Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002436, Mon, 6 Oct 1997 10:41:18 -0700

*Dark Ice* Notes lines 847-1,001 [Notes#7 of 7] (fwd)

Line 847
this zero O.

Something like the Russian word for
lake. Drowsy...almost asleep....
Then some car's headlights passed
into the room, slid slowly across the
ceiling and dove down the wall--where
they vanished. No sound of a car.
The faucet dripped on. Again awake.

Line 858

A sundial's shadowcasting blade.

Line 891
Zemblan fishers camping on the ice

Something I remember from an old
*National Geographic*, photographed
in an icy rain by Bates Littlehales. (It
may have been Alaska.)

Lines 892-928
I see the road from here...*speeding to, America?*

See Gogol's famous apostrophe to
Russia from the closing paragraphs
of *Dead Souls*, Part I. Nabokov's
comment on this rousing finish (in
his book-length study, *Nikolai Gogol*):
"Beautiful as all this final crescendo
sounds, it is from the stylistic point of
view merely a conjurer's patter
enabling an object to disappear, the
particular object being--Chichikov."
Gogol once planned to emigrate
to the U.S.A., which he described as
"the fantastic country of happiness and
rational productive labor."

Lines 948-949
*A long... struggle*

Phrases lifted (Thanks to Roland
Forrester) from *History of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
(Bolsheviks)*, short course, edited
by a commission of the C.C. of the
C.P.S.U. (B.), authorized by the C.C.
of the C.P.S.U.(B.), 1938; Foreign
Languages Publishing House,
Moscow, 1945.

Lines 960

Francis Crick, co-discoverer, with James
Watson, of the double helix of the DNA
molecule--our code of codes. DNA is found
in the cells of all earthly organisms. A
complete human DNA molecule may
contain 10 billion atoms, all (literally)
vital information.

Line 993

Like; related; and therefore "bearing
good will to" (OED). An interesting
word. A Middle-English noble would
be described as "comen of kind," of
"good" family, of noble stock; *kind*
and *king* are akin, since a king was
"the head of a 'kin,' or tribe" (Ernest
Weekley, *An Etymological Dictionary
of Modern English*).
*Kind* derives from the Old English
*Cynn*, our *Kin*, meaning *kind, sort,
family, race, people*, and also *becoming,
proper, suitable*; and *cynd*, origin,
species, nature. *Cynewise* is
\*commonwealth*; *cynebeald* is *royally
bold*; *cyndnes* is *nation, produce,
increase*; *cyning* is *king, ruler;*
*cyndlim* is *womb*; *cynlic* is
*fitting, proper, sufficient*; *cynnig*
is *noble, of good family*; *cyndren*
is *kindred, family, posterity, kind,
species.* *Kith* is *kinship, friendship,
acquaintance, familiarity, knowledge of*,
and so on (J.R. Clark Hall, *A Concise
Anglo-Saxon Dictionary*, Cambridge
University Press, 1960).
The word kind seems to expand outward
from *family* (with a side trip, by way of
an "important family," to the nobility) to
enlarging metaphors of likeness: country,
race, species. *Kindness*, then, implies
relationship--family--of some acknowledged
type. The *Oxford English Dictionary* seems
to confirm this movement from "of a family"
to "ready to assist, or show consideration
for, others." Its many senses of *kind-* and
*cynn-*related words include:

Family, race, blood-relations. A group
of persons descended from a common
ancestor, and so connected by blood-
relationship; a family, stock, clan; in
Old English, also people, nation, tribe.
The group of persons formed by each
stage of descent in a family or clan; a
generation. The group of persons who
are related to one; one's kindred,
kinsfolk, or relatives, collectively. The
quality, condition, or fact of being
related by birth or descent; kinship,
relationship, consanguinity. A large
natural group or division of animals
or plants, having presumably a common
ancestry; the race (of men, fishes, etc.).
A class (of persons, animals, or things)
having common attributes; a species,
sort, kind. *Of kin* = akin: Related by
blood-ties. Also, Related in character or
qualities. *Near of kin*, closely related.
*Next of kin*, most closely related;
chiefly the person (or persons) standing
in the nearest degree of blood-
relationship to another, and entitled
to share in his personal estate in case
of intestacy.

