Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027078, Tue, 28 Jun 2016 23:21:41 +0300

Judge Goldsworth & Roman Law in Pale Fire
In Canto One of his poem Shade writes:

Maybe some quirk in space
Has caused a fold or furrow to displace
The fragile vista, the frame house between
Goldsworth and Wordsmith on its square of green. (Lines 45-48)

According to Kinbote, the first name refers to the house in Dulwich Road
that I rented from Hugh Warren Goldsworth, authority on Roman Law and
distinguished judge. I never had the pleasure of meeting my landlord but I
came to know his handwriting almost as well as I do Shade's. The second name
denotes, of course, Wordsmith University. (Note to Lines 47-48)

Goldsworth + Wordsmith = Goldsmith + Wordsworth

Here is The Sonnet by William Wordsworth (the author of Poems on the Naming
of Places):

Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,

Mindless of its just honours;--with this Key

Shakspeare unlocked his heart; the melody

Of this small Lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;

A thousand times this Pipe did Tasso sound;

Camoens soothed with it an Exile's grief;

The Sonnet glittered a gay myrtle Leaf

Amid the cypress with which Dante crowned

His visionary brow: a glow-worm Lamp,

It cheered mild Spenser, called from Faery-land

To struggle through dark ways; and, when a damp

Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand

The Thing became a Trumpet; whence he blew

Soul-animating strains--alas, too few!

Pushkin's Sonet ("The Sonnet," 1830) is closely modeled on Wordsworth's
Sonnet whose first line it has for the epigraph:

Scorn not the sonnet, critic.

Суровый Дант не презирал сонета;
В нём жар любви Петрарка изливал;
Игру его любил творец Макбета;
Им скорбну мысль Камоэнс облекал.

И в наши дни пленяет он поэта:
Вордсворт его орудием избрал,
Когда вдали от суетного света
Природы он рисует идеал.

Под сенью гор Тавриды отдаленной
Певец Литвы в размер его стесненный
Свои мечты мгновенно заключал.

У нас ещё его не знали девы,
Как для него уж Дельвиг забывал
Гекзаметра священные напевы.

In his Sonet Pushkin mentions seven famous sonneteers: Dante, Petrarch,
Shakespeare ("the author of Macbeth"), Camoes, Wordsworth, Mickiewicz ("the
bard of Lithuania") and Delvig. Anton Delvig (1798-1831) was Pushkin's best
friend at the Lyceum. Kinbote completes his work on Shade's poem and commits
suicide on October 19, 1959 (the Lyceum anniversary).

Kinbote's landlord is a distinguished judge. The characters of Gogol's play
Revizor ("The Inspector," 1836) include the judge Lyapkin-Tyapkin (who takes
as bribes greyhound puppies*). Judge Goldsworth is an authority on Roman
Law. In his fragment Rim ("Rome," 1842) Gogol mentions sonetto colla coda
and in a footnote explains that in Italian poetry there is a kind of poem
known as "sonnet with the tail" (con la coda), when the idea cannot not be
put into fourteen lines and entails an appendix which is often longer than
the sonnet itself:

В италиянской поэзии существует род стихотворенья, известного под именем
сонета с хвостом (con la coda), когда мысль не вместилась и ведёт за собою
прибавление, которое часто бывает длиннее самого сонета.

According to Kinbote, in its finished form Shade's poem has 1000 lines and
Line 1000 is identical to Line 1 ("I was the shadow of the waxwing slain").
But it seems to me that Shade's unfinished poem also needs a coda, Line 1001
("By its own double in the windowpane"). Moreover, not only the last line of
Shade's poem, but the entire apparatus criticus (Kinbote's Foreword,
Commentary and Index) can be regarded as the coda of Pale Fire.

Scorn not the coda, reader.

*in one of his dialogues with Kinbote Shade compares himself to a grateful
mongrel and Shakespeare, to a Great Dane:

The subject of teaching Shakespeare at college level having been introduced:
"First of all, dismiss ideas, and social background, and train the freshman
to shiver, to get drunk on the poetry of Hamlet or Lear, to read with his
spine and not with his skull." Kinbote: "You appreciate particularly the
purple passages?" Shade: "Yes, my dear Charles, I roll upon them as a
grateful mongrel on a spot of turf fouled by a Great Dane." (Note to Line

Alexey Sklyarenko

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