NABOKV-L post 0026452, Wed, 16 Sep 2015 17:01:01 +0300

Tanagra dust & Chapman's Homer in Pale Fire
From Kinbote's note to Line 596:

We all know those dreams in which something Stygian soaks through and Lethe
leaks in the dreary terms of defective plumbing. Following this line, there
is a false start preserved in the draft-and I hope the reader will feel
something of the chill that ran down my long and supple spine when I
discovered this variant:

Should the dead murderer try to embrace
His outraged victim whom he now must face?
Do objects have a soul? Or perish must
Alike great temples and Tanagra dust?

The last syllable of Tanagra and the first three letters of "dust" form the
name of the murderer whose shargar (puny ghost) the radiant spirit of our
poet was soon to face. "Simple chance!" the pedestrian reader may cry. But
let him try to see, as I have tried to see, how many such combinations are
possible and plausible. "Leningrad used to be Petrograd?" "A prig rad (obs.
past tense of read) us?"

VN's home city, St. Petersburg became Petrograd in 1914. In his article Na
pechal'nom ostatke zhizni ("In the Sad Remaining Days of Life," 1914) V. V.
Rozanov quotes Isadora Duncan's essay Се que je pense de la danse ("What I
Think of Dance") in which she mentions the Tanagra figurines and Grecian

Совершенные формы должны помочь создать совершенное движения, учениц
окружают статуэтки Танагры, греческие вазы, танцующие дети Донателло; - ибо
я думаю, что красота создается тогда, когда просыпается воля к ней.

According to Rozanov, radost' (joy) is a dance's genius:

Радость - вот гений танца. И поменьше философии и науки около этой радости.
А то крылышки гения опустятся долу: Мы именно должны прибавлять к танцу
чуть-чуть мысли, не более: И хорошо, что Дункан не написала трактата.

Isadora Duncan (1878-1927) was an American dancer (and, in the 1920s, one of
Esenin's wives). In Canto Three of Pale Fire John Shade mentions a young
woman in ballerina black sitting, feet up, on a stone balustrade:

We give advice
To widower. He has been married twice:
He meets his wives; both loved, both loving, both
Jealous of one another. Time means growth,
And growth means nothing in Elysian life.
Fondling a changeless child, the flax-haired wife
Grieves on the brink of a remembered pond
Full of a dreamy sky. And, also blond,
But with a touch of tawny in the shade,
Feet up, knees clasped, on a stone balustrade
The other sits and raises a moist gaze
Toward the blue impenetrable haze.
How to begin? Which first to kiss? What toy
To give the babe? Does that small solemn boy
Know of the head-on crash which on a wild
March night killed both the mother and the child?
And she, the second love, with instep bare
In ballerina black, why does she wear
The earrings from the other's jewels case? (ll. 569-87)

In VN's novel Look at the Harlequins (1974) Basilevski (a recognizable
portrait of G. Ivanov, the author of the Foreword to Esenin's book of poetry
brought out by the Chekhov Publishing House in NY) translated the opening
line of Keats' Endymion, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever," as Vsegda nas
raduet krasivaya veshchitsa, which in retranslation gives: "A pretty bauble
always gladdens us" (2.1). John Keats is the author of Ode on a Grecian Urn
and On first looking into Chapman's Homer. The latter poem is directly
alluded to in Pale Fire:

I was brought up by dear bizarre Aunt Maud,
A poet and a painter with a taste
For realistic objects interlaced
With grotesque growths and images of doom.
She lived to hear the next babe cry. Her room
We've kept intact. Its trivia create
A still life in her style: the paperweight
Of convex glass enclosing a lagoon,
The verse open at the Index (Moon,
Moonrise, Moor, Moral), the forlorn guitar
The human skull; and from the local Star
A curio: Red Sox Beat Yanks 5-4
On Chapman's Homer, thumbtacked to the door. (ll. 86-98)

Kinbote's note to Line 98: On Chapman's Homer

A reference to the title of Keats' famous sonnet (often quoted in America)
which, owing to a printer's absent-mindedness, has been drolly transposed,
from some other article, into the account of a sports event. For other vivid
misprints see note to line 802.

In his "famous sonnet" Keats mentions "stout Cortez." In Aldanov's novel
Klyuch ("The Key," 1929) Fedosiev (the former head of political police who
fears assassination), as he speaks to Braun, mentions "the modern Pizarro:"

В Америке, например, таким людям совершенно нечего делать, прямо хоть в
Ниагару бросайся. Но в Европе - у нас в особенности - судьба послала им в
последний подарок революцию. Ведь романтика конспирации, восстаний, террора
пьянит - увы! - не только мальчишек. Для современного Пизарро, прямо скажу,
нет лучше способа <возродить себя к новой жизни>. А если для этого,
например, нужно отправить к праотцам такого злодея, как Сергей Федосьев, то
уж, конечно, грех был бы стесняться. Этот спорт очень захватывает, Александр
Михайлович. (Part Two, chapter XIV)

According to Fedosiev, in America people of the Pizarro type have absolutely
nothing to do in our days and can throw themselves in the Niagara out of
sheer boredom. The characters of Pale Fire include Andronnikov and Niagarin,
two Soviet experts in quest of a buried treasure. In his poem Yanvarskiy
den'. Na beregu Nevy ("A January day. On the Neva's bank:" 1922) G. Ivanov
mentions, among other beauties of the time, Salomeya Andronnikov

Январский день. На берегу Невы
Несётся ветер, разрушеньем вея...
Где Олечка Судейкина, увы,
Ахматова, Паллада, Саломея.
Все, кто блистал в тринадцатом году,
Лишь призраки на петербургском льду...
Вновь соловьи засвищут в тополях
И, на закате, в Павловске иль Царском,
Пройдёт другая дама в соболях,
Другой влюблённый в ментике гусарском,
Но Всеволода Князева они

Не вспомнят в дорогой ему тени!

According to the author, everybody who shone in 1913 is only a ghost on the
St. Petersburg ice. The poem's last word is teni (accented on the ultima),
Prepositional case of ten' (shadow; shade). In the poem's closing lines
Ivanov mentions Kuzmin's lover Vsevolod Knyazev (1891-1913), a young poet
who committed suicide. One wonders, if in "Botkin, V." (in the Index to PF)
V. does not stand for Vsevolod? Princes Vsevolod and Vseslav (cf. Charles
Xavier Vseslav, the last king of Zembla) are characters in Slovo o polku
Igoreve ("The Song of Igor's Campaign"). According to Kinbote (note to Line
681), a famous old Russian chanson de geste was forged by the Russian
adventurer Hodynski, the goliart (court jester) and lover of Princess (later
Queen) Yaruga (reigned 1798-99), the mother of Igor. One of the chapters in
G. Ivanov's Kniga o poslednem tsarstvovanii ("The Book about the Last
Reign," 1933), Hodynka, is dedicated to the Hodynka tragedy in Moscow on the
coronation day in May, 1896.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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