Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Public Transport

I've been interspersing reading The Man without Qualities with books better adapted for commuting, since toting a paper cinderblock has its disadvantages; so, with Clarisse being a major character in the foregoing, it seemed natural to turn to Clarice Lispector's The Hour of the Star (**spoilert**) as one of the intermezzi. (Not so geographically displaced, either, as I learned she was of Ukrainian extraction.) For those who prefer a sketch giving little away: a writer tackles the ultramundane existence of an inexperienced provincial woman lost in Rio. The NDP translator commits a critical error outside the text (that is, in the Afterword [the backcover is more incisive{link's geography's confused}]) in claiming the author's identification with the narrator; others have erred oppositely in seeing the author's personal travails represented by (rather than reflected in) the severely deprived protagonist (nearly a nonentity, nonetheless skillfully brought to life [if you call that living]) as a sort of ultimate anti-MarySue. But the novella breaks all the rules in order to achieve a style worthy of its subject, with a highly discontinuous flow, numerous 'authorial intrusions' by the narrator, and other such malfunctioning devices, left as an exercise to the reader; this deprivation, or insensitivity, places Lispector's last preposthumous delivery right alongside Poe's The Purloined Letter.

But what is uncanny is that in the very chapter to which I returned in TMw/oQ: V.II §22, I was pulled up by the following rumination, waiting between trams:

He suddenly realized that what he was getting at could best be defined, without much ado, as the futile actuality or the eternal momentariness of literature. Does it lead to anything? Literature is either a tremendous detour from experience to experience, ending back where it came from, or an epitome of sensations that leads to nothing at all definite. "A puddle," he thought, "has often made a stronger impression of depth on someone than the ocean, for the simple reason that we have more occasion to experience puddles than oceans." It seemed to him that it was the same with feelings, which was the only reason commonplace feelings are regarded as the deepest. Putting the ability to feel above the feeling itself -- the characteristic of all sensitive people -- like the wanting to make others feel and be made to feel that it is the common impulse behind all our arrangements concerning the emotional life, amounts to downgrading the importance and nature of the feelings compared with their fleeting presence as a subjective state, and so leads to that shallowness, stunted development, and utter irrelevance, for which there is no lack of examples. "Of course," Ulrich added mentally, "this view will repel all those people who feel as cozy in their feelings as a rooster in his feathers and who even preen themselves on the idea that eternity starts all over again with every separate 'personality'!" He had a clear mental image of an immense perversity of a scope involving all mankind, but he could not find a way to express it that would satisfy him, probably because its ramifications were too intricate.

Now, my critical error is not that of forging illicit connections between these widely separated books at some textual level, but rather of fortuitously juxtaposing such problems in the train of thought arising from my reading schedule. And I should note that Danilo Kiŝ (garden, ashes) put me on this track ...



"There's something the matter with people. It seems they're unable to take in their experiences or else to wholly enter into them, so they have to pass along what's left. An excessive need to write, it seems to me, comes from the same thing. You may not be able to spot this in the written product, which tends to turn into something far removed from its origin, depending on talent and experience, but it shows up quite unambiguously in the reading of it; hardly anyone reads anymore today; everyone just uses the writer to work off his own excess on him, in some perverse fashion, whether by agreeing or disagreeing."
-- Robert Musil, The Man without Qualities, §91 (trans Sophie Wilkins)


Random Observation

We interrupt this hiatus to ponder synaesthetic phenomena.

Not the sort of synaesthesia Nabokov and others memorably describe, coloring sounds, and yet others mimesize, and that's before the feature writers get it. Rather, going the other way, coloring noise, reweighting the frequency spectrum of random inputs away from the uniformity of white noise:

Often, CDs offer `white noise' as background sound to relax, like waves lapping on a beach or wind sounds. Is this actually white noise, or is it something else? Is white noise even a relaxing sound?

Wind, waves, or similar natural sounds are not exactly white noise - often they are closer to pink noise, but they also have additional modulation. Pure white noise is not particularly soothing, perhaps because it is not something we encounter in nature, and our perceptual systems are acutely matched to the natural world. The advantage of a noise signal is that it can mask out more specific sounds - like the neighbors talking, or cars going by - and submerge them in a steady, continuous sound with no abrupt changes to distract or disturb us. Thus, it makes sense that the closest natural matches to white noise, like the slow undulation of waves at the seaside, can form soothing and effective background noise maskers - a natural sound, but containing no suprises or structure to pull our minds away.

Recent downpours reminded me that the sound of heavy rain is one naturally occurring source. But what struck me was that there's an analogous disruption of the visual field, as one watches the spattering in puddles. But travel through a medium involves interference and dissipation that tends to damp out higher frequencies, so that the rippling of waves in deeper waters corresponds to a darker noise. In either case, watching the phenomenon partakes of some of the same soothing effect as listening to it. Spectral analysis of time series may attribute coloration behaviors to the influence of memory embedded in the diffusion process. But power laws corrupt even statistical physics, so the audiovisual correlation I speak of here may well be insignificant.


The Antinomy of Criticism

... or should that be antimony?

