Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004879, Fri, 10 Mar 2000 08:41:36 -0800

VN & Sterne: caged starling (fwd)
From: Robert Cook <rcook@rhi.hi.is>

The lines "I talk in a daze, I walk in a maze, / I cannot get out, said the
starling," in Humbert's "maniac's masterpiece" of a poem, written after
losing Dolores, are well glossed in Alfred Appel's "Annotated Lolita,"
1970, p. 420. As Appel points out, seeing the caged bird in his Parisian
hotel arouses Yorick's deepest sentiments. To quote a passage not in
Appel's note: "I vow, I never had my affections more tenderly awakened; or
do I remember an incident in my life, where the dissipated spirits, to
which my reason had been a bubble, were so suddenly call'd home. Mechanical
as the notes were, yet so true in tune to nature were they chanted, that in
one moment they overthrew all my systematic reasonings upon the Bastile;
and I heavily walk'd up stairs, unsaying every word I had said in going
down them." ("A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy by Mr.
Yorick," ed. by Gardner D. Stout, Jr., University of California Press,
1967, p. 198) Just as Yorick's rationalizing away of the evils of the
Bastille is overthrown by the voice of the caged bird, Humbert's reasoning
(such as it is) is undone by his awareness that he had made Lolita a caged
bird. He walks "in a maze," just as Yorick "heavily walk'd."

Robert Cook, University of Iceland