyday pity.

For an instant she seemed to waver — or at least to consider wavering; but a resonant voice reached them from the drive and there stood Dorothy, gray-caped and mannish-hatted, energetically beckoning with her unfurled umbrella.

‘I can’t, I can’t, I’ll write you,’ murmured my poor love in tears. (3.8)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): phalène: moth (see also p.111).

tu sais etc.: you know it will kill me.

Bozhe moy: Russ., oh, my God.

 

In VN's novel Sobytie ("The Event," 1938) Lyubov (the wife of the portrait painter Troshcheykin) repeats the word perestan' (stop, cease) five times, as she speaks to her mother, Antonina Pavlovna Opayashin (the lady writer):

 

Любовь. Перестань, перестань, перестань... Ты меня сама вовлекаешь в какую-то мутную, липкую, пошлую обстановку чувств. Я не хочу! Какое тебе дело до меня? Алёша лезет со своими страхами, а ты со своими. Оставьте меня. Не трогайте меня. Кому какое дело, что меня шесть лет медленно сжимали и вытягивали, пока я не превратилась в какую-то роковую уездную газель - с глазами и больше ни с чем? Я не хочу. И главное, какое ты имеешь право меня допрашивать? Ведь тебе решительно всё равно, ты просто входишь в ритм и потом не можешь остановиться...

Антонина Павловна. Один только вопрос, и я пойду спать: ты с ним увидишься?

Любовь. Я ему с няней пошлю французскую записку, я к нему побегу, я брошу мужа, я...

Антонина Павловна. Люба, ты... ты шутишь?

Любовь. Да. Набросок третьего действия.

Антонина Павловна. Дай бог, чтобы он тебя разлюбил за эти годы, а то хлопот не оберешься.

Любовь. Мама, перестань. Слышишь, перестань! (Act Three)

 

The action in VN's play takes place on Antonina Pavlovna's fiftieth birthday. One of the guests at Antonina Pavlovna's birthday party, Meshaev the First, gives roses to Antonina Pavlovna and quotes the first line of Myatlev's poem Kak khoroshi, kak svezhi byli rozy ("How beautiful, how fresh were the roses"):

 

Мешаев. В таком случае ограничусь тем, что поздравляю вас с днём рождения, уважаемая Антонина Павловна. (Вынимает шпаргалку.) "Желаю вам ещё долго-долго развлекать нас вашим прекрасным женским дарованием. Дни проходят, но книги, книги, Антонина Павловна, остаются на полках, и великое дело, которому вы бескорыстно служите, воистину велико и обильно, -- и каждая строка ваша звенит и звенит в наших умах и сердцах вечным рефреном. Как хороши, как свежи были розы!" (Подаёт ей розы.)

 

Severyanin's poem Klassicheskie rozy ("Classical Roses," 1925) has for epigraph the first quatrain of Myatlev's poem:

 

Как хороши, как свежи были розы
В моем саду! Как взор прельщали мой!
Как я молил весенние морозы
Не трогать их холодною рукой!
1843 Мятлев

 

В те времена, когда роились грёзы
В сердцах людей, прозрачны и ясны,
Как хороши, как свежи были розы
Моей любви, и славы, и весны!

Прошли лета, и всюду льются слёзы…
Нет ни страны, ни тех, кто жил в стране…
Как хороши, как свежи были розы
Воспоминаний о минувшем дне!

Но дни идут — уже стихают грозы
Вернуться в дом Россия ищет троп…
Как хороши, как свежи будут розы 
Моей страной мне брошенные в гроб!

 

Once, when the dreams would bloom — the times were those —
In peoples hearts, transparent and aflame,
How fresh, how beautiful have been the roses
Of my love, of my spring, and of my fame!

The years have passed, many a tear flows —
The country and its people all are lost.
How fresh, how beautiful are now the roses
Of memories of my delightful past!

But days go by, and thunders in repose.
Russia is seeking pathways to go home.
How fresh, how beautiful will be the roses
That my country will throw upon my tomb!

(tr. I. Shambat)

 

At the picnic on her sixteenth birthday Ada tells Percy de Prey that she loathes roses:

 

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, at that very moment Ada emitted a Russian exclamation of utmost annoyance as a steel-gray convertible glided into the glade. No sooner had it stopped than it was surrounded by the same group of townsmen, who now seemed to have multiplied in strange consequence of having shed coats and waistcoats. Thrusting his way through their circle, with every sign of wrath and contempt, young Percy de Prey, frilled-shifted and white-trousered, strode up to Marina’s deckchair. He was invited to join the party despite Ada’s trying to stop her silly mother with an admonishing stare and a private small shake of the head.

‘I dared not hope... Oh, I accept with great pleasure,’ answered Percy, whereupon — very much whereupon — the seemingly forgetful but in reality calculating bland bandit marched back to his car (near which a last wonderstruck admirer lingered) to fetch a bouquet of longstemmed roses stored in the boot.

‘What a shame that I should loathe roses,’ said Ada, accepting them gingerly. (1.39)