After the so-called L disaster electricity (the unmentionable magnetic power) was banned on Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earths twin planet on which Ada is set) but, to Vans surprise, is freely used on Terra:


The unmentionable magnetic power denounced by evil lawmakers in this our shabby country — oh, everywhere, in Estoty and Canady, in German Mark Kennensie, as well as in Swedish Manitobogan, in the workshop of the red-shirted Yukonets as well as in the kitchen of the red-kerchiefed Lyaskanka, and in French Estoty, from Bras dOr to Ladore — and very soon throughout both our Americas, and all over the other stunned continents — was used on Terra as freely as water and air, as bibles and brooms. Two or three centuries earlier she [Aqua, Marinas poor mad twin sister] might have been just another consumable witch. (1.3)


Elektrichestvo (Electricity, 1901) is a poem by Zinaida Hippius quoted by Merezhkovski (Hippius husband) in his book Tolstoy and Dostoevski (1902). The Antiterran L disaster in the beau milieu of the 19th century seems to correspond to the mock execution of Dostoevski and the Petrashevskians on Jan. 3, 1850 (NS), in our world. Vans and Adas half-sister Lucette was born on January 3, 1876.


In his essay Nuzhny li stikhi? (Do We Need Verses? 1903) Anton Krayniy (Zinaida Hippius pseudonym) compares verses to molitva (a prayer) and quotes Baratynskis definition of poetry:


֬ܬ ެ߬֬߬ڬ Ѭݬ, ٬ݬѬլ߬-ѬӬ߬լ߬ ݬլ֬, Ԭ߬ ٬ѬӬݬڬ, ڬ جڬݬ Ӭ Ӭ֬ ӬҬ Ҭݬ֬ ߬ ߬ج߬, — Ӭ֬جլѬ, ڬ ߬֬Ҭլڬެ, ֬֬Ӭ֬߬߬ Ӭ֬߬. ڬѬ ֬֬Ӭ֬߬߬ ߬֬Ҭլڬެ֬۬֬ ֬Ҭ߬ ֬ݬӬ֬֬ܬ ڬլ — ެݬڬӬ. ܬѬجլ ֬ݬӬ֬ ߬֬֬ެ֬߬߬ ެݬڬ ڬݬ ֬ެڬ ެݬڬӬ, — Ӭ ѬӬ߬, ٬߬Ѭ׬ ڬݬ ߬֬, Ӭ ѬӬ߬ ܬѬܬ ެ ӬݬڬӬѬ֬ ߬֬Ԭ ެݬڬӬ ܬѬܬެ Ԭ ҬѬ֬߬. ެ ٬ѬӬڬڬ Ҭ߬֬ ߬Ѭܬݬ߬߬֬ ܬѬجլԬ. ٬ڬ ӬҬ, ڬݬج֬߬ڬ, ݬӬ֬߬Ѭ ެ٬ܬ Ѭ߬ — լ߬ ڬ , ܬ ڬ߬ڬެѬ֬ ֬ݬӬ֬֬ܬ լ ެݬڬӬ. ٬ڬ, ܬѬ ֬լ֬ݬڬ ֬ ѬѬ߬ܬڬ, — «֬ ݬ߬ ֬߬ڬ լѬ߬߬ ެڬ߬». ެج֬, ֬լ֬ݬ֬߬ڬ ݬڬܬ Ҭ լݬ ެݬڬӬ, — ߬ ܬѬ ߬ Ҭݬڬ٬ܬ ߬֬!


According to Baratynski, poetry is the full perception of a given moment. In Hippiuss opinion, this definition is perhaps too general for a prayer but is still very close to it.


In Pushkins poem Poet i tolpa (The Poet and the Crowd, 1828) the Poet mentions altar (the altar) and metla (the broom) and, in the poems closing lines, says that we were born for inspiration, sweet sounds and prayers:


ԬѬլѬ ӬѬڬ ݬڬ ެ߬
ެ֬Ѭ , — ݬ֬٬߬ ! —
, ٬ѬҬ Ӭ ݬج֬߬,
ݬѬ ج֬Ӭڬ߬֬߬,
֬ ݬ ӬѬ ެ֬ݬ Ҭ֬?

