My previous post (shaving, Beirut, old Zembla's fields, empires of rhyme, Indies of calculus & Count Komarovski in Pale Fire) is incomplete and should be continued as follows:


In Speak, Memory VN describes his Staunton chessmen and compares a small crimson crown on the brow of the kings knight to the round mark on a happy Hindus forehead:


My Staunton chessmen (a twenty-year-old set given to me by my fathers Englished brother, Konstantin), splendidly massive pieces, of tawny or black wood, up to four and a quarter inches tall, displayed their shiny contours as if conscious of the part they played. Alas, if examined closely, some of the men were seen to be chipped (after traveling in their box through the fifty or sixty lodgings I had changed during those years); but the top of the kings rook and the brow of the kings knight still showed a small crimson crown painted upon them, recalling the round mark on a happy Hindus forehead. (Chapter Fourteen, 3)


Describing his best chess problem, VN mentions the false scent in which a pawn becomes a knight:


The false scent, the irresistible try is: Pawn to b8, becoming a knight, with three beautiful mates following in answer to disclosed checks by Black; but Black can defeat the whole brilliant affair by not checking White and making instead a modest dilatory move elsewhere on the board. (ibid.)


In VNs novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941) the narrator (Sebastians half-brother V.) is a black pawn (on b7) at the beginning that becomes a knight (on a1) at the end. The characters of TRLSK include Mr. Goodman, Sebastians biographer. The narrator compares Mr. Goodmans face to a cows udder:


'My name,' she said, 'is Helen Pratt. I have overheard as much of your conversation as I could stand and there is a little thing I want to ask you. Clare Bishop is a great friend of mine. There's something she wants to find out. Could I talk to you one of these days?'
I said yes, most certainly, and we fixed the time.
'I knew Mr Knight quite well,' she added, looking at me with bright round eyes.
'Oh, really,' said I, not quite knowing what else to say.
'Yes,' she went on, 'he was an amazing personality, and I don't mind telling you that I loathed Goodman's book about him.'
'What do you mean?' I asked. 'What book?'
'Oh, the one he has just written. I was going over the proofs with him this last week. Well, I must be running. Thank you so much.'
She darted away and very slowly I descended the steps. Mr Goodman's large soft pinkish face was, and is, remarkably like a cow's udder. (Chapter Six)


One of Sebastian Knights books is entitled Lost Property. Dobro being Russian for goods, property, the name Goodman brings to mind the Russian saying ne ubit bobra, ne nazhit dobra (one cannot make a fortune without killing a beaver). A tall bearded man, Kinbote was nicknamed the Great Beaver:


One day I happened to enter the English Literature office in quest of a magazine with the picture of the Royal Palace in Onhava, which I wanted my friend to see, when I overheard a young instructor in a green velvet jacket, whom I shall mercifully call Gerald Emerald, carelessly saying in answer to something the secretary had asked: "I guess Mr Shade has already left with the Great Beaver." Of course, I am quite tall, and my brown beard is of a rather rich tint and texture; the silly cognomen evidently applied to me, but was not worth noticing, and after calmly taking the magazine from a pamphlet-cluttered table, I contented myself on my way out with pulling Gerald Emerald's bow-tie loose with a deft jerk of my fingers as I passed by him. (Foreword)


Kinbotes Foreword to Pale Fire is dated Oct. 19, 1959. On this day (the Lyceum anniversary) Kinbote completes his work on Shades poem and commits suicide. There is a hope that, after Kinbotes death, Botkin (Shades, Kinbotes and Gradus real name) Botkin will be full again. In TRLSK the narrator quotes a passage from Lost Property:


All things belong to the same order of things, for such is the oneness of human perception, the oneness of individuality, the oneness of matter, whatever matter may be. The only real number is one, the rest are mere repetition (ibid.,
page 83). (Chapter 11)


The title of Mr Goodmans book, The Tragedy of Sebastian Knight, brings to mind VNs play in blank verse Tragediya gospodina Morna (The Tragedy of Mr Morn, 1924) which, in turn, reminds one of Gumilyovs play Krasota Morni (The Beauty of Morni, 1921). In his poem Ya vezhliv s zhiznyu sovremennoyu (Im polite with modern life 1913) Gumilyov says that he is not geroy tragicheskiy (a tragic hero):


ߧ֧, ߧ ԧ֧ ѧԧڧ֧ܧڧ,
ڧߧڧߧ֧ ,
٧ݧ, ܧѧ ڧէ ާ֧ѧݧݧڧ֧ܧڧ
֧է ѧӧ ڧԧ֧.


