NABOKV-L post 0026289, Mon, 13 Jul 2015 14:23:00 +0300

ciphered night in Fame
From VN's poem Slava (“Fame,” 1942):

Эта тайна та-та, та-та-та-та, та-та,
а точнее сказать я не вправе.

Оттого так смешна мне пустая мечта
о читателе, теле и славе.
Я без тела разросся, без отзвука жив,
и со мной моя тайна всечасно.
Что мне тление книг, если даже разрыв
между мной и отчизною -- частность.

Признаюсь, хорошо зашифрована ночь,
но под звёзды я буквы подставил
и в себе прочитал, чем себя превозмочь,
а точнее сказать я не вправе.

That main secret tra-tá-ta, tra-tá-ta, tra-tá -

and I must not be overexplicit.

this is why I find laughable the empty dream

about readers, and body and glory.

Without body I've spread, without echo I thrive,

and with me all along is my secret.
A book's death can't affect me since even the break

between me and my land is a trifle.

I admit that the night has been ciphered right well

but in place of the stars I put letters,

and I've read in myself how the self to transcend -

and I must not be overexplicit.

Slava (glory; fame) rhymes with Poltava (a city in E Ukraine). In his long
poem Poltava (1829) Pushkin describes the Ukrainian night:

Тиха украинская ночь.
Прозрачно небо. Звёзды блещут.
Своей дремоты превозмочь
Не хочет воздух. Чуть трепещут
Сребристых тополей листы.
Луна спокойно с высоты
Над Белой-Церковью сияет
И пышных гетманов сады
И старый замок озаряет.

The Ukrainian night is quiet.

The sky is transparent. The stars sparkle.

The air does not want to overcome

Its somnolence. The leaves

Of silvery poplars tremble slightly. (Canto Two)

Describing the battle of Poltava, Pushkin mentions the terrible lik (face)
of Peter I:

Толпой любимцев окруженный,
Выходит Пётр. Его глаза
Сияют. Лик его ужасен.
Движенья быстры. Он прекрасен,
Он весь, как божия гроза.

Surrounded by the crowd of his favorites,

Peter comes out. His eyes

Are radiant. His face is terrible.

His movements are rapid. He is beautiful.

He’s all like God’s thunderstorm. (Canto Three)

Lik (1939) is a story by VN. As I pointed out before, its eponymous hero can
be compared to Akakiy Akakievich Bashmachkin, the main character in Gogol’s
story Shinel’ (“The Carrick,” 1842) who is mentioned in Slava:

Есть вещи, вещи,

которые... даже... (Акакий Акакиевич

любил, если помните, "плевелы речи",

и он как Наречье, мой гость восковой),

и сердце просится, и сердце мечется,

и я не могу. А его разговор

так и катится острою осыпью под гору,

и картавое, кроткое слушать должно

и заслушиваться господина бодрого,

оттого что без слов и без славы оно.

There are matters, matters

which, so to speak, even… (Akakiy Akakievich

had a weakness, if you remember, for “weed words,”

and he’s like an Adverb, my waxy guest),

and my heart keeps pressing, my heart keeps tossing,

and I can’t any more \xa8C while his speech

fairly tumbles on downhill, like sharp loose gravel,

and the burry-R’d meek heart must harken to him,

aye, harken entranced to the buoyant gentleman,

because it has got no words and no fame.

In my post of January 8, 2013, I suggest that the main secret in Slava (та
-та, та-та-та-та, та-та) is spina trubochista chista (the back
of the chimney-sweep is clean). In Gogol’s Shinel’ Akakiy Akakievich meets
that chimney-sweep after leaving Petrovich, the tailor who refused to repair
Akakiy Akakievich’s old overcoat:

Вышед на улицу, Акакий Акакиевич был как в
о сне. "Этаково-то дело этакое, - говорил о
н сам себе, - я, право, и не думал, чтобы оно
вышло того...- а потом, после некоторого мо
лчания, прибавил: - Так вот как! наконец во
т что вышло, а я, право, совсем и предполаг
ать не мог, чтобы оно было этак". Засим пос
ледовало опять долгое молчание, после кот
орого он произнёс: "Так этак-то! вот какое
уж, точно, никак неожиданное, того... этого
бы никак... этакое-то обстоятельство!" Сказ
авши это, он, вместо того чтобы идти домой,
пошел совершенно в противную сторону, сам
того не подозревая. Дорогою задел его все
м нечистым своим боком трубочист и вычерн
ил все плечо ему; целая шапка извести высы
палась на него с верхушки строившегося до
ма. Он ничего этого не заметил...

Akakiy Akakievitch went out into the street as if in a dream. "Such an
affair!" he said to himself: "I did not think it had come to --" and then
after a pause, he added, "Well, so it is! see what it has come to at last!
and I never imagined that it was so!" Then followed a long silence, after
which he exclaimed, "Well, so it is! see what already -- nothing unexpected
that -- it would be nothing -- what a strange circumstance!" So saying,
instead of going home, he went in exactly the opposite direction without
himself suspecting it. On the way, a chimney-sweep bumped up against him,
and blackened his shoulder, and a whole hatful of rubbish landed on him from
the top of a house which was building. He did not notice it...

The chimney-sweep’s nechistyi bok (unclean side) would have attracted
Nabokov’s attention. On the other hand, chyort (the devil) is often called
nechistyi (cf. nechityi poputal, “it’s the devil’s work”). In Slava the
author’s visitor (whose nostrils are soot-stuffed) must be the devil
himself. But we should not forget (as in VN’s play “The Event” the
portrait painter Troshcheykin does) that the devil is not as terrible as he
is painted.

Lik’s real name seems to be Kulikov. Kulik is a bird stint, sandpiper. In
his story Strashnaya mest’ (“The Terrible Vengeance,” 1832) Gogol (whose
name means “golden-eye”) famously says that a rare bird will fly to the
middle of the Dnepr. In VN’s Parizhskaya poema (“The Paris Poem,” 1943)
there is an imitation of this hyperbolic passage in “The Terrible
Vengeance” beginning chuden Dnepr pri tikhoy pogode (wondrous is the Dnepr
in the windless weather):

Чуден ночью Париж сухопарый…

Wondrous at night is gaunt Paris.

Another line in “The Paris Poem,” Ot kochuyushchikh, prazdno
plutayushchikh (From those wandering, those idly straying), alludes to a
line in Nekrasov’s poem Rytsar’ na chas (“The Knight for an Hour,”
1862), Ot likuyushchikh, prazdno boltayushchikh (From those jubilant, those
idly babbling). Likuyushchiy (jubilant), the participle that comes from
likovat’ (to rejoice, exult), begins with lik. At the end of “The Paris
Poem” likuyushchie lipy (the jubilant lindens) and the bright din of the
birds are mentioned:

И по яркому гомону птичьему,

по ликующим липам в окне,

по их зелени преувеличенной,

и по солнцу на мне и во мне,

и по белым гигантам в лазури,

что стремятся ко мне напрямик,

по сверканью, по мощи прищуриться

и узнать свой сегодняшний миг.

And by the bright din of the birds,

by the jubilant window-framed lindens,

by their extravagant greenery,

by the sunlight upon me and in me,

by the white colossi that rush through the blue

straight at me \xa8C as I narrow my eyes \xa8C

by all that sparkle and all that power

my present moment to recognize.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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