Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027028, Fri, 27 May 2016 14:27:56 +0300

motor landaulet to Radugalet in Ada
Did they hire a motor landaulet to Radugalet? (1.24)

In his poem Kenzeli (Quinzels, 1911) included in Gromokipyashchiy kubok (“Thunder-Boiling Cup,” 1913) Igor Severyanin* mentions benzinovyi landolet (a benzene landaulet):

Ножки пледом закутайте дорогим, ягуаровым,
И, садясь комфортабельно в ландолете бензиновом,
Жизнь доверьте Вы мальчику в макинтоше резиновом,

И закройте глаза ему Вашим платьем жасминовым —
Шумным платьем муаровым, шумным платьем муаровым!..

The title of Severyanin’s collection was taken from Tyutchev’s poem Vesennyaya groza (“The Spring Thunderstorm,” 1828):

Люблю грозу в начале мая,
Когда весенний, первый гром,
Как бы резвяся и играя,
Грохочет в небе голубом.

Гремят раскаты молодые!
Вот дождик брызнул, пыль летит...
Повисли перлы дождевые,
И солнце нити золотит...

С горы бежит поток проворный,
В лесу не молкнет птичий гам,
И гам лесной, и шум нагорный —
Всё вторит весело громам...

Ты скажешь: ветреная Геба,
Кормя Зевесова орла,
Громокипящий кубок с неба,
Смеясь, на землю пролила!

I love May's first storms:
chuckling, sporting spring
grumbles in mock anger;
young thunder claps,

a spatter of rain and flying dust
and wet pearls hanging
threaded by sun-gold;
a speedy current scampers from the hills.

Such a commotion in the woods!
Noises cartwheel down the mountains.
Every sound is echoed round the sky.
You'd think capricious Hebe,

feeding the eagle of Zeus,
had raised a thunder-foaming goblet,
unable to restrain her mirth,
and tipped it on the earth.

(transl. F. Jude)

Marina and Ada hired a motor landaulet in Raduga. Raduga (“Rainbow,” 1865) is a poem by Tyutchev:

Как неожиданно и ярко,
На влажной неба синеве,
Воздушная воздвиглась арка
В своём минутном торжестве!
Один конец в леса вонзила,
Другим за облака ушла —
Она полнеба обхватила
И в высоте изнемогла.

О, в этом радужном виденье
Какая нега для очей!
Оно дано нам на мгновенье,
Лови его — лови скорей!
Смотри — оно уж побледнело,
Еще минута, две — и что ж?
Ушло, как то уйдет всецело,
Чем ты и дышишь и живёшь.

Unexpectedly and brightly,

moist across the blueness of the sky,

an airy arc has been erected.

Triumphant, it will soon pass by.

One arm has plunged into the forest.

Beyond the clouds the other sweeps.

Half the sky it has encompassed.

It's reached its highest point and sleeps.

This iridescent vision

is pure delight for human eyes.

It's given us for just a moment,

so catch it. In your grasp it lies!

Look again. It's paling.

One second more its colors glow.

It's gone. It's vanished just as surely

as what you breathe and live by goes.

(transl. F. Jude)

Radugalet = raduga + let (gen. pl. of leto, summer; obs., year). Tyutchev’s poem Poslednyaya lyubov’ (“Last Love,” 1851-54) begins: O, kak na sklone nashikh let… (“Oh, how in the final slope of our years…”):

О, как на склоне наших лет
Нежней мы любим и суеверней...
Сияй, сияй, прощальный свет
Любви последней, зари вечерней!

Полнеба обхватила тень,
Лишь там, на западе, бродит сиянье, –
Помедли, помедли, вечерний день,
Продлись, продлись, очарованье.

Пускай скудеет в жилах кровь,
Но в сердце не скудеет нежность...
О ты, последняя любовь!
Ты и блаженство, и безнадежность.

Love at the closing of our days
is apprehensive and very tender.
Glow brighter, brighter, farewell rays
of one last love in its evening splendor.

Blue shade takes half the world away:
through western clouds alone some light is slanted.
O tarry, O tarry, declining day,
enchantment, let me stay enchanted.

The blood runs thinner, yet the heart
remains as ever deep and tender.
O last belated love, thou art
a blend of joy and of hopeless surrender.