լݬ جڬ֬۬ܬԬ Ӭݬ߬֬߬,
լݬ ܬ, ߬ լݬ Ҭڬ,
جլ֬߬ լݬ Ӭլ߬Ӭ֬߬,
ݬ ٬Ӭܬ ݬѬլܬڬ ެݬڬ.


Since on your sidewalk townfolk walk,
Sweeping it clean is useful work,
Yet do you ask the altar priests
To ply the broom and sweep the streets?

Not for worldly turmoil,

Not for profit, not for battles,

We were born for inspiration,

For sweet sounds and prayers.


On Antiterra Gibraltar is known as Altar:


A small map of the European part of the British Commonwealth - say, from Scoto-Scandinavia to the Riviera, Altar and Palermontovia - as well as most of the U.S.A., from Estoty and Canady to Argentina, might be quite thickly prickled with enameled red-cross-flag pins, marking, in her War of the Worlds, Aqua's bivouacs. (1.3)


In Baratynskis poem Eda (1826) set in Finland the heroine is reading svyataya bibliya (the holy bible):


֬߬ ݬ, ܬެ߬Ѭܬ Ӭ֬
ج Ӭ֬֬߬֬
լ߬ ڬӬ߬ ܬ
ڬլ֬ݬ լ. ֬֬ ߬֬
ӬѬ ҬڬҬݬڬ ݬ֬جѬݬ.
լݬѬ߬ ܬݬ߬׬߬߬Ѭ ֬ݬ,
߬ Ѭ֬߬߬ ֬
Ѭ֬߬߬ ֬֬ҬڬѬݬ
ڬ٬ެ ݬڬ
լ߬ ֬լ֬߬ ڬ
֬Ӭݬ߬ լެ ݬ֬Ѭݬ. (ll. 288-298)


In his poem K Baratynskomu (To Baratynski, 1826) Pushkin compares each verse of Eda to chervonets (a golden ten rouble piece) and says that Baratynskis chukhonochka (Finnish girl) is prettier than Byrons grechanki (Greek girls):


ڬ ܬѬجլ Ӭ֬ Ӭ֬
Ӭڬ Ҭݬ֬֬, ܬѬ ֬Ӭ߬֬.
Ӭ ߬ܬ, ֬-֬,
֬Ѭ߬ Ѭ۬߬ ެڬݬ֬,
Ӭ ٬ڬ ެ ߬֬.


In Canto the Tenth of Don Juan Byron (the poet who had an affair with his half-sister Augusta and whose daughters name was Ada) says that a legal broom is a moral chimney-sweeper:


A legal broom's a moral chimney-sweeper,
And that's the reason he himself's so dirty.

The endless soot bestows a tint far deeper
Than can be hid by altering his shirt; he
Retains the sable stains of the dark creeper,
At least some twenty-nine do out of thirty,
In all their habits; -- not so you, I own;
As Csar wore his robe you wear your gown.


A legal brooms dirty shirt brings to mind the red-shirted Yukonets mentioned by Van. Yukonets (an inhabitant of Yukon; bitten by the mosquitoes Pushkin exclaimed Sladko!* in Yukon, 1.17) rhymes with chervonets (the word that comes from chervonnyi, red). The night porter in the Majestic (a hotel in Kalugano where Van puts up, a huge old pile, all grime outside, all leather inside) expertly palms the expected chervonetz:


Van was roused by the night porter who put a cup of coffee with a local eggbun on his bedside table, and expertly palmed the expected chervonetz. He resembled somewhat Bouteillan as the latter had been ten years ago and as he had appeared in a dream, which Van now retrostructed as far as it would go: in it Demons former valet explained to Van that the dor in the name of an adored river equaled the corruption of hydro in dorophone. Van often had word dreams. (1.42)


The hotels name brings to mind the majestic touch in Canto Three of Shades poem Pale Fire:


She was. I might have persevered. I might
Have made her tell me more about the white
Fountain we both had seen "beyond the veil"
But if (I thought) I mentioned that detail
She'd pounce upon it as upon a fond
Affinity, a sacramental bond,
Uniting mystically her and me,
And in a jiffy our two souls would be
Brother and sister trembling on the brink
Of tender incest. "Well," I said, "I think
It's getting late..."

