Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


From Marvell to Pushkin

Marvell's "The Garden" is rebedded in Ada, rising to the status of a minor character (the intermediary through which coded messages pass, infecting other verse even in French). (Inter- and intra-textuality is yet more rich loam, as characters transverse novels, most famously Pnin to Pale Fire.) Boyd ravels this thread in Nabokov's Ada: The Place of Consciousness (which I've not read; nor Michael WoodLong's Marvell, Nabokov: childhood and Arcadia, which I know of only through Charles Lock's centenareview [acknowledged in Boyd's followup in NS#6]; nor the papers cited in the prior post, gist gleaned from net abstraction. Too much primary matter, even primary secondary matter, to get through ...). I've confined myself to considering the poetry, though there are faint but Marvellous echoes in prose works, such as The Rehearsal Transprosed (often typoed, but that's a a subject for another post, also earliest OED cite for 'balderdash'), Marvell's rejoiner to Samuel Parker's attacks upon John Owen, making use of the Duke of Buckingham's well-versed neologism.

But poetic echoes go beyond English; witness the following listserv exchange:

Date: Fri, 16 Sep 2005
Subject: Re: Fw: translation/ Pushkin To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Congratulations, Jansy (if I may?), you touched upon a very important and almost unexplored subject: Russian poetry allusions in Shade's "Pale Fire." Beside the allusion to "The Prophet" [1827] you pinpointed there are at least two other ones to Pushkin: "Father Time, all gray" (cf.: "Iamshchik likhoi, sedoe vremia") and "consonne / D'appui, Echo's fey child" (cf. Pushkin's poem "The Rhyme" (1830) in which the nymph Echo gives birth to a "fey child" Rhyme), one to Tiutchev ("Hebe's Cup") and probably some more I missed. Together with the obvious allusions to Tolstoy (" Death of Ivan Il'ich") and Dostoevsky, they form an interesting Russian background in the seemingly American poem and reveal the presence of the bilingual author. As for "The Prophet" itself, it refers not to the Revelation but, as Pushkin scholars demonstrated long time ago, to the Book of Isaiah, 6: "Above it [Lord's Throne] stood the seraphims: each one had six wings ... Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand ... And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. And I heard the voice of the Lord ... And he said, Go and tell this people..." There are other Biblical and non-Biblical sources too, but this one is central.
Alexander Dolinin
From: Jansy Berndt de Souza Mello
Subject: Fw: translation/ Pushkin
[...] I would like to connect Pushkin´s poem "Prorok" to a line in Pale Fire (Canto 2) in which VN speaks of a six winged seraph. I´ve been working on the "in a glass, darkly" biblical reference and now I discovered a whole series of links with Revelations 4. Paintings with those "flamingo winged seraphs" can be found in a book: "Revelations - Art of the Apocalypse" (Nancy Grubb,Abbeville Press) but only if one is really looking after them. It is a peculiarity of "seraphs" that one, having six wings. Cherubs and Angels have them in a different count... There is also a Ieronimusch Bosch Triptych, not the one several scholars studied in connection with ADA ( "The Garden of Earthly delights" ) but "The Last Judgement" . The six winged seraphs of Revelations 4 were there described as "Beasts" and interpreted as the Four evangelists ( Lion, Eagle...) or the various tribes of Judah.
These four winged beasts, once we know that, are to be seen in Hans Memling´s "Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos", but not in "flamingo wings". But in various places they are red ( Jacquemart de Hesdin, Psalms of Penitence. Christ in Majesty, Book of Hours... and that makes sense! Not only "hours" and time, but The Majestic Look...) Christ in Majesty and the Four Evangelists that is also suggestive is in the Westminster Psalter, at the British Library.
Carolyn [Kunin] told me about Pushkin´s poem. She said that the words "six wingued seraphs" sounds very beautiful in Russian. Could you find it in Russian for me in case I add Pushkin as a reference, beside the Apocalypse? ( P.Meyer only wrote about "Revelations" indirectly, by Alpha and Omega and concerning Apocalypse, quoting the word from Wordsworth).

The only English work of Nabokov that I have not yet read (but will, it awaits on the shelf) is his translation of Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin", but Boyd's biography suggests that Nabokov even sought to subsume Marvell in this study:

... most of the more interesting modulations of an English iamb are overlooked. Because the [un]italicized syllables in the following examples are unaccented, Nabokov declares Tennyson's "In expectation of a guest" and Marvell's "To a green thought in a green shade" to be examples of lines with first and third foot scuds, a common Pushkinian pattern. But one of the things that makes Marvell's line so deservedly famous is that each time the word "green" occurs it is also strongly accented (although not quite as heavily as the noun it accompanies), so that the second and fourth feet are false spondees. If we were to mark the false spondees by a z, the pattern of Marvell's line would not be Tennyson's Pushkinian xoxo, but the highly un-Pushkinian xzxz.
VN:AY 15.XV on EO, "Notes on Prosody"

And if my private universe scans right,
So does the verse of galaxies divine
Which I suspect is an iambic line.



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