Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020897, Fri, 22 Oct 2010 15:09:15 -0200

Fw: [Nabokov-L] Sirin and Sirène
The two engravings by Raoul Dufy are part of a series of images, included in Guillaume Apollinaire's poems: "Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d' Orphée" (1911).
In June I posted a note about him in the Nab-L, in connection to Mlle Montparnasse (Ada). This time, the link is with Nabokov's Russian pen-name, V.Sirin.

The illustrations are presented together with his poems "Les Sirènes" and "Orphée". His sirens have wings and sphynxlike claws.
"N'oyez pas ces oiseaux maudits,/Mais les Anges du paradis." ( don't listen to these cursed birds/but to the Angels in paradise), he warns but he also compares himself with their "machinating voices" and, his verses, to singing ships.

Nabokov's pen-name only sounds like the word "siren," for it is applied to an avian figure of Russian folklore. Although Wiki information links them to the sirens, their song is mostly happy and heard only by a privileged few.* ( a meaning equally hinted at by Apollinaire's lines).

* wiki: Sirin is a mythological creature of Russian legends, with the head and chest of a beautiful woman and the body of a bird (usually an owl). According to myth, the Sirins lived "in Indian lands" near Eden or around the Euphrates River. These half-women half-birds are directly based on the Greek myths and later folklore about sirens.They were usually portrayed wearing a crown or with a nimbus. Sirins sang beautiful songs to the saints, foretelling future joys. For mortals, however, the birds were dangerous. Men who heard them would forget everything on earth, follow them, and ultimately die. People would attempt to save themselves from Sirins by shooting cannons, ringing bells and making other loud noises to scare the bird off. Later (17-18th century), the image of Sirins changed and they started to symbolize world harmony (as they live near paradise). People in those times believed only really happy people could hear a Sirin, while only very few could see one because she is as fast and difficult to catch as human happiness. She symbolizes eternal joy and heavenly happiness.

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