                                  I also called on Coates.
He was afraid he had mislaid her notes.
He took his article from a steel file:
"It's accurate. I have not changed her style.
There's one misprint--not that it matters much:
Mountain, not fountain. The majestic touch." (ll. 787-782)


Bakhchisarayskiy fontan (The Fountain of Bakhchisaray, 1822) is a poem by Pushkin. The action in it takes place in the Crimea. One of Adas loves, Percy de Prey, goes to the Crimean war and perishes on the second day of the invasion (1.42). A stoutish, foppish, baldish young man (1.31), Percy de Prey is linked to Akakiy Akakievich Bashmachkin, the pathetic main character in Gogols story Shinel (The Overcoat, 1842). After leaving Petrovich (the tailor who refused to repair Akakiy Akakievichs old overcoat) Akakiy Akakievich meets trubochist (a chimney-sweep):


֬ ߬ ݬڬ, ܬѬܬڬ ܬѬܬڬ֬Ӭڬ Ҭ ܬѬ Ӭ ߬. "ѬܬӬ-  լ֬ݬ Ѭܬ, - ԬӬڬ Ѭ ֬Ҭ, - , ѬӬ,  ߬ լެѬ, Ҭ ߬ Ӭݬ Ԭ...- , ݬ ߬֬ܬԬ ެݬѬ߬ڬ, ڬҬѬӬڬ: - Ѭ Ӭ ܬѬ! ߬Ѭܬ߬֬ Ӭ Ӭݬ, , ѬӬ, Ӭ֬ ֬լݬѬԬѬ ߬ ެ, Ҭ ߬ Ҭݬ Ѭ". Ѭڬ ݬ֬լӬѬݬ  լݬԬ ެݬѬ߬ڬ, ݬ ܬԬ  ڬ٬߬׬: "Ѭ Ѭ-! Ӭ ܬѬܬ , ߬, ߬ڬܬѬ ߬֬جڬլѬ߬߬, Ԭ... Ԭ Ҭ ߬ڬܬѬ... Ѭܬ- Ҭ֬ݬӬ!" ܬѬ٬ѬӬ , , Ӭެ֬ Ԭ Ҭ ڬլ լެ, ֬ Ӭ֬֬߬߬  ڬӬ߬ ߬, Ѭ Ԭ ߬ լ٬֬ӬѬ. Ԭ ٬Ѭլ֬ ֬Ԭ Ӭ֬ ߬֬ڬ Ӭڬ Ҭܬ Ҭڬ Ӭ֬߬ڬ Ӭ ݬ֬ ֬ެ; ֬ݬѬ Ѭܬ ڬ٬Ӭ֬ ӬѬݬѬ ߬ ߬֬Ԭ Ӭ֬ܬ ڬӬ֬Ԭ լެ. ߬ڬ֬Ԭ Ԭ ߬ ٬Ѭެ֬ڬ...


Akakiy Akakievitch went out into the street as if in a dream. "Such an affair!" he said to himself: "I did not think it had come to --" and then after a pause, he added, "Well, so it is! see what it has come to at last! and I never imagined that it was so!" Then followed a long silence, after which he exclaimed, "Well, so it is! see what already -- nothing unexpected that -- it would be nothing -- what a strange circumstance!" So saying, instead of going home, he went in exactly the opposite direction without himself suspecting it. On the way, a chimney-sweep bumped up against him, and blackened his shoulder, and a whole hatful of rubbish landed on him from the top of a house which was building. He did not notice it...


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 a sonnet with the tail (con la coda), when the idea did not get into fourteen lines and entailed an appendix which could be longer than the sonnet itself:


ڬѬݬڬ߬ܬ ٬ڬ ֬Ӭ֬ ڬӬ֬߬, ڬ٬Ӭ֬߬Ԭ ڬެ֬߬֬ ߬֬ Ӭ (con la coda), ܬԬլ ެݬ ߬ Ӭެ֬ڬݬѬ Ӭ֬լ׬ ٬ Ҭ ڬҬѬӬݬ֬߬ڬ, ܬ Ѭ ҬӬѬ֬ լݬڬ߬߬֬ ѬެԬ ߬֬.


In his Sonet (A Sonnet, 1830) Pushkin mentions, among other famous sonneteers, pevets Litvy (the bard of Lithuania, Adam Mickiewicz), the author of Sonety Krymskie (Crimean Sonnets, 1826):


֬߬ Ԭ ѬӬڬլ լѬݬ֬߬߬
֬Ӭ֬ ڬӬ Ѭ٬ެ֬ ֬Ԭ ֬߬֬߬߬
Ӭ ެ֬ ެԬ߬Ӭ֬߬߬ ٬ѬܬݬѬ.


