Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026479, Tue, 29 Sep 2015 11:29:39 +0300

Embla & Emblem in Pale Fire
Kinbote's Zembla has Embla Point and Emblem Bay:

Now that he was safely out of the country, the entire blue bulk of Zembla,
from Embla Point to Emblem Bay, could sink in the sea for all she [Queen
Disa, K.'s wife] cared. That he had lost weight was of more concern to her
than that he had lost a kingdom. Perfunctorily she inquired about the crown
jewels; he revealed to her their unusual hiding place, and she melted in
girlish mirth as she had not done for years and years. (Kinbote's note to
ll. 433-34)

From the Index to PF:

Embla, a small old town with a wooden church surrounded by sphagnum bogs at
the saddest, loneliest, northmost point of the misty peninsula,
<http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#comline149> 149,
<http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#lines433434> 433.
Emblem, meaning "blooming" in Zemblan; a beautiful bay with bluish and
black, curiously striped rocks and a luxurious growth of heather on its
gentle slopes, in the southmost part of W. Zembla,
<http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#lines433434> 433.

In his essay Balmont-lirik ("Balmont the Lyric Poet") included in Kniga
otrazheniy ("Book of Reflections," 1906) Nik. T-o (I. Annenski's penname)
complains that we do not want to look at poetry seriously and mentions
emblema (the emblem):

Да и не хотим мы глядеть на поэзию серьёзно, т. е. как на искусство. На
словах поэзия будет для нас, пожалуй, и служение, и подвиг, и огонь, и
алтарь, и какая там ещё не потревожена эмблема, а на деле мы всё ещё ценим в
ней сладкий лимонад, не лишённый, впрочем, и полезности, которая даже
строгим и огорчённым русским читателем очень ценится. Разве можно думать над
стихами? Что же тогда останется для алгебры?

Among the "emblems" mentioned by Annenski are podvig (feat, exploit), ogon'
(fire) and altar' (altar). All of them occur in Pushkin's sonnet Poetu ("To
a Poet," 1830), in which the author tells to a poet "you are a king, live

Поэт! не дорожи любовию народной.
Восторженных похвал пройдёт минутный шум;
Услышишь суд глупца и смех толпы холодной,
Но ты останься твёрд, спокоен и угрюм.

Ты царь: живи один. Дорогою свободной
Иди, куда влечёт тебя свободный ум,
Усовершенствуя плоды любимых дум,
Не требуя наград за подвиг благородный.

Они в самом тебе. Ты сам свой высший суд;
Всех строже оценить умеешь ты свой труд.
Ты им доволен ли, взыскательный художник?

Доволен? Так пускай толпа его бранит
И плюет на алтарь, где твой огонь горит,
И в детской резвости колеблет твой треножник.

Poet! do not cling to popular affection.
The temporary noise of ecstatic praises will pass;
You will hear the fool's judgment, the laugh of the cold crowd,
But you must remain firm, calm, and morose.

You are a king; live alone. By way of the free road
Go wherever your free mind draws you,
Perfecting the fruits of your beloved thoughts,
Not asking any rewards for your noble feat.

They are inside you. You are your highest judge;
More strictly than anyone can you appraise your work.
Are you satisfied with it, exacting artist?

Satisfied? Then let the crowd treat it harshly
And spit on the altar, where your fire burns
And shake your tripod in childish playfulness.

(transl. Diana Senechal)

Koleblemyi trenozhnik ("The Shaken Tripod," 1921) is the title of
Hodasevich's famous speech in which the author announces that Pushkin is the
parole, the password, by which cultured Russians will recognize each other
in the "encroaching darkness" of the twilight of civilization. Note eblem in
the queer participle koleblemyi.

In his essay Ob Annenskom ("On Annenski," 1935) Hodasevich mentions
Annenski's penname Nik. T-o and compares the poet (who suffered from a heart
ailment and made death the main theme of his poetry) to Ivan Ilyich Golovin,
the hero of Tolstoy's story Smert' Ivana Ilyicha ("The Dearth of Ivan
Ilyich," 1886). As Tolstoy himself pointed out, he was "the Count who
attempted to make boots." Among literary friends of Tolstoy's youth was V.
P. Botkin. According to Kinbote (the author of a book on surnames), Botkin
is the "one who makes bottekins, fancy footwear" (note to L. 71).

In VN's novel Podvig ("Glory," 1932) Martin and Sonya invent Zoorland, a
distant northern land that resembles Kinbote's Zembla. Kinbote imagines that
he is the self-exiled last king of Zembla, Charles the Beloved.

According to Kinbote, the name Zembla is a corruption not of the Russian
zemlya, but of Semberland, a land of reflections, of "resemblers" (note to
Line 894). Still, Zemlya ("Earth," 1908) is a cycle of twelve poems by
Balmont. In his poem Velikoe Nichto ("The Great Nothing," 1903) Balmont
compares his soul to a temple in which the shades breathe and mentions
edinorog, emblema sovershenstva (the unicorn, an emblem of perfection).

In Canto Three of his poem Shade mentions "ivory unicorns and ebony fauns:"

Yes! It sufficed that I in life could find
Some kind of link and bobolink, some kind
Or correlated pattern in the game,
Plexed artistry, and something of the same
Pleasure in it as they who played it found.

It did not matter who they were. No sound,
No furtive light came from their involute
Abode, but there they were, aloof and mute,
Playing a game of worlds, promoting pawns
To ivory unicorns and ebony fauns;
Kindling a long life here, extinguishing
A short one there; killing a Balkan king;
Causing a chunk of ice formed on a high-
Flying airplane to plummet from the sky
And strike a farmer dead; hiding my keys,
Glasses or pipe. (ll. 811-826)

Shade's poem is written in heroic couplets. In the next paragraph of his
essay "Balmont the Lyric Poet" Annenski mentions samye geroicheskie razmery
(the most heroic meters):

Но ещё хуже обстоят дела поэзии, если стихотворение покажется читателю
неморальным, точно мораль то же, что добродетель, и точно блюдение оной на
словах, хотя бы в самых героических размерах, имеет что-нибудь общее с
подвигом и даже доброй улыбкой. Поэтическое искусство, как и все другие
определяется прежде всего тем, что одарённый человек стремится испытывать
редкое и высокое наслаждение творчеством. Само по себе творчество -
аморально, и наслаждаться им ли или чем другим отнюдь не значит жертвовать и
ограничивать самого себя ради ближних, сколько бы блага потом они ни вынесли
из нашего наслаждения.

Annenski points out that creative work is in itself immoral and to enjoy it
does not mean sacrifice and limit oneself for one's neighbors' sake,
whatever profit they would later derive from our pleasure.

Alexey Sklyarenko

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
AdaOnline: "http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada: http://vnjapan.org/main/ada/index.html
The VN Bibliography Blog: http://vnbiblio.com/
Search the archive with L-Soft: https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A0=NABOKV-L

Manage subscription options :http://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=NABOKV-L