Yet I'm no tragic hero - way too rough,
Ironic, jaded, dryly chiding,
An iron idol that's consumed with wrath
Amongst the statuettes of china.


The (imperfect) rhyme sushe (more dryly) C igrushek (toys) brings to mind the rhyme igrushek C lyagushek (frogs) in Derzhavins poem In Praise of the Mosquito (see the quote in my previous post).


At the end of TRLSK the narrator says that, despite Sebastians death, the hero remains:


And then the masquerade draws to a close. The bald little prompter shuts his book, as the light fades gently. The end, the end. They all go back to their everyday life (and Clare goes back to her grave) C but the hero remains, for, try as I may, I cannot get out of my part: Sebastian's mask clings to my face, the likeness will not be washed off. I am Sebastian, or Sebastian is I, or perhaps we both are someone whom neither of us knows. (chapter 20)


Sebastian dies in a sanatorium in St Damier. Damier is French for chessboard. In his Commentary Kinbote mentions Oswin Bretwit, a retired diplomat whose surname means in Zemblan Chess Intelligence. In Paris Gradus (Shades murderer) offers to Oswin Bretwit the correspondence between Oswins grand-uncle Zule and his cousin Ferz:


The scripta in question were two hundred and thirteen long letters which had passed some seventy years ago between Zule Bretwit, Oswin's grand-uncle, Mayor of Odevalla, and a cousin of his Ferz Bretwit, Mayor of Aros. (note to Line 286)


Ferz is Russian for chess queen. In a letter of the first part of January C February 14, 1825, to Katenin Griboedov (the future Russian envoy in Teheran) compares Sofia (a character in Griboedovs play Woe from Wit, 1824) to ferz:


- ٧ݧ ӧէާѧ ߧק, ާѧ֧էڧ, ߧڧܧ ߧ ӧ֧ڧ, ӧ ӧ, ԧݧ ҧ֧ԧ ߧ֧էҧӧ է ߧ֧ԧ էէڧ, ڧ ߧ֧ݧҧӧ ߧ֧ާ է֧ӧܧ, էݧ ܧ ֧էڧߧӧ֧ߧߧ ӧڧݧ ܧӧ, ֧ާ ӧ֧֧ߧߧ ҧߧ֧, ֧ ӧ֧ ߧ­ݧ֧ӧѧ ԧݧѧ٧ ҧ ѧܧ. ֧٧ ا ѧ٧ѧӧѧߧ ߧѧק ӧ֧ԧ ѧѧ ާ֧էӧڧ.


Sybil Shades real name seems to be Sofia Botkin (born Lastochkin). Lastochka (The Swallow, 1792-94) is a poem by Derzhavin. In the poems closing lines (written after the death of Plenira, the poets first wife) Derzhavin compares his soul to the swallow:


ާ! ԧ ާڧ:
ݧ ֧ߧѧ ڧ?
ا ҧ֧ާ֧ڧ, ݧڧ!
ѧߧ, ӧѧߧ ,
ѧߧ, ҧ֧٧էߧ ڧ
ӧڧا ݧ ֧ҧ , ݧ֧ߧڧ?


Explaining his comedy to Katenin, Griboedov says that Chatski (the main character in Woe from Wit) ey i vsem napleval v glaza (spat in the eyes of Sofia and everybody). In his poem Shade says that we should spit into the eyes of our executioners (see the quote in my previous post). In the same letter to Katenin Griboedov compares himself to Molire and discusses Molires characters:


! ܧݧ ߧ ڧާ֧ ѧݧѧ­ ݧ֧, ܧѧۧߧ֧ ާ֧ ڧ֧է֧ߧ֧ ֧ԧ; ֧, ݧܧ ֧, ӧէ ѧ ܧާ֧էڧ ѧԧ֧էڧ, ߧڧ, էߧѧܧ, ֧ ֧, ӧۧӧ֧ߧߧ ާߧԧڧ էԧڧ ݧڧѧ, ڧߧ ӧ֧ާ է ֧ݧӧ֧֧ܧާ ߧѧݧܧ, ߧѧܧݧܧ ܧѧاէ ֧ݧӧ֧ ߧ ӧ֧ ӧڧ էӧߧԧڧ ҧѧڧ. ѧڧܧѧ ߧ֧ߧѧӧڧا, ާ֧ ܧѧڧߧ ߧ էߧ ߧ ߧѧۧէק. ާ ڧܧ; ӧݧ֧ ӧ֧ڧ ާ֧ߧ, , ܧݧ ݧ ӧէާѧ֧, ٧ѧ­ާ ֧ҧ ҧݧѧԧէѧߧڧ. ҧ ߧ ֧֧ ܧ֧ ߧ ѧڧݧ ܧݧܧ ѧ ӧ (ӧڧէ֧֧ݧӧ ѧߧէ, ѧӧܧڧ, ֧֧, ݧԧѧڧߧ t., t., t.), ֧ҧ ҧ٧ѧ ٧֧ݧڧ, ҧקާ էѧا ڧԧڧߧѧݧߧڧ ާ֧ԧ էѧӧѧߧڧ, ֧ݧ ߧ ֧ ӧ ާߧ. էߧ ­ҧѧӧݧ ѧѧܧ֧ѧ ݧ֧: «֧ѧߧڧ ӧ էӧ­ӧ», «ߧڧާ ҧݧߧ» ֧, ֧ӧէߧ; «ܧ֧» ѧߧ ҧӧ֧ߧߧ ѧҧڧܧ, ߧ֧ߧ֧.


