Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004897, Thu, 16 Mar 2000 17:18:53 -0800

Re: A Cryptic l962 Response to McCarthy's Pale Fire Article in
Encounter. Help! (fwd)
On Tue, 14 Mar 2000,

> From: Iann88@aol.com
> Encounter. Help!
> I finally did read Mary McCarthy's article on "Pale Fire" in the October,
> l962 issue of "Encounter" and found it to be a frenzied whirlwind of cocky
> pedantry, so beloved by English Departments in universities -- believe me,
> I wrote that kind of tripe too when I was in grad school. Dwight MacDonald
> must have gagged on McCarthy's article. And the editors of "Encounter"
> published an equally negative response in its "Letters" section the
> following month. It goes,
> "Playing with 'Pale Fire'"
> As we might expect, at the end of Miss Mary McCarthy's giddy flight waits the
> spider Nabokov.
> (Nova) Zembla is also the "region of a malignant deity, called Criticism."
> She is to be found "extended in her den, upon the spoils of numberless
> volumes half-devoured. At her right hand sits Ignorance, her father and
> husband, blind with age; at her left, Pride, her mother, dressing her up in
> the scraps of paper herself had torn. There was Opinion, her sister, light of
> foot, hoodwinked, and headstrong, yet giddy, and perpetually turning. About
> her played her children, Noise and Impudence, Dullness and Vanity,
> Positiveness, Pedantry and Ill-Manners. The goddess herself had claws like a
> cat. . . her eyes turned inward, as if she looked only upon herself; her diet
> was the overflowing of her own gall. . ."
Is it just me or does anyone else see a(quite witty) play on Rupert
Brooke's 'The Funeral of Youth' here?:

The Funeral of Youth : Threnody

The day that Youth had died,
There came to his grave-side,
In decent mourning, from the county's ends,
Those scatter'd friends
Who had liv'd the boon companions of his prime,
And laugh'd with him and sung with him and wasted,
In feast and wine and many crown'd carouse,
The days and nights and the dawnings of the time
When Youth kept open house,
Nor left untasted
Aught of his high emprise and ventures dear,
No quest of his unshar'd-
All these, with loitering feet and sad head bar'd
Follow'd their old friend's bier.
Folly went first,
With muffled bells and coxcomb still revers'd;
And after trod the bearers, hat in hand-
Laughter, most hoarse, and Captain Pride with tann'd
And martial face all grim, and fussy Joy,
Who had to catch a train, and Lust, poor, snivelling boy;
Those bore the dear departed.
Behind them, broken-hearted,
Came Grief, so noisy a widow, that all said,
'Had he but wed
Her elder sister sorrow, in her stead!'
And by her, trying to soothe her all the time,
The fatherless children, Colour, Tune and Rhyme
(The sweet lad Rhyme), ran all-uncomprhending.
Then, at the way's sad ending,
Round the raw grave they stay'd. Old wisdom read,
In mumbling tone, the Service for the Dead.
There stood Romance,
The furrowing tears had mark'd her rouged cheek;
Poor old Conceit, his wonder unassuag'd;
Dead Innocency's daughter, Ignorance;
And shabby, ill-dress'd Generosity;
And Argument too full of woe to speak;
Passion, grown portly, something middle-aged;
And Friendship-not a minute older , she;
Impatience, ever taking out his watch;
Faith, who was deaf, and had to lean, to catch
Old Wisdom's endless drone.
Beauty was there,
Pale in her black; dry-eyed; she stood alone.
Poor maz'd Imagination; Fancy wild;
Ardour, the sunlight on his greying hair;
Contentment, who had known Youth as a child
And never seen him since. And Spring came too,
Dancing over the tombs, and brought him flowers-
She did not stay for long.
And Truth, and Grace, and all the merry crew,
The laughing Winds and Rivers, and lithe Hours;
And Hope, the dewy-ey'd; and sorrowing Song ;-
Yes, with much woe and mourning general,
At dead Youth's funeral,
Even these were met one more together, all,
Who erst the fair and living Youth did know;
All, except only Love. Love had died long ago.



EDITOR'S NOTE. I suspect both the gentleman from Manchester and Brooke
were playing off Swift's "Battle of the Books" (circa 1700), although
personified Virtues were all the rage in the 17th-18th centuries, no?
Although it's beside the point, VN must have known the Brooke poem since
he translated some 20 Brooke poems into Russian