NABOKV-L post 0005271, Mon, 3 Jul 2000 14:16:30 -0700

Re: Nabokov and Pope (fwd)
From: ken tapscott <>

Re Nabokov and Pope: there is a short poem of Pope's which purports to be a
"translation" of a poem of Chaucer's, called "The Temple of Fame" or
something similar to that (like Professor Kinbote and his favorite version
of _Timon of Athens_, I don't have the book here with me at the moment) -
the poem is about 30 lines long, a fragment I believe, and it describes a
frozen palace in the very north of the world, in a place called Zembla or
Nova Zembla, or perhaps Pope (or Chaucer) indicates that the Temple is even
farther north than Zembla (again, I'm not certain about this). As I remember
Boyd's biography, I don't recall that he notes this poem of Pope's as a
source or allusion for Nabokov, nor do I remember having seen it referred to
elsewhere in connection with Nabokov and _Pale Fire_. The poem is, or used
to be, in the paperback, edition of the Twickenham Pope, which I used in a
college class. Its connection to _Pale Fire_ seems particularly relevant
because it describes in detail the way that light glints from the icy
surfaces of the palace of Fame, just as the renown of literary work reflects
back on its authors (it's difficult to imagine Pope taking care to preserve
the renown of Chaucer, as far as I'm concerned). Nabokov's Zembla,
similarly, is a kingdom of glass, glassworks, mirrors, and reflected images.
I have never bothered to try locating the original of the poem in Chaucer's
works. Beyond that, I don't recall that Pope's short poem had any
eye-opening revelations for the reader in search of solutions to Nabokov's
puzzling _Pale Fire_, but Nabokov must have been aware of Pope's short

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