In a letter of May 16, 1835, to Pushkin Katenin paraphrases the words of Boileau (the author of Epistle II A M. Molire):


ӧ ֧ާ ާڧݧ, ڧѧߧ ֧ݧѧ ڧէ֧, ҧէ ӧ ܧѧ ӧ ѧܧ, ӧݧ ҧ ӧ֧ է ѧ ܧާ֧էڧ; ܧߧ٧ ߧ ѧ֧ݧߧ էاߧڧ ߧ ӧ֧ݧڧܧڧ , ߧ ӧ֧ܧ Boileau:


Il est bien des degrs du mdiocre au pire

ڧ֧ է ܧݧߧڧܧ; ܧѧܧڧާ ڧѧާ, ֧ ܧѧ ߧ ӧ٧ҧߧӧѧݧڧ ڧӧ ӧ֧ ѧӧڧ, ߧ ڧ!

In LArt Potique (Chant IV) Boileau says: Il n'est point de degr du mdiocre au pire (he is not a degree from mediocre to worst). Gradus is Russian for degree.


In a letter to his brother Sebastian mentions osskomina (a word used in the phrase nabit oskominu, set the teeth on edge) and vypolziny (shed snake-skins or pupae shed by insects):


I am fed up [osskomina] with a number of tortuous things and especially with the patterns of my shed snake-skins [vypolziny] so that now I find a poetic solace in the obvious and the ordinary which for some reason or other I had overlooked in the course of my life. (chapter 19)


Sebastians vypolziny bring to mind the opening and closing lines of Gumilyovs poem Pamyat (Memory, 1921):


ݧܧ ٧ާ֧ ҧѧӧѧ ܧا,

է ѧ֧ݧ ݧ.

, ӧ, ٧ާ֧ާ ߧ ا,

ާ֧ߧ֧ է, ߧ ֧ݧ.


Only snakes shed their skin,

So their souls can age and grow.

We, alas, do not resemble snakes,

We change souls, not bodies.


ڧܧߧ ... ߧ ѧ٧ӧ ܧ ާا֧,

ާ է ߧ ާ֧ݧ?

ݧܧ ٧ާ֧ ҧѧӧѧ ܧا,

ާ֧ߧ֧ է, ߧ ֧ݧ.


I will cry out... but who can prevent

My soul from dying?

Only snakes shed their skin

We change souls, not bodies.


In one of his last articles, Bez bozhestva, bez vdokhnovenya (Without Divinity, without Inspiration, 1921), Alexander Blok criticizes Gumilyov and the acmeists who, according to Blok, deliberately hush up what is most significant and precious in them, the soul:


ԧէ ҧڧ ӧ ԧܧڧ ܧ, ѧߧӧڧ ԧߧ; ڧҧ . ާڧݧק ߧ֧ܧ էԧڧ "ѧܧާ֧ڧ", ߧ֧ާߧ֧ߧߧ էѧӧڧ, ѧާڧ ֧ҧ ݧէߧ ҧݧ ҧ֧٧էߧ ֧ڧ ӧ֧ܧԧ ާѧݧڧ٧ާ; ߧ ߧ֧ҧէߧ ߧ ҧ֧ ߧӧڧէ֧ߧڧ; ߧ ߧ ڧާ֧ ߧ ا֧ݧѧ ڧާ֧ ֧ߧ ֧էѧӧݧ֧ߧڧ ܧ اڧ٧ߧ اڧ٧ߧ ާڧ ӧҧ; ӧ֧ ٧ڧ ( ݧ֧էӧѧ֧ݧߧ, ֧ҧ ѧާڧ) ߧ ٧ѧާѧݧڧӧѧ ѧާ ԧݧѧӧߧ, ֧էڧߧӧ֧ߧߧ ֧ߧߧ: է. (3)