(VN’s translation)

Ada is Van’s second and last love. His first (platonic) love was Mrs. Tapirov’s daughter:

He had just turned thirteen. He had never before left the comforts of the paternal roof. He had never before realized that such 'comforts' might not be taken for granted, only occurring in some introductory ready-made metaphor in a book about a boy and a school. A few blocks from the schoolgrounds, a widow, Mrs Tapirov, who was French but spoke English with a Russian accent, had a shop of objets d'art and more or less antique furniture. He visited it on a bright winter day. Crystal vases with crimson roses and golden-brown asters were set here and there in the fore part of the shop - on a gilt-wood console, on a lacquered chest, on the shelf of a cabinet, or simply along the carpeted steps leading to the next floor where great wardrobes and flashy dressers semi-encircled a singular company of harps. He satisfied himself that those flowers were artificial and thought it puzzling that such imitations always pander so exclusively to the eye instead of also copying the damp fat feel of live petal and leaf. When he called next day for the object (unremembered now, eighty years later) that he wanted repaired or duplicated, it was not ready or had not been obtained. In passing, he touched a half-opened rose and was cheated of the sterile texture his fingertips had expected when cool life kissed them with pouting lips. 'My daughter,' said Mrs Tapirov, who saw his surprise, 'always puts a bunch of real ones among the fake pour attraper le client. You drew the joker.' As he was leaving she came in, a schoolgirl in a gray coat with brown shoulder-length ringlets and a pretty face. On another occasion (for a certain part of the thing - a frame, perhaps - took an infinite time to heal or else the entire article proved to be unobtainable after all) he saw her curled up with her schoolbooks in an armchair - a domestic item among those for sale. He never spoke to her. He loved her madly. It must have lasted at least one term. (1.4)

In Kalugano, before his duel with Captain Tapper, Van remembers his first love and wonders if her name was Rose:

When Van arrived in front of the music shop, he found it locked. He stared for a moment at the harps and the guitars and the flowers in silver vases on consoles receding in the dusk of looking-glasses, and recalled the schoolgirl whom he had longed for so keenly half a dozen years ago - Rose? Roza? Was that her name? Would he have been happier with her than with his pale fatal sister? (1.42)

In his poem December 1st, 1837 (1837) Tyutchev mentions late, pale roses:

Так здесь-то суждено нам было
Сказать последнее прости...
Прости всему, чем сердце жило,
Что, жизнь твою убив, её испепелило
В твоей измученной груди!..

Прости... Чрез много, много лет
Ты будешь помнить с содроганьем
Сей край, сей брег с его полуденным сияньем,
Где вечный блеск и долгий цвет,
Где поздних, бледных роз дыханьем
Декабрьский воздух разогрет.

So, here’s where we’re fated

to say our final farewell,

farewell to everything by which we lived,

which killed your life, reducing it to ashes

in your tormented breast!


Farewell. After many, many years

you’ll recall this land with a shudder,

this coast, these hot noons,

where eternal brightness, long blossoming reign,

where, with the breath of late, pale roses,

December’s air is warmed.

(transl. F. Jude)

In his poem January 29th, 1837 (1837) Tyutchev says that Russia’s heart, like first love, will never forget Pushkin:

Из чьей руки свинец смертельный
Поэту сердце растерзал?
Кто сей божественный фиал
Разрушил, как сосуд скудельный?

Будь прав или виновен он
Пред нашей правдою земною,
Навек он высшею рукою
В «цареубийцы» заклеймен.

Но ты, в безвременную тьму
Вдруг поглощенная со света,
Мир, мир тебе, о тень поэта,
Мир светлый праху твоему!..

Назло людскому суесловью
Велик и свят был жребий твой!..
Ты был богов орган живой,
Но с кровью в жилах... знойной кровью.

И сею кровью благородной
Ты жажду чести утолил –
И осененный опочил
Хоругвью горести народной.

Вражду твою пусть Тот рассудит,
Кто слышит пролитую кровь...
Тебя ж, как первую любовь,
России сердце не забудет!..

Who fired the shot?
Who stilled the life which quivered
in the poet’s heart?
In whose hands was the fragile phial shivered?

Innocent or deserving blame,
in the eyes of earthly justice
and branded forever by heaven,
Regicide will be his name.

Into a dark, timeless deep
you were suddenly swept from existence.
Peace to you, poet!
I wish you bright peace in your sleep.

In spite of vain discourse,
your lot has been divine and great.
You were the god’s mouthpiece,
but you lived. In your veins, warm blood coursed!

