Dieter Zimmer: 'Pluto's other names are Hades and Dis.'

Carolyn Kunin: ‘Hades is an anagram for Shade - or vice versa (see versipel) I suppose.’


In his poem Proserpina (1824) Pushkin mentions koni blednogo Plutona (pale Pluto’s horses) rushing the god from aid (Hades) to the nymphs of Pelion and then back again and calls Proserpina (Pluto’s wife) ada gordaya tsaritsa (the proud Queen of Hell). Kon’ (horse) rhymes with ogon’ (fire). Kon’ bled (“Pale Horse,” 1903) is a poem by Bryusov.


In a letter of Sept. 10, 1824, to Pushkin Delvig says that Proserpina is pure music: a bird of paradise's singing that one can hear for a thousand years without noticing the passage of time:


Прозерпина не стихи, а музыка: это пенье райской птички, которое слушая, не увидешь, как пройдёт тысяча лет. Эти двери давно мне знакомы. Сквозь них, ещё в Лицее, меня [иногда] часто выталкивали из Элизея. Какая искустная щеголиха у тебя истина. Подобных цветов мороз не тронет!

What a smart dashing lady is istina (truth) in your poems. Such flowers will be spared by the frost!


Rayskaya ptichka (bird of paradise) mentioned by Delvig (who addresses Pushkin "your Parnassian majesty") brings to mind the Mediterranean Villa Paradisa built by Queen Disa’s grandfather:


In 1933, Prince Charles was eighteen and Disa, Duchess of Payn, five. The allusion is to Nice (see also line 240) where the Shades spent the first part of that year; but here again, as in regard to so many fascinating facets of my friend's past life, I am not in the possession of particulars (who is to blame, dear S.S.?) and not in the position to say whether or not, in the course of possible excursions along the coast, they ever reached Cap Turc and glimpsed from an oleander-lined lane, usually open to tourists, the Italianate villa built by Queen Disa's grandfather in 1908, and called then Villa Paradiso, or in Zemblan Villa Paradisa, later to forgo the first half of its name in honors of his favorite granddaughter. There she spent the first fifteen summers of her life; thither did she return in 1953, "for reasons of health" (as impressed on the nation) but really, a banished queen; and there she still dwells. (Kinbote’s note to Lines 433-434)


Soon after Proserpina Pushkin composed his famous epigram on Count Vorontsov (the governor general of New Russia who called Pushkin “a weak imitator of Lord Byron”):


Полу-милорд, полу-купец,

Полу-мудрец, полу-невежда,

Полу-подлец, но есть надежда,

Что будет полным наконец.


Half-milord, half-merchant,

Half-sage, half-ignoramus,

Half-scoundrel, but there's a hope

Thet he will be a full one at last.


There is a hope that after Kinbote’s suicide on Oct. 19, 1959 (the Lyceum anniversary) V. Botkin (Shade + Kinbote + Gradus) will be “full” again. One wonders if Disa, too, does become “full” (Paradisa? ‘Disdemona’?) again.


“Kaby na tsvety da ne morozy” (it was the frost that killed the flowers) is the closing line of G. Ivanov’s poem Mayatnika mernoe kachan’ye (“The rhythmical swing of pendulum,” 1947):


Маятника мерное качанье,

Полночь, одиночество, молчанье.


Старые счета перебираю.

Умереть? Да вот не умираю.


Тихо перелистываю «Розы» —

«Кабы на цветы да не морозы»!


Morozy (pl. of moroz, frost) rhymes with Rozy (“Roses,” 1931), the title of Ivanov’s collection mentioned in the poem’s penultimate line. In Canto Two of his poem Shade mentions Frost:


I was in time to overhear brief fame
And have a cup of tea with you: my name
Was mentioned twice, as usual just behind
(one oozy footstep) Frost. (ll. 423-26)


In his Commentary Kinbote writes:


The reference is, of course, to Robert Frost (b. 1874). The line displays one of those combinations of pun and metaphor at which our poet excels. In the temperature charts of poetry high is low, and low high, so that the degree at which perfect crystallization occurs is above that of tepid facility. This is what our modest poet says, in effect, respecting the atmosphere of his own fame.

Frost is the author of one of the greatest short poems in the English language, a poem that every American boy knows by heart, about the wintry woods, and the dreary dusk, and the little horsebells of gentle remonstration in the dull darkening air, and that prodigious and poignant end--two closing lines identical in every syllable, but one personal and physical, and the other metaphysical and universal. I dare not quote from memory lest I displace one small precious word.

With all his excellent gifts, John Shade could never make his snowflakes settle that way. (note to Line 426)


It was Delvig who quipped that the nearer to heaven, the colder one's verses get (as reported by Pushkin in a MS note), and it was Delvig who intended to kiss Derzhavin’s hand when the latter visited the Lyceum (see n. to Eight: II: 3). (EO Commentary, vol. III, p. 23) In Delvig’s best poem (written at the Lyceum and dedicated to Pushkin whom Delvig calls “a swan born in blooming Ausonia”) “fleets with treasures untold from America” are mentioned.


Onhava (the capital of Kinbote’s Zembla) seems to hint at heaven.


Alexey Sklyarenko

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