NABOKV-L post 0022833, Sun, 13 May 2012 20:12:39 -0700

Subject
another remarkable natural Nabokovian event?
Date
Body
Speaking of unusual natural appearances as reported here in recent
days - I was visiting the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens a
few days ago and in a covered but open courtyard between two buildings
I was amazed to hear the song of a lark, preternaturally amplified. In
my childhood I used to hear a meadowlark occasionally, and once or
twice when I lived in Venice in the 70's when there still were some
undeveloped wetlands not far away. So at first I thought the song must
be a recording piped in for atmosphere, but looking around, I spied
him perched in the cusp of her bow on the top of this statue of Diana:




In the Portico at The Scott and Erburu Gallery at the
Huntington Library.

Open-beaked, his head thrown back and his little throat convulsing a
lark was singing his heart out. It was the first time I had ever
actually seen a lark singing and it was a remarkable sight, the song
thrilling. This picture, though of a nightingale, is a good depiction
of what I saw:



The image shows beautifully the pulsating nature of the song (Francois-
Louis Schmied, illustration for Oscar Wilde's "The Nightingale and
the Rose.")

Larks, nightingales as well as mockingbirds (the american nightingale,
though a diurnal fellow) are related of course, and not only to each
other, but to many songbirds as Jerry Friedman informed us in a
posting to the list:

Waxwings aren't particularly related to cardinals. (They're in the
same suborder of "songbirds", but this enormous group also contains
larks, nightingales, both kinds of robins, sparrows, and even some
South American birds.) The two species have similar pointed crests,
though.

Specifically Nabokovian connections to larks and nightingales? There
is a skylark in Pnin - the importance of which, if any, escapes me:

When everybody was comfortably lapping and lauding the cocktails [like
cats?], Professor Pnin sat down on the wheezy hassock near his newest
friend and said: 'I have to report, sir, on the skylark, zhavoronok in
Russian, about which you made me the honor to interrogate me. Take
this with you to your home. I have here, tapped on the typewriting
machine, a condensed account with bibliography. I think we will now
transport ourselves to the other room where a supper a la fouchette
is, I think, awaiting us.'


And our own Skylark (Alexey Sklyarenko) himself has sent in several
larkian tidbits to the list of which this is one:

In "Mashen'ka" (Chapter Six) we read: " "тщетно ждал,
чтобы в тополях защёлкал фетовский
соловей" (Ganin waited in vain for Fet's nightingale to start
trilling in the poplars). Nightingales haunt many poems of Fet and it
is difficult to say which of them Ganin has in mind.


A dip into the archives will reward the interested Nabokovian in
associations of larks with madness in poems by Pushkin and Tiutchev.

I hate to go on too long, but before this mockingbird (c kuninsis)
retires for the evening, let me share this interesting posting
relating VN to another member of the songbird family (could the avian
crests be related to the family crest(s) in Pale Fire?):

SUNDAY, 22 APRIL 2012
Corydalis: Crested Lark to Clouded Apollo

Late last year I planted out several Corydalis plants - blue and white
- cultivated forms of the pretty weed Yellow Corydalis or Yellow
Fumitory (a lovely sleepy word, that - Fumitory...). Now my Corydalis
are flowering happily and livening up the spring garden. Why the name,
I wondered - where does that come from? From the Greek for the Crested
Lark, Korydalis - very apt for the little crested flowers. Corydalis,
I was delighted to learn, is also the food plant of the gloriously
named butterfly Parnassius Mnemosyne, the Clouded Apollo. Nabokov's
original title for his memoir Speak, Memory was Speak, Mnemosyne (the
Greek personification of Memory and mother of the Muses. His publisher
persuaded him to think again). I wonder if the Clouded Apollo was also
flying about somewhere in Nabokov's mind when he came up with his
intended title...


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