In Canto Two of his poem John Shade (the poet in VNs novel Pale Fire, 1962) describes the evening of his daughters death and mentions Frost:


"See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing"
Has unmistakably the vulgar ring
Of its preposterous age. Then came your call,
My tender mockingbird, up from the hall.

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. 419-426)


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)


Shades mad commentator, Kinbote imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla. The name of Zemblan capital, Onhava hints at Heaven. In the Commentary (vol. III, p. 23) to his translation of Pushkins Eugene Onegin VN quotes Delvigs words the nearer to heaven, the colder one's verses get:


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).


In his poem To V. A. Zhukovski (1819) Vyazemski (the author of The First Snow, 1822) discusses rhymes and mentions Derzhavin:


ݧ ܧѧ٧ѧ, ܧާ ҧ ֧ ڧ ܧڧ ݧѧܧ,
֧اѧӧڧ ӧק ڧ, ӧѧڧ ֧ѧܧ.


When I want to say to whom of the Russians Phoebus was affectionate,

Derzhavin is bursting into my verse but Kheraskov will drag himself in.


The second line is a paraphrase of Boileaus words in his Satire II A M. Molire: La raison dit Virgile et la rime Quinault. In his Diary (the entry of April 3, 1821) Pushkin criticizes the first line and notes that the unexpected rhyme laskov (affectionate) C Kheraskov does not reconcile him to such a cacophony (komu byl Feb iz russkikh laskov):


ڧѧ ֧ԧէߧ ݧѧߧڧ ٧֧ާܧԧ ܧӧܧާ. ާ֧ݧ, ڧݧ, ֧٧ܧ; ߧ ٧ ٧ӧܧ! «ާ ҧ ֧ ڧ ܧڧ ݧѧܧ». ֧اڧէѧߧߧѧ ڧާ ֧ѧܧ ߧ ڧާڧ֧ ާ֧ߧ ѧܧ ܧѧܧߧڧ֧.


In the same epistle to Zhukovski Vyazemski rhymes rozy (roses) with morozy (frosts):


, ѧާ ݧ֧ߧڧ ٧ߧ ݧԧѧ ӧѧ ٧,
ѧڧݧӧ֧ߧߧ ڧԧߧѧ ѧݧܧڧ ԧ ާ٧. (ll. 43-44)


and right mid summers heat, while searching meads for roses [rozy],

drive thither, by sheer force, from Ural Mountains frosts [morozy]


The rhyme morozy C rozy famously occurs in Chapter Four (XLII: 1-4) of Pushkins EO:


ӧ ا ֧ѧ ާ٧
֧֧ҧ ֧է ݧ֧...
(ڧѧ֧ݧ اէ֧ ڧާ ٧;
, ӧ ӧ٧ާ ֧ ܧ֧!)


And there the frosts already crackle

and silver midst the fields

(the reader now expects the rhyme froze-rose C

here you are, take it quick!).


In his EO Commentary (vol. II, p. 470) VN points out that morozy C rozy is a Russian example of what Pope calls (in his Essay on Criticism, ll. 349-351) sure returns still-expected rhymes:


Where-eer you find the cooling western breeze,

In the next line, it whispers thro the trees


Shade is an authority on Pope. In his note to Lines 417-421 of Shades poem Kinbote points out that See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing is a line in Popes Essay on Man:


The draft yields an interesting variant:


            417 I fled upstairs at the first quawk of jazz
                    And read a galley proof: "Such verses as
                    'See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing,
                    The sot a hero, lunatic a king'
                    Smack of a heartless age." Then came your call


This is, of course, from Pope's Essay on Man. One knows not what to wonder at more: Pope's not finding a monosyllable to replace "hero" (for example, "man") so as to accommodate the definite article before the next word, or Shade's replacing an admirable passage by the much flabbier final text. Or was he afraid of offending an authentic king? In pondering the near past I have never been able to ascertain retrospectively if he really had "guessed my secret," as he once observed (see note to line 991).


In Line 991 of his poem Shade mentions horseshoes:


Somewhere horseshoes are being tossed. Click. Clunk.