Pushkins Sonet has the epigraph from Wordsworth: Scorn not the sonnet, critic! In Vivian Calmbroods poem The Night Journey (1931) Chenstone (the authors fellow traveler; Pushkin ascribed his little tragedy The Covetous Knight, 1830, to Chenstone) mentions his neighbor, the young Wordsworth (a nice person for whose verses water is harmful, though):


ҬѬ٬ڬ ԬݬѬլ ֬߬,
Ҭ֬׬٬, Ӭ֬֬ܬӬ ܬݬ.

Ѭ جڬ , լѬެ ߬֬Ҭݬ
ڬѬ ڬ Ѭܬڬ Ӭ֬ެ׬;
լڬ ܬ ׬,
֬լ, ެݬլ լӬ,
լڬ ֬ݬ֬ ڬ߬Ԭլ
(֬Ԭ ڬѬ Ӭ֬լڬ Ӭլ,
߬ ֬ݬӬ֬ ެڬݬ), -- ݬӬ,
Ѭݬڬ Ҭ -- ڬ٬߬Ѭ,
߬լ ެѬ߬ܬڬ ߬Ӭ
Ҭ֬ Ӭܬ Ѭլ Ѭ.


In the Fragments of Onegins Journey [XVII: 13-14] Pushkin confesses that he has admixed a lot of water unto his poetic goblet:


ڬ֬ܬڬ ҬܬѬ

լ ެ߬Ԭ լެ֬Ѭ.


There is also a lot of water in Marina Tsvetaevs Poema Gory (The Poem of the Mountain, 1826) and Poema Vozdukha (The Poem of the Air, 1927) written in the days of Lindbergh (note that L is Lindberghs initial). Charles Lindbergh (1902-74) was the first aviator who in May of 1927 crossed the Atlantic in a nonstop flight.


According to Van, poor Aqua whose fancies were apt to fall for all the fangles of cranks and Christians, envisaged vividly a minor hymnists paradise, a future America of alabaster buildings one hundred stories high, resembling a beautiful furniture store crammed with tall white-washed wardrobes and shorter fridges; she saw giant flying sharks with lateral eyes taking barely one night to carry pilgrims through black ether across an entire continent from dark to shining sea, before booming back to Seattle or Wark (1.3).


In 1905 Aquas husband Demon Veen (Vans and Adas father) perishes in a mysterious airplane disaster above the Pacific (3.7). In 1901 Lucette drowns herself in the Atlatic (3.5). In 1900 Vans, Adas and Lucettes mother Marina dies of cancer and her body is cremated. As Van puts it:


Numbers and rows and series — the nightmare and malediction harrowing pure thought and pure time — seemed bent on mechanizing his mind. Three elements, fire, water, and air, destroyed, in that sequence, Marina, Lucette, and Demon. Terra waited. (3.1)


In Canto Three of his poem Shade (one of the three main characters in VNs novel Pale Fire, 1962) mentions Terra the Fair, an orbicle of jasp:


Iph borrowed some peripheral debris
From mystic visions; and it offered tips
(The amber spectacles for life's eclipse)--
How not to panic when you're made a ghost:
Sidle and slide, choose a smooth surd, and coast,
Meet solid bodies and glissade right through,
Or let a person circulate through you.
How to locate in blackness, with a gasp,
Terra the Fair, an orbicle of jasp. (ll. 550-558)


According to Van, Aquas real destination was Terra the Fair:


But her real destination was Terra the Fair and thither she trusted she would fly on libellula long wings when she died. (1.3)


Libellula means dragon-fly. In her essay Nuzhny li stikhi? Hippius refuses to quote Voloshins hymns to strekozinym krasotam (the libellula beauties):