This noble blood has silenced jeers
staining honour’s name.
Now in the sacred shade you rest,
beneath the banner of our people’s tears.

Let Him pass judgement!
He can hear the flow of blood spilled.
You will be first love in a youthful breast:
in Russia’s heart eternally dear!

(transl. F. Jude)

Tyutchev is the author of Silentium! (1830):

Молчи, скрывайся и таи
И чувства и мечты свои –
Пускай в душевной глубине
Встают и заходят оне
Безмолвно, как звезды в ночи, –
Любуйся ими – и молчи.

Как сердцу высказать себя?
Другому как понять тебя?
Поймёт ли он, чем ты живешь?
Мысль изреченная есть ложь.
Взрывая, возмутишь ключи, –
Питайся ими – и молчи.

Лишь жить в себе самом умей –
Есть целый мир в душе твоей
Таинственно-волшебных дум;
Их оглушит наружный шум,
Дневные разгонят лучи, –
Внимай их пенью – и молчи!..

Speak not, lie hidden, and conceal
the way you dream, the things you feel.
Deep in your spirit let them rise
akin to stars in crystal skies
that set before the night is blurred:
delight in them and speak no word.

How can a heart expression find?
How should another know your mind?
Will he discern what quickens you?
A thought once uttered is untrue.
Dimmed is the fountainhead when stirred:
drink at the source and speak no word.

Live in your inner self alone
within your soul a world has grown,
the magic of veiled thoughts that might
be blinded by the outer light,
drowned in the noise of day, unheard...
take in their song and speak no word.

(VN’s translation)

On Ada’s sixteenth birthday Greg Erminin arrives at the picnic site on his new black Silentium motorcycle:

Van did not err in believing that Ada remained unaffected by Greg's devotion. He now met him again with pleasure - the kind of pleasure, immoral in its very purity, which adds its icy tang to the friendly feelings a successful rival bears toward a thoroughly decent fellow.

Greg, who had left his splendid new black Silentium motorcycle in the forest ride, observed:

'We have company.'

'Indeed we do,' assented Van. 'Kto sii (who are they)? Do you have any idea?'

Nobody had. Raincoated, unpainted, morose, Marina came over and peered through the trees the way Van pointed.

After reverently inspecting the Silentium, a dozen elderly townsmen, in dark clothes, shabby and uncouth, walked into the forest across the road and sat down there to a modest colazione of cheese, buns, salami, sardines and Chianti. They were quite sufficiently far from our picnickers not to bother them in any way. They had no mechanical music boxes with them. Their voices were subdued, their movements could not have been more discreet. The predominant gesture seemed to be ritually limited to this or that fist crumpling brown paper or coarse gazette paper or baker's paper (the very lightweight and inefficient sort), and discarding the crumpled bit in quiet, abstract fashion, while other sad apostolic hands unwrapped the victuals or for some reason or other wrapped them up again, in the noble shade of the pines, in the humble shade of the false acacias. (1.39).

A dozen elderly townsmen in the nearby clearing seem to be the apostles. In “Ardis the First” Greg comes to Ardis on his new black pony:

'I ask myself who can that be,' murmured Mlle Larivière from behind the samovar (which expressed fragments of its surroundings in demented fantasies of a primitive genre) as she slitted her eyes at a part of the drive visible between the pilasters of an open-work gallery. Van, lying prone behind Ada, lifted his eyes from his book (Ada's copy of Atala).

A tall rosy-faced youngster in smart riding breeches dismounted from a black pony.

'It's Greg's beautiful new pony,' said Ada. (1.14)

Greg’s arrival seems to be a parody of Jesus' riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. According to Tyutchev, Jesus Christ v rabskom vide (in a slave’s disguise) has walked throughout Russia’s length and breadth blessing the land:

Эти бедные селенья,
Эта скудная природа —
Край родной долготерпенья,

Край ты русского народа!

Не поймёт и не заметит
Гордый взор иноплеменный,
Что сквозит и тайно светит

В наготе твоей смиренной.

Удручённый ношей крестной,
Всю тебя, земля родная,
В рабском виде Царь небесный
Исходил, благословляя.

These poor villages,

this sorry nature!

Long suffering is native to you,

land of our Russian people!

The proud foreign glance cannot comprehend

- would not even notice! -

what shines secretly

through your humble nakedness.

Burdened by his cross,

throughout your length and breadth,

in the rags of a slave, the Heavenly King has walked,

blessing you, my native land!