In a twelve-line fragment Kak bystro v pole, vkrug otkrytom (How fast in open country runs 1828) quoted by VN in his EO Commentary (vol. II, p. 471) Pushkin mentions his reshoed steed, zemlya (the ground) resounding under the steeds hoof and moroz (frost):


ѧ ҧ ݧ, ӧܧ ܧ,
էܧӧѧ ӧߧӧ, ާ ܧߧ ҧ֧اڧ!
ѧ ٧ӧߧܧ ֧ԧ ܧ
֧ާݧ ާ֧٧ݧѧ ٧ӧڧ!
ݧ֧٧֧ ܧާ ٧էӧ
ѧ ܧ֧ڧ֧ݧߧ ާ:
ѧߧڧ, ӧ֧ߧڧ ,
ԧѧ ݧէ ܧӧ.


֧ѧݧߧ ݧ֧ է ٧ѧӧݧ,
ԧݧߧ֧ է֧ߧ ֧ާߧ,
, ҧէ ߧڧ ٧ѧ٧էѧݧ,
ڧ ҧ ߧѧ ܧߧ...


How fast in open country runs

reshoed, my steed,

how ringingly under his hoof

the frozen ground resounds!

Good for the Russian health

is our straightening frost:

cheeks, brighter than spring roses,

sparkle with cold and blood


At the end of his note to Line 991 Kinbote says: I was holding all Zembla [Shades poem] pressed to my heart.


In his Essay on Man (Epistle Two, V) Pope mentions Zembla:


But where th' extreme of vice, was ne'er agreed:

Ask where's the North? at York, 'tis on the Tweed;

In Scotland, at the Orcades; and there,

At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where:

No creature owns it in the first degree,

But thinks his neighbour farther gone than he!


Gradus being Russian for degree, the phrase in the first degree brings to mind the name of Shades murderer (who wanted to kill Kinbote, Shades neighbor). Opasnyi sosed (A Dangerous Neighbor, 1811) is a narrative poem by Vasiliy Lvovich Pushkin (A. S. Pushkins uncle). Pushkins EO begins: Moy dyadya samykh chestnykh pravil (My uncle has most honest principles). In Chapter Five of EO Pushkin calls Buyanov, the main character in A Dangerous Neighbor, moy brat dvoyurodnyi (my first cousin). I suggest that 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) is VNs first cousin. In his poem On Translating Eugene Onegin (1955) VN calls his honest roadside prose all thorn, but cousin to your [Pushkins] rose. The EO stanza is patterned on a sonnet. It seems that, to be completed, Shades poem needs not only Line 1000 (identical to Line 1: I was the shadow of the waxwing slain), but C like some sonnets C also a coda (Line 1001: By its own double in the windowpane).


In his Table Talk (1830-37) Pushkin contrasts characters created by Shakespeare to those of Molire:


ڧ, ٧էѧߧߧ ֧ܧڧ, ߧ , ܧѧ ݧ֧, ڧ ѧܧ- ѧ, ѧܧԧ- ܧ, ߧ ֧ӧ اڧӧ, ڧݧߧ֧ߧߧ ާߧԧڧ ѧ֧, ާߧԧڧ ܧ. ҧ֧ݧӧ ѧ٧ӧڧӧѧ ֧֧ ٧ڧ֧ݧ֧ ڧ ѧ٧ߧҧѧ٧ߧ ާߧԧߧߧڧ ѧѧܧ֧. ݧ֧ ܧ ܧ - ݧܧ; ֧ܧڧ ֧ۧݧ ܧ, ާ֧ݧڧ, ާڧ֧ݧ֧, ѧէݧҧڧ, ާ֧. ݧ֧ ݧڧ֧ާ֧ ӧݧڧ ٧ ا֧ߧ ӧ֧ԧ ҧݧѧԧէ֧֧ݧ, ݧڧ֧ާ֧; ڧߧڧާѧ֧ ڧާ֧ߧڧ ѧߧ֧ߧڧ, ݧڧ֧ާ֧; ѧڧӧѧ֧ ѧܧѧ ӧէ, ݧڧ֧ާ֧. ֧ܧڧ ݧڧ֧ާ֧ ڧ٧ߧڧ է֧ҧߧ ڧԧӧ ֧ݧѧӧߧ ԧڧ, ߧ ѧӧ֧էݧڧӧ; ѧӧէӧѧ֧ ӧ ا֧ܧ ԧݧҧܧާݧ֧ߧߧ اէ֧ߧڧ֧ ԧէѧӧ֧ߧߧԧ ֧ݧӧ֧ܧ; ҧݧѧ֧ ߧ֧ӧڧߧߧ ڧݧߧާ, ӧݧ֧ܧѧ֧ݧߧާ ڧ٧ާѧާ, ߧ ާ֧ߧ ާ֧ ߧѧҧاߧ ӧݧܧڧӧ. ߧէا֧ݧ ݧڧ֧ާ֧, ާ ֧ԧ ԧݧѧߧ է֧ۧӧڧ ڧӧ֧ѧ ѧۧߧ ѧ! ܧѧܧѧ ԧݧҧڧߧ ѧѧܧ֧!