ܬѬج ڬ ެ߬Ԭڬ Ѭܬڬ ߬ լ߬Ԭ, ֬߬ ެѬݬ ڬ٬Ӭ֬߬Ԭ, — ߬ ֬۬Ѭ ܬѬެ. — Ѭܬ ݬڬ. Ԭ «ެݬڬӬ» Ҭݬ ߬Ѭ֬ѬѬ߬ ѬӬԬӬܬ ܬ߬ڬجܬ «ӬԬ ». Ѭ ܬѬ ܬެެ-Ӭج֬ܬڬ լ ߬ ֬լܬ ڬѬ֬ݬ֬, ެݬڬӬ , ܬ߬֬߬, ߬Ѭݬ ܬݬڬ Ӭ֬Ӭ֬߬߬ ެ֬Ѭ, ߬֬ެ ߬ Ӭ ڬ «ݬ֬լ߬ ެլ߬», ܬѬ ֬ ڬӬڬ «Ӭ֬ެ֬߬߬» ٬ѬԬѬ. ڬڬӬѬ ֬Ԭ լԬڬӬѬڬ Ԭڬެ߬ «ܬѬѬ߬֬Ѭ» «֬ܬ٬ڬ߬ ܬѬѬ» ߬ Ҭլ; ߬ڬެ. ج֬ Ҭ, ߬ ߬֬Ҭլڬެ ެڬ٬լѬ߬ڬ.


Incidentally, the title of Hippius essay brings to mind Shades lecture Why Poetry Is Meaningful to Us that ends in the poets heart attack (which almost coincides with Kinbotes arrival in America):


The Crashaw Club had paid me to discuss
Why Poetry Is Meaningful To Us.
I gave my sermon, a full thing but short.
As I was leaving in some haste, to thwart
The so-called "question period" at the end,
One of those peevish people who attend
Such talks only to say they disagree
Stood up and pointed his pipe at me. (ll. 683-690)


In his Commentary (note to Line 347) Kinbote (who affirms that he arrived in America descending by parachute) quotes in full Shades poem "The Nature of Electricity" (that appeared in the New York magazine The Beau and the Butterfly after the poets death):


The dead, the gentle dead--who knows?--
In tungsten filaments abide,
And on my bedside table glows
Another man's departed bride.


And maybe Shakespeare floods a whole
Town with innumerable lights,
And Shelley's incandescent soul
Lures the pale moths of starless nights.


Streetlamps are numbered, and maybe
Number nine-hundred-ninety-nine
(So brightly beaming through a tree
So green) is an old friend of mine.


And when above the livid plain
Forked lightning plays, therein may dwell
The torments of a Tamerlane,
The roar of tyrants torn in hell.


Tamerlane (1336?-1405) is also known as Timur. On Adas sixteenth birthday Greg Erminin gives Ada a little camel of yellow ivory carved in Kiev in the days of Timur and Nabok:


Ada had declined to invite anybody except the Erminin twins to her picnic; but she had had no intention of inviting the brother without the sister. The latter, it turned out, could not come, having gone to New Cranton to see a young drummer, her first boy friend, sail off into the sunrise with his regiment. But Greg had to be asked to come after all: on the previous day he had called on her bringing a 'talisman' from his very sick father, who wanted Ada to treasure as much as his grandam had a little camel of yellow ivory carved in Kiev, five centuries ago, in the days of Timur and Nabok. (1.39)


Khrani menya, moy talisman (Protect me, my talisman 1825) and Talisman (1827) are poems by Pushkin. The talisman was given to Pushkfin in Odessa by Countess Elizaveta Vorontsov, the wife of the Governor General of New Russia, daughter of Francis-Xavier Branitsky. In his famous epigram on Vorontsov Pushkin says that there is a hope that one day he will be full at last. There is a hope that after Kinbote (who imagines that he is Charles Xavier Vseslav, surnamed the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla) completes his work on Shades poem and commits suicide (on Oct. 19, 1959, the anniversary of Pushkins Lyceum) Professor Vsevolod Botkin (an American scholar of Russian descent who went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after the suicide of his daughter Nadezhda) will be full again. Shades full name is John Francis Shade. In his last poem, On the Day I Complete my Thirty-Sixth Year (1824), Byron says that he cannot be beloved. Like Tamerlane, Byron was lame. After his scuffle with Percy de Prey Van is limping:


As he and his captive drew near the glade Van cursed himself for feeling rattled by that unexpected additional round; he was secretly out of breath, his every nerve twanged, he caught himself limping and correcting the limp - while Percy de Prey, in his magically immaculate white trousers and casually ruffled shirt, marched, buoyantly exercising his arms and shoulders, and seemed quite serene and in fact rather cheerful. (1.39)




Alexey Sklyarenko

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