Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027202, Sun, 16 Oct 2016 13:28:48 +0300

Elder Edda & promnad vespert in Pale Fire
In his Commentary Kinbote mentions the Elder Edda (a collection of Icelandic
songs of the 13th century):

Written against this in the margin of the draft are two lines of which only
the first can be deciphered. It reads:

The evening is the time to praise the day

I feel pretty sure that my friend was trying to incorporate here something
he and Mrs. Shade had heard me quote in my lighter-hearted moments, namely a
charming quatrain from our Zemblan counterpart of the Elder Edda, in an
anonymous English translation (Kirby's?):

The wise at nightfall praise the day
The wife when she has passed away,
The ice when it is crossed, the bride
When tumbled, and the horse when tried. (note to Line 79)

"Baldur, a Song about the Sun after the Tales of the Scandinavian Edda"
(1871) is a poem by Maykov. In his essay Derzhavin (1916) written for the
centenary of Derzhavin's death Khodasevich quotes the lines from Maykov's
poem Tri smerti ("The Three Deaths," 1857):

Как бы он разворчался, как гневно бы запахнул халат свой, как нахлобучил бы
колпак на лысое темя, видя, во что превратилась его слава, -- слава,
купленная годами трудов, хлопот, неурядиц, подчас унижений -- и
божественного, поэтического парения. С какой досадой и горечью он, этот
российский Анакреон, "в мороз, у камелька" воспевавший Пламиду, Всемилу,
Милену, Хлою, -- мог бы сказать словами другого, позднейшего поэта:

И что за счастье, что когда-то

Укажет ритор бородатой

В тебе для школьников урок!..

Ritor borodatyi (the bearded teacher of rhetoric) mentioned by Lucius (a
character in Maykov's "Three Deaths") brings to mind Kinbote and his beard.

In his memoir essay Bryusov (1925) Khodasevich quotes the lines from
Bryusov's poem to Andrey Bely, Balderu - Loki ("Loki to Balder," 1904):

Его уходы были так же таинственны: он исчезал внезапно. Известен случай,
когда перед уходом от Андрея Белого он внезапно погасил лампу, оставив
присутствующих во мраке. Когда вновь зажгли свет, Брюсова в квартире не
было. На другой день Андрей Белый получил стихи: "Бальдеру - Локи":

Но последний царь вселенной,

Сумрак, сумрак - за меня!

But the last king of the universe,

The dusk, the dusk is on my side!

Promnad vespert ("the evening stroll" in Zemblan) mentioned by Kinbote in
his note to Lines 47-48 brings to mind Andrey Bely's poem Promenad ("The
Promenade," 1903). The characters of Bely's novel Peterburg (1914) include
Dudkin, a terrorist whose name comes from dudka (pipe, fife).

Shade's, Kinbote's and Gradus' "real" name seems to be Botkin. In his poem
V. P. B. (1856) addressed to Vasiliy Petrovich Botkin Maykov says that he
and Botkin refuse to dance to the dudka of critics:

Подчиняясь критиканам нашим,

Не пойдём далёко мы вперёд.

Честно ниву ведь свою мы пашем,

Так посев наш, верю я, взойдёт -

Хоть под дудку их мы и не пляшем.

In Chapter Four of VN's novel Dar ("The Gift," 1937) Fyodor mentions
Dudyshkin, the critic who aimed at Chernyshevski (a radical critic about
whom Fyodor wrote his book "The Life of Chernyshevski") his trostnikovaya
dudochka (dudeen). According to Kinbote, "Leningradus [as Kinbote mockingly
calls Gradus; in 1924-91 St. Petersburg's name was Leningrad] should not aim
his peashooter at people even in dreams, because if he does, a pair of
colossally thick, abnormally hairy arms will hug him from behind and
squeeze, squeeze, squeeze" (note to Line 171).

Gradus' peashooter reminds one of gorokhovoe pal'to (agent of secret police;
literally: "a pea-colored overcoat") mentioned by Fyodor in Chapter Four of
"The Gift:"

На панихиде по нём в Петербурге приведённые для парада друзьями покойного
несколько рабочих в партикулярном платье были приняты студентами за сыщиков,
одному даже пустили гороховое пальто, что восстановило некое равновесие: не
отцы ли этих рабочих ругали коленопреклоненного Чернышевского через забор?

At the requiem held for him in St. Petersburg the workmen in town clothes,
whom the dead man's friends had brought for the sake of atmosphere, were
taken by a group of students for plainclothesmen and insulted - which
restored a certain equilibrium: was it not the fathers of these workmen who
had abused the kneeling Chernyshevski from over the fence?

The name Chernyshevski comes from chyornyi (black), the penname Bely means
"white." Kinbote's brown beard brings to mind Robert Browning, the author of
The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Pippa Passes and My Last Duchess (a drama and a
dramatic monologue directly alluded to in Pale Fire). Incidentally, Pippa
Passes was translated into Russian by Gumilyov, the poet who was executed by
the Bolsheviks soon after Alexander Blok's death. At the beginning of his
memoir essay Gumilyov and Blok (1931) Khodasevich says that for him the two
poets died on the same day (Aug. 3, 1921):

Блок умер 7-го, Гумилёв - 27-го августа 1921 года. Но для меня они оба
умерли 3 августа. Почему - я расскажу ниже.

In his poem Zabludivshiysya tramvay ("The Lost Tram," 1921) Gumilyov
mentions Mashen'ka (apparently, a character in Pushkin's story "The
Captain's Daughter," 1836):

Машенька, ты здесь жила и пела,

Мне, жениху, ковёр ткала,

Где же теперь твой голос и тело,

Может ли быть, что ты умерла?

Mashenka, you lived here and sang,

You wove me, your betrothed, a carpet,

Where are your voice and body now,

Is it possible that you are dead?

Mashen'ka ("Mary") is a poem (1846) by Maykov and VN's first novel (1926).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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