(1855; transl. F. Jude)

In 1886 Van in Malahar (a miserable village on Ladore River) rents a motorcycle to reach Ardis wood where he meets Ada (“the black-haired white angel”):

He rented a motorcycle, a venerable machine, with a saddle upholstered in billiard cloth and pretentious false mother-of-pearl handlebars, and drove, bouncing on tree roots along a narrow 'forest ride.' The first thing he saw was the star gleam of her dismissed bike: she stood by it, arms akimbo, the black-haired white angel, looking away in a daze of shyness, wearing a terrycloth robe and bedroom slippers. (1.29)

Greg Erminin has the twin sister Grace. Tyutchev is the author of Bliznetsy (“The Twins,” 1852):

Есть близнецы — для земнородных
Два божества — то Смерть и Сон,
Как брат с сестрою дивно сходных —
Она угрюмей, кротче он...

Но есть других два близнеца —
И в мире нет четы прекрасней,
И обаянья нет ужасней,
Ей предающего сердца...

Союз их кровный, не случайный,
И только в роковые дни
Своей неразрешимой тайной
Обворожают нас они.

И кто в избытке ощущений,
Когда кипит и стынет кровь,
Не ведал ваших искушений —
Самоубийство и Любовь!

There are twins. For the earthborn
they are gods, Death and Sleep,
like brother and sister wondrously akin,
Death's the gloomier, Sleep is gentler.

But there are two more twins:
there are no finer twins in the world,
and there's no fascination more fearsome
for mortals surrendering their hearts to them.

They're no in-laws. Their union is one of blood,
and only on days ordained by fate,
with their unsolvable mystery

do they charm us, enchant, fascinate,

and who, in an excess of sensation,
when blood boils and freezes in his veins,
can claim he's never tasted your temptations,
Suicide and Love?

(transl. F. Jude)

Van’s and Ada’s half-sister Lucette commits suicide because of her unrequited love to Van (3.5). Marina’s mad twin sister Aqua (who also committed suicide) believed that she could understand the language of her namesake, water:

She developed a morbid sensitivity to the language of tap water - which echoes sometimes (much as the bloodstream does predormitarily) a fragment of human speech lingering in one's ears while one washes one's hands after cocktails with strangers. Upon first noticing this immediate, sustained, and in her case rather eager and mocking but really quite harmless replay of this or that recent discourse, she felt tickled at the thought that she, poor Aqua, had accidentally hit upon such a simple method of recording and transmitting speech, while technologists (the so-called Eggheads) all over the world were trying to make publicly utile and commercially rewarding the extremely elaborate and still very expensive, hydrodynamic telephones and other miserable gadgets that were to replace those that had gone k chertyam sobach'im (Russian 'to the devil') with the banning of an unmentionable 'lammer.' (1.3)

Tyutchev is the author of Bezumie (“Madness,” 1830):

Там, где с землёю обгорелой
Слился, как дым, небесный свод, –
Там в беззаботности веселой
Безумье жалкое живёт.

Под раскаленными лучами,
Зарывшись в пламенных песках,
Оно стеклянными очами
Чего-то ищет в облаках.

То вспрянет вдруг и, чутким ухом
Припав к растреснутой земле,
Чему-то внемлет жадным слухом
С довольством тайным на челе.

И мнит, что слышит струй кипенье,
Что слышит ток подземных вод,
И колыбельное их пенье,
И шумный из земли исход!

Where the earth is seered,
in the sky's misty haze disappears,
in carefree gaiety
lives pitiful insanity.

Beneath rays which burn,
digging into flaming sands,
its glassy gaze is turned
to seek things far above the land.

Suddenly it will leap, wary as a beast,
pressing its ear against the parched soil,
avidly sure some sound will reward his toil.
With mysterious pleasure its features are creased.

It thinks that it hears currents bubbling their mirth
as they course beneath the ground,
and it thinks it's a cradle-song it has found
as they noisily burst from the earth.

(transl. F. Jude)

*The penname Severyanin means “northerner” and brings to mind Elsie de Nord, “a vulgar literary demimondaine who thought that Lyovin [a character in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin, 1875-77] went about Moscow in a nagol'nïy tulup, 'a muzhik's sheepskin coat, bare side out, bloom side in,' as defined in a dictionary our commentator produced like a conjurer, never to be procurable by Elsies” (1.10). At the beginning of Eugene Onegin (One: II: 14) Pushkin says that sever (North) is harmful to him.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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