The characters created by Shakespeare are not, as in Molire, basically types of such and such a passion, such and such a vice, but living beings filled with many passions, many vices. Circumstances develop their varied and many-sided personalities before the viewer. In Molire, the miserly Cand thsts all; in Shakespeare, Shylock is miserly, acute, vindictive, philoprogenitive, and witty. In Molire, the hypocrite dangles after the wife of his benefactor hypocritically; he takes the estate into his care hypocritically; and asks for a glass of water hypocritically. In Shakespeare, the hypocrite passes sentence with vainglorious severity but justly. He justifies his cruelty with the profound judgement of a

statesman. He seduces innocence with powerful, convincing sophisms not with a ridiculous mixture of piety and rakery. Angelo is a hypocrite because his public acys contradict his hidden passions. And what profundity there is in this character!


In his Angelo (1833), a narrative poem based on Shakespeares play Measure for Measure, Pushkin compares the disguised Duke to a roaming comet and to Harun al Rashid:


ܧ ߧѧ ڧѧ ֧ԧ اڧ ܧѧ
ѧӧߧڧӧѧ, , ҧէ֧ ܧާ֧,
ܧӧѧݧ ݧ, ӧ ӧڧէ֧, ߧѧҧݧէѧ
ԧݧէѧѧ֧ ߧ֧٧ڧާ ֧ѧ
ѧݧѧ, ݧѧէ, ާߧѧ, ҧݧߧڧ,
ѧ٧ӧѧߧ էާ, ֧ѧ ֧ާߧڧ.
ҧѧا֧ߧڧ اڧӧ ڧާ֧;
ާѧߧ ݧҧڧ, ާا֧ ҧ, ֧
ѧݧڧ էѧاѧ ѧߧ ݧ-ѧڧէ.


And while the people thought he was abroad 

(They nicknamed him, in jest, The Roaming Comet), 

He hid among the crowds, observing all.

Thus like an unseen spy he visited

The palace, hospitals, and monasteries, 

The brothels, the squares, the theatres, the jails.

The Duke, possessed of vivid fancy, loved

To read good fiction, and perhaps hed hoped

To emulate caliph Harun al Rashid. (Part Three, I)

(transl. I. Eubanks)


Harun al Rashid is the caliph portrayed in The Thousand and One Nights. Its seems that, in its finished form, Shades poem should have 1001 lines.


In his poem Portret (The Portrait, 1828) Pushkin compares Countess Agrafena Zakrevski (who is portrayed in Chapter Eight of EO as Cleopatra of the Neva) to bezraschyotnaya kometa v krugu raschilennom svetil (an incomputable comet amidst the calculated planets):


ӧ֧ ݧѧ֧ է,

ӧڧާ ҧߧާ ѧާ,

اקߧ ֧ӧ֧, ާ֧ ӧѧާ

ߧ ӧݧ֧

ާڧާ ӧ֧ ݧӧڧ ӧ֧

֧ާڧ է ѧ ڧ,

ѧ ҧ֧٧٧ѧܧߧߧѧ ܧާ֧

ܧԧ ѧڧݧ֧ߧߧ ӧ֧ڧ.


With her burning soul,

With her stormy passions,

Oh, northern women, amidst you

She sometimes appears.

And, past all worlds conditions,

She speeds till her strengths are exhausted,

Like an injudicious comet

In the circle of calculated planets.


A comet has a tail. In his fragment Rome (1842) Gogol mentions the Italian sonnetto colla coda and in a footnote explains that coda means tail.


Fet + Botkin + den + noch + oblako + Venera/Erevan + Gradus = Feb + nikto + ten + doch + Nabokov + general + dar + us


Fet C Afanasiy Fet (Shenshin), a poet (1820-92)

Botkin C Maria Botkin (the maiden name of Fets wife); Vsevolod Botkin (Shades, Kinbotes and Gradus real name)

den C day

noch C night

oblako C cloud

Venera C Venus

Feb C Phoebus (Apollo as the sun god)

nikto C nobody

ten C shade, shadow

doch C daughter

dar C gift; cf. Dar (The Gift, 1937), a novel by VN

us C moustache hair; whisker; antenna, feeler; tendril


Alexey Sklyarenko

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