A *wergeld* or man-boot paid by a
homicide to the kin of the person slain.
(Not the same as the Old English
*cynebot* or royal compensation.)

Birth, origin, descent. The station,
place, or property belonging to one
by birth; one's native place or position;
that to which one has a natural right;
birthright, heritage. That which
naturally belongs to or befits one. The
character or quality derived from birth
or native constitution; natural disposition,
nature. Natural state, form, or condition.
A natural quality, property or characteristic.
The manner or way natural or proper to
any one; hence, mode of action; manner,
way, fashion. A class, group, or division of
things. A race, or natural group of animals
or plants having a common origin. A class
of individuals or objects distinguished by
attributes possessed in common; a genus or
species; also, in vaguer sense: A sort,
variety, or description. (Latin genus.) In
kind, In the very kind of article or
commodity in question; usually of payment:
In goods or natural produce, as opposed
to money.

A bell sounded somewhere: from another
direction now. Quite nearby, cold resonant
iron swung gently, gently, to rest atop a
tower in the dark. Snow on the lawn shone
briefly as a light in the next house was
switched on; off. An apple on a table across
the room reflected some of the window's
doings on its dull peel, its squarish
bruise. The window reflected it.

Of repayment: In something of the same
kind as that received. Natural, native.
Implanted by nature; innate; inherent.
Naturally pertaining to, or associated
with, a person or thing; proper,
appropriate, fitting. Belonging to one by
right of birth, descent, or inheritance;
lawful, rightful. Related by kinship. Of
good birth, kind, nature or disposition.
Well-born, well-bred, of generous or
gentle birth, gentle. Of a good kind;
hence, good of its kind, having the
natural (good) qualities well developed.
Of persons: Naturally well-disposed;
having a gentle, sympathetic, or
benevolent nature; ready to assist, or
show consideration for, others;
generous, liberal, courteous. Also of
disposition. Well or favorably disposed
to; bearing good will to. Exhibiting a
friendly or benevolent disposition by
one's conduct to a person or animal. Of
action, language, etc.: Arising from or
displaying a kind disposition. Of
persons, their actions, etc.: Affectionate,
loving, fond; on intimate terms (also
*euphemistically*). Acceptable, agreeable,
pleasant, winsome; kindly. Grateful,

I lay awake in a borrowed bed. The curtain
blew in slightly; windows leak. The room
seemed to breathe. A car turned into my
hearing, turned around in some distant
driveway, paused, slid out again: no lights.
Persistent click of the drip on the rim of the

Having naturally a kind disposition.


Without natural power, affection, feeling,
etc.: unnatural. Devoid of kindness.

Without affection.

In a kindly manner; with good nature
and sympathy.

The quality or habit of being kindly.
An instance of this, a kindly deed.
Mildness or amenity (of climate or
season) favorable to vegetation.

I lay looking up, having once again almost
drifted off--approached the edge of sleep
but gone no further: a lean-to propped
against the ice-smooth wall of a palace.
Nothing more. My pillow seemed stuffed
with books. Insomnia is a confrontation
between a finite being and infinite time.
(Is that right? Then does sleep order
infinity?) After further cruel comparisons
and a brief drink from that perpetual
faucet, I almost slept. A drip on the rim
of the dream.

