NABOKV-L post 0003370, Fri, 18 Sep 1998 14:06:28 -0700

Re: VN & Sentiment (fwd)
EDITOR's NOTE. Many pre-1925 VN Russian poems would fail a
"Sentimentality Litmus Paper Test." For an interesting study of two
brilliant prose writers who were (mostly) indifferent youthful poets, see
Galya Diments essay on VN and James Joyce.

I cannot resist throwing another poem into the pot. It's an early poem,
1920, so we do need to bear in mind that VN is only 21 here:

Ia bez slez ne mogu/tebia videt', vesna/Vot stoiu na lugu/da i plachu
navzryd (I cannot observe you without tears, o spring. Here I stand in the
meadow and sob heavily).

Sentimental? You bet! Constantly tearful Sterne in the _Sentimental
Journey_ was probably, overall, less melodramatic than that, and a blind
test would probably reveal that the majority on this list, had they not
known the author, would suggest that the poem is a classic example of
"poshlost." So, do we just write it off as juvenalia -- or is there more
to it than that? In his later life, as we all know, VN was very proud of
his "Swallow" (also known as the "Swift") poem. I suspect that, like
Joyce, he did have different criteria for excessive "emoting" in poetry
and prose -- but that does not explain it all away either.

Galya Diment