NABOKV-L post 0020045, Sat, 15 May 2010 22:16:59 -0600

Re: THOUGHTS: the need for climax in Canto 4
On Wed, May 12, 2010 at 7:26 AM, Matthew Roth <> wrote:

[On Stevens's "Sunday Morning"]

> Like Shade, the speaker here wants to see some kind of link-and-bobolink,
> some kind of art in the arrangement of things, but all he can maintain is a
> faint hope. Yet Stevens' artful ending affirms the power of human design
> (the poem itself) even as it expresses doubts about the eternal. Shade, on
> the other hand, is more optimistic about eternal design while his own art
> seems to be descending in ambiguous undulations, unsponsored and casual as
> Stevens' pigeons (or the Red Admirable).
> Your comparison to "Sunday Morning" is very interesting. Certainly "Pale
Fire" is mostly recitative and "Sunday Morning" is all aria, and I like
Stevens's poetry better than Shade's, as I gather you do.

However, part of the difference in the ending is for the reasons you state.
Stevens finds his design only in human art, so he has to make his poem an
example. Shade believes in a higher art or play, which he reflects with a
good deal of what he considers similar play--I don't think people emphasize
enough that this is why he calls the poem "Pale Fire", though maybe it's
obvious--but at the end he doesn't have to keep it up. At the end, what
matters to him is his reasonable certainties, most of which are correct at
least in the book, and he can relax and let only his measure be heroic. And
relaxing is a good way to end a poem, which Stevens used too when he wanted
it, as in "Two Figures in Dense Violet Light".

Don Johnson and Anthony Stadlen see the lack of line 1000 as indicating "the
ultimate indeterminacy of the afterlife issue". Indeterminacy in Shade's
view or Nabokov's?

Jerry Friedman

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