In his essay Blok mentions oskomina (one of Bloks favorite words that also occurs in his diaries):


ڧӧܧݧ ܧܧ, ҧӧڧߧ ҧݧڧߧѧ, ѧߧ٧ܧѧ ѧӧܧ ܧ ӧڧէ է֧ݧߧԧ ҧݧէ ާا֧ ߧѧӧڧ ݧڧ ԧާѧߧѧ. ѧ "ڧѧ ٧ڧ" ݧڧ ߧ ާڧߧ ӧ٧ҧاէѧ֧ ڧߧ֧֧ ֧է "֧ڧѧݧڧ"; ѧ ѧ ا ҧ, ܧѧ ӧߧݧ, ݧ ߧڧ ѧק էߧ ܧާڧߧ; "ҧݧѧ ҧݧڧܧ", ߧڧܧѧܧԧ ѧڧ ߧ ڧߧڧާѧѧ ߧ ҧ٧ѧߧߧѧ ڧߧڧާѧ, ֧ҧѧ ݧܧ ߧѧڧ, اڧӧ էا֧ӧ֧ߧߧ ڧ٧ӧ֧է֧ߧڧ, ӧ֧ߧڧ ק էԧѧէӧѧ֧, ݧڧ֧ѧ ߧ ӧ֧ ҧݧѧԧݧߧ, ߧѧڧߧѧ֧ ߧڧ ݧڧ֧ѧ ߧӧ֧֧ۧ ӧ֧ ڧߧѧ, ֧ ݧڧ֧ѧ ѧ. (1)


Blok borrowed the title of his article from Pushkins poem a K*** (To***, 1825):


ާߧ էߧ ާԧߧӧ֧ߧ:

֧֧է ާߧ ӧڧݧѧ ,

ѧ ާڧާݧ֧ߧ ӧڧէ֧ߧ,

ѧ ԧ֧ߧڧ ڧ ܧѧ.


ާݧ֧ߧ ԧ ҧ֧٧ߧѧէ֧اߧ

֧ӧԧѧ ާߧ ֧,

ӧѧ ާߧ էݧԧ ԧݧ ߧ֧اߧ,

ߧڧݧڧ ާڧݧ ֧.


ݧ ԧէ.  ާ֧اߧ

ѧ֧ ֧اߧڧ ާ֧,

٧ѧҧ ӧ ԧݧ ߧ֧اߧ,

ӧ ߧ֧ҧ֧ߧ ֧.


ԧݧ, ӧ ާѧܧ ٧ѧ֧ߧ

ߧݧڧ ڧ էߧ ާ

֧ ҧا֧ӧ, ҧ֧ ӧէߧӧ֧ߧ,

֧ ݧק, ҧ֧ اڧ٧ߧ, ҧ֧ ݧҧӧ.


ߧѧѧݧ ҧاէ֧ߧ:

ӧ ӧڧݧѧ ,

ѧ ާڧާݧ֧ߧ ӧڧէ֧ߧ,

ѧ ԧ֧ߧڧ ڧ ܧѧ.


֧է ҧק ֧ߧ,

էݧ ߧ֧ԧ ӧܧ֧ݧ ӧߧӧ

ҧا֧ӧ, ӧէߧӧ֧ߧ,

اڧ٧ߧ, ݧק٧, ݧҧӧ.


I still recall the wondrous moment

When you appeared before my eyes,

Just like a fleeting apparition,

Just like pure beauty's distillation.


When'er I languished in the throes of hopeless grief

Amid the troubles of life's vanity,

Your sweet voice lingered on in me,

Your dear face came to me in dreams.


Years passed. The raging, gusty storms

Dispersed my former reveries,

And I forgot your tender voice,

Your features so divine.


In exile, in confinement's gloom,

My uneventful days wore on,

Without divinity, without inspiration

Without tears, without life, without love.


My soul awakened once again:

And once again you came to me,

Just like a fleeting apparition

Just like pure beauty's distillation.


My heart again resounds in rapture,

Within it once again arise

Feelings of awe and inspiration,

Of life itself, of tears, and love.


The repetition of words and even of whole lines in Pushkins poem brings to mind sure returns of expected rhymes mentioned by Pope in Essay on Criticism. This seems to suggest that the first line of Shades poem should be repeated again at the end and that the rhyme slain-windowpane should also return:


I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By its own double in the windowpane. (ll. 1000-1001)


Dvoynik (The Double, 1914) is a poem by Blok. According to G. Ivanov, when he asked Blok does a sonnet need a coda, Blok replied that he did not know what a coda is. Line 1001 of Shades poem is its coda.


Alexey Sklyarenko

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