NABOKV-L post 0026511, Fri, 9 Oct 2015 01:15:20 -0300

RES: [NABOKV-L] more about Disa & Sybil
Carolyn Kunin: [ ] The trinity of Shade, Kinbote, Gradus is reflected in the threesome of Sybil, Sylvia and Disa [ ]. If Shade is related anagrammatically to Hades, Sybil is in her own name directly related to the underworld. If memory serves correctly, the sybils of ancient Greece would perch in Delphi over clefts in the earth from whence fumes arose and it was these fumes (literally 'smokes') from the underworld that would intoxicate and inspire them. [ ] *The archives are a real hoot - I never before realized that both a laugh and laughter lurk in slaughter.

Jansy Mello: Hi, Carolyn. Good to hear from you and encounter your lively associations which, as it’s often the case, carry me far. This time and again I was reminded of T.S.Eliot’s epigraph to “The Wasteland”, from the Satyricon (Petronius), where one Sybil is mentioned (but I don’t imagine VN was thinking about that ever-shriveling prophet). Check it online here <>

"Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi/ in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Σιβυλλα / τι θελεις; respondebat illa: αποθανειν θελω." “I have seen with my own eyes the Sibyl hanging in a jar, and when the boys asked her ‘What do you want?’ She answered, ‘I want to die.’
Explanation: “The Cumaean Sibyl was the most famous of the Sibyls, the prophetic old women of Greek mythology; she guided Aeneas through Hades in the Aeneid. She had been granted immortality by Apollo, but because she forgot to ask for perpetual youth, she shrank into withered old age and her authority declined.”

Some of the comments in the “Tripod” link (see above) about the a swallow in one of the last verses from “What the thunder said”( V),verse 428 in The Wasteland, led me to part of the connections found in a 2008 posting by Matt Roth (and a commentary by Brian Boyd), referring to Eliot’s verses, also in The Wasteland, namely in the “Game of Chess”, and departing from Sybil’s surname Irondel (hirondelle/swallow)* and the story of Philomel. : <;%20charset=iso-8859-1> RE: [NABOKV-L] THOUGHTS: Shade's Mockingbird <>

Matt Roth also mentions Shade’s transcription of a few bird sounds: “To-wee and Come here, come herrr (but not chippo, as far as I can tell) can be read as words from Hazel to her father. To-wee becomes "two, we" (we two) and Come here, come herrr becomes a plea for attention and a play on Shade's name, which is, in Spanish, "almost man," just as herr, in German, means ‘mister’."

An additional reference, related to Philomel and Tereus and to birdsong, may interest M.R.- even though it arrives six or seven years after he sent this post by a tortuous road, from Thomas Nashe to an earlier John Lily and by the tenuous connection with Shade’s “To-wee” and Nashe’s “To-witta-woo”.

I only reached these verses because they are digitally available and because at first I remembered some of the birdsounds reproduced in Benjamin Britten’s Spring Symphony, and searched for more info. I chose to get to the lyrics of the song “Spring, the sweet spring,” inspired in the lines by Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) where there are a few bird-calls, initially “jug-jug-pu-we, and to-witta-woo”**.

I also came to additional information, one that led me to Lily’s nightingale (but, unhappily, I could gain no access to “to-witta-woo” which might suggest Shade’s “To-wee”).

1. “For entertaining speculation on identifying the calls “ jug-jug, pu-we, and to-witta-woo,” click here for the entry in <> Notes to Palgrave’s Golden treasury of songs & lyrics, Books 1-4.”

“What bird so sings, yet so does wail?

Oh, ‘tis the ravished nightingale!

Jug,jug,jug,jug,tereu, she cries;

And still her woes at midnight rise…”
Note Thomas Lily’s different transcription of the sounds forming the name “tereu” and indicating a ravished wailing nightingale… ***

2. “To choose poems for the Spring Symphony, Britten’s “initial resource was a battered copy of Elizabethan Lyrics from the Original Texts, edited by Norman Ault, which he had possessed since 1932.” [Powell 279] (The Ault book, though a later edition—3rd Edition, 1949—may be found <;view=1up;seq=9> here.) “

Old times…


*Roth: “Shade is a waxwing, Sybil a swallow (hirondelle), and Hazel a nightingale/pheasant. As far as I know, this arrangement has only one precedent: the myth of Tereus, Procne, Philomel, and Itys. [ ] As you may have guessed, I believe that this is no mere coincidence, and I likewise believe that it supports a reading of the novel wherein there is some kind of unnatural relationship (active or passive) between John Shade and Hazel. In Ovid, it is very clear that Tereus's relationship with Philomel is seen as a form of incest, and the father's devouring of his child is simply an alimentary form of incest. Note too that in one scene in the Metamorphoses, Tereus, while witnessing Philomel embracing her father (the king), wishes that he were her father, so that he could indulge his passion incestuously. (Shade, by the way, twice imagines himself a king in "PF"--see lines 605 and 894; in the latter of these, he, like Kinbote, imagines himself both as a king and as the victim of an assassin.)…We can now also note another link to Eliot's "Game of Chess," which Shade (or Nabokov) parodies in Canto Three.” …

** Thomas Nashe

Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,

Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,

Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:

Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The palm and may make country houses gay,

Lambs frisk and play, the shepherds pipe all day,

And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay:

Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,

Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit,

In every street these tunes our ears do greet:

Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to witta-woo!

Spring, the sweet spring!


Spring’s Welcome

By John Lyly (1555?–1606)

WHAT bird so sings, yet so does wail?

O ’tis the ravish’d nightingale.

Jug, jug, jug, tereu! she cries,

And still her woes at midnight rise.

Brave prick-song! Who is’t now we hear?


None but the lark so shrill and clear;

Now at heaven’s gate she claps her wings,

The morn not waking till she sings.

Hark, hark, with what a pretty throat

Poor robin redbreast tunes his note;


Hark how the jolly cuckoos sing

Cuckoo! to welcome in the spring!

Cuckoo! to welcome in the spring!

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