Natural, in various senses. That is,
exists or takes place according to
natural laws; consonant or congruent
with nature; natural, as opposed to
artificial. Implanted by nature; innate;
inherent in the nature of a person or
thing. Naturally belonging to or
connected with a person or thing; own,
proper, suitable. That belongs to one
by birth; native; hereditary. Existing
between kinsfolk. Having a right to
one's position in virtue of birth or
descent; rightful, lawful. Of children:
Lawfully born, legitimate. Of a tenant:
Holding a lease of land which his
ancestors have similarly held before
him: such a tenant usually held his land
on favorable terms, and the name was
also extended to others admitted as
tenants on similar conditions. Native-
born. Characterized by good nature.
Of good nature or natural qualities;
excellent of its kind; of a good sort; in
good condition, thriving; goodly. Of
persons: Having a friendly benevolent
disposition; kind-hearted, good-natured.
Hence also of character, feelings,
actions, etc.

The bell *rang*; *rang*; rang. Was it four?...had
I dreamed one stroke, or slept through two?
I lay awake. Light somewhere: a mirrored blur,
it dimmed. I turned, for a cooler pillow on my
face. The sun would come up soon; I would
never sleep. I slept.

Of things, especially of the weather, climate,
or soil: Genial, benign: favorable to growth
or for a particular crop. Acceptable,
agreeable, pleasant, genial. In accordance
with nature; naturally; by natural disposition;
characteristically. In the way suitable or
appropriate to the nature of the thing;
properly, fittingly. In later use, especially
said of processes which successfully follow
their natural course. In an easy, natural way;
readily; congenially; spontaneously. Properly;
thoroughly, exactly. With natural affection,
affectionately, lovingly; with sympathy,
benevolence, or good nature. Benignly,
genially. In a way that is pleasant or agreeable
to the recipient or object; agreeably, pleasantly.
Kinship; near relationship; natural affection
arising from this. Natural right or title derived
from birth or descent; the status of a kindly
tenant. Natural inclination, tendency,
disposition, or aptitude. Good natural quality
or aptitude. The quality or habit of being kind;
kind nature or disposition, or the exhibition
of this in action or conduct. An instance of this;
a kind act; a benefaction. A benefit, an
advantage. Kind feeling; a feeling of
tenderness or fondness; affection, love. Also
good will, favor, friendship.

The being of kin; relationship by blood or
descent. Affinity in respect of qualities;
resemblance, agreement. A group or body
of persons related to each other by blood; a
family, clan, tribe. The human kindred, the
human race. Of the same kin; related by birth
or descent; cognate.

Omissions mine. Spark and crackle of suddenly
illuminated snow, sweep of sugar-blown
shadows, a black night, windless cold, whole
pines toppled with the play of a flashlight beam,
the spear-flung, glass-barked wood lumbering
alongside--a sheer drop.
What a terrible dream.
Density and clarity. Failed synthesis. The
unskated pond of the full moon caught in a
tilting mirror, wreathed in leaves.
Are we "related"? Should we "exhibit a
friendly or benevolent disposition to a person?
an animal?" and be "ready to assist, or show
consideration for, others, bearing good will"
to them?
It's you I miss tonight. Without you, only
myself, not enough.

Line 1001
Peal free

Were the poet's last word translated into
German, *"Peal frei"* would be an anagram
of *Pale Fire*--coincidentally an antonym of
*Dark Ice*, and a phrase in William
Ivanovich Shakespeare's *Timon of Athens*:

Ile example you with Theeuery:
The Sunnes a Theefe, and with his great attraction
Robbes the vaste Sea. The Moones an arrant Theefe,
And her Pale Fire, she snatches from the Sunne.

*The moon's pearl*--fie. A fractured cognate.
A flagrant yellow bird on an old sill, bright in
the sun of some other country, rifles his feathers
looking for a mite. The palace walls are high,
but can be climbed: sheer only from afar.
It was still dark. The bell began. It finished,
then gave the time quietly away to the weighted
Out there, somewhere, lit history: a window
or two. A few books on a few dim sills. Iron
plates askew on the partly dismantled street.
The snow has melted. Free.
And since I have the luxury of going home,
I will. Line 1,001 (the number of a final
fairytale), points off the edge of the page
and into the air:




Thomas Bolt