NABOKV-L post 0001388, Mon, 28 Oct 1996 11:35:07 -0700

Re: Three questions (fwd)
From: Vitaly Kupisk <104361.1700@CompuServe.COM>

Thank you all who responded to my question!

The answer produced a fantastically satisfying shiver --
the three words (grimpen, chtonic, sempiternal) from a second rate poem (per VN
-- I haven't read it) are so painfully appropriate to Hazel's fate and this
fate's reverberations in the poet and Sybil, and yet, thrice removed behind it,
there is some crafty and patient lepidopterist from a story of VN's childhod....

Vitaly Kupisk

>VN: "a creature of infinite patience and craft..."

>Answer to your question one: all of the fancy words Hazel Shade wants
>defined in PALE FIRE come from is T. S. Eliot's FOUR QUARTETS; "grimpen"
>from "East Coker," II. But Eliot, as Nabokov must have known, coined his
>general "grimpen" from a particular mire in Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle was
>a boyhood favorite of Nabokov's (and, apparently, of another writer of
>long, four-part poems: John Shade). My own opinion is that VN meant to
>lead us, through Eliot, to the following passages in Conan Doyle.

>In Chapter Seven of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Mr. Stapleton of
>Merripit House, a naturalist carrying a butterfly net and specimen box,
>addresses Dr. Watson with a laugh: "'That is the great Grimpen Mire,'
>said he. 'A false step yonder means death to man or beast. Only
>yesterday I saw one of the moor ponies wander into it. He never came
>out. I saw his head for quite a long time craning out of the bog-hole,
>but it sucked him down at last. Even in dry seasons it is a danger to
>cross it, but after these autumn rains it is an awful place. And yet I
>can find my way to the very heart of it and return alive.'"

>Stapleton turns out to be the villain of the story. As Watson reports in
>Chapter 12, "All my unspoken instincts, my vague suspicions, suddenly
>took shape and centred upon the naturalist. In that impassive,
>colourless man, with his straw hat and his butterfly net, I seemed to
>see something terrible--a creature of infinite patience and craft, with
>a smiling face and a murderous heart."