Pale Fire's satirical take on the critic's expropriation of the artist's creation is high comedy. Which is to say that underneath the slapstick of Kinbote's misprision of "Pale Fire", of his relationship to Shade, of his cultural confusions, lurks a much more complex assessment of literary criticism of the time (and leading up to it; as noted earlier, many of the poets alluded to were also critics and theorists). An archetypal example governs both Charles II's escape from Zembla and Shade's glimpse of afterlife at the Crashaw Club, which I fortuitously stumbled upon, only to find myself anticipated by UMich Russian philologist Omry Ronen: "The fallacy of the Jungian psychology as applied to literary criticism by Maud Bodkin in her once popular book [Archetypal Patterns in Poetry] appears to be spoofed in Pale Fire, especially in the “white fountain/white mountain” episode, as well as in the names of characters (aunt Maud, Dr. Botkin)." As Kinbote has written a book on surnames (C894, a rock upon which many critical interpretations break -- if it does not falsify, must it be false? and if so, what else is? or isn't? -- but nonetheless rich in allusion), it seems fair for me to say that Abbazia, along with the Bera range that Chas II traverses in C149, puts me in mind of the magic of place names that Bodkin delineates in her "Heaven and Hell" chapter:

There is more to be said concerning the significance of the mountain and cavern image, as illustrated by the comparison between Colerige's poem [Kubla Khan] and Plato's myth [Phaedra, upper/underworld]; but let us first return to those lines in which the poem passes from impersonal description to an expression of the poet's own ecstasy:
A damsel with a dulcimer / In a vision once I saw: / It was an Abyssinian maid, / And on her dulcimer she played, / Singing of Mount Abora / Could I revive within me / Her symphony and song, / To such a deep delight 'twould win me, / That with music loud and long, / I would build that dome in air,
I would ask the reader who has achieved any vivid and satisfying experience of these lines in their place in the poem to ask himself what, if anything, is suggested to his mind by the name Mount Abora -- placed as it is where there converges on it all the emotion pertaining to the previous description, and the mention of the mysterious damsel; while also there appears to spring from it a sudden passion of desire for the return of poetic ecstasy.
Lowes, as we saw, traces the name, Abora, to a confluence of 'the hill Amara', of which Milton also had read in Purchas'
Pilgrimage, and the names of two rivers, tributaries of the Nile, 'Abola' and 'Astaboras' [...]

I spare the reader Bodkin's digression into Proust on place-names to pick up, briefly, where Bodkin rejects the latter associations:

... But these names are probably far from constituting all the emotional determinants behind the name Abora.
When I questioned my own experience, why it was that in responding to Coleridge's line, I could not think of Abora as a Paradisal mount -- the associations which the name gathered from the description preceding it were rather of caverns, of subterranean winds and tumult -- an answer came in the form of a dim memory of some mountain named by Milton and associated with such fierce winds. I found the reference in the passage describing the soil of hell that
Such appeared in hue, as when the force / Of subterranean wind transports a hill / Torn from Pelorus, or the shatter'd side / Of thundering Aetna ...
er sound was the link that led to the recall of Milton's wind-vexed Pelorus, helped by the converging associations of the contexts of the two names. The name of Boreas, the north wind, and the word 'to bore' were also associated with the sound 'Abora', and helped to determine the image it awakened [...]

More in this vein I shall not impose on the reader; the flavor of argumentation is clear enough (and, for a poem originating in a dream, dim memory may be critically valid; in fact, Bodkin's own dreams are sourced later on). This is followed by a discussion of fountain symbolism (turbulent in KK, source of the Alph, in turn source for King Alfin), culminating (back in Milton) in the 'white fountain' (in "Pale Fire", Canto III) reference:

The rills that flowed from the fountian of Milton's Paradise 'ran nectar'. Eve, to her angel guest, offered 'nectarous draughts' 'from milky stream'. In Samson Agonistes this latter epithet occurs with curious significance. Since seeing the drama produced many years ago I have often recalled the lines, which then arrested me by their beauty:
Wherever fountain or fresh current flowed / Against the eastern ray, translucent, pure / With touch ethereal of Heaven's fiery rod, / I drank, from the clear milky juice allaying / Thirst ...

I again omit the segue to a quote from Francis Thompson's Hound of Heaven: "Nature, poor Stepdame, cannot slake my drouth; / Let her, if she would owe me, / Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me / The breasts of her tenderness." (all I can say is, WOW). So you see where this is going:

If such an element of organic response, persistent from infancy, be admitted as characterizing the imaged fountains of earthly Paradise in their gentleness, should we recognize any corresponding organic factor in images of more violent uprushes of water, such as that in the lines quoted from Kubla Khan?

But if Maud Bodkin's archetypes govern Zembla's topography and Shade's vision, the selection of poets to whom both Shade and Kinbote allude is governed both by a metaphysical strain that runs through their work and by a more dominant feature of the time's critical landscape, on ground prepared by the criticism of T.S.Eliot. (Relation to the Russian formalism of the Silver Age would make the territory familiar to Nabokov as well.) In particular, the span of poets the Shades draw upon, from Donne to Yeats, matches that of Cleanth Brooks' New Criticism manifesto, The Well-Wrought Urn, Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" being the most explicit point of contact (though Macbeth figures as well). The play of light that runs through many of Brooks' selections is refracted in Pale Fire's iridescences. Brooks' wrap-up in the Yeats chapter, its title drawn from the conclusion of "Among School Children" ("Labour is blossomming or dancing where / The body is not bruised to pleasure soul, / Nor beauty born out of its own despair, / Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil. / O chestnut tree, great rooted blossommer, / Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? / O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, / How can we know the dancer from the dance?"), seems relevant:

The poem is a dramatization, not a formula; a controlled experience which has to be experienced, not a logical process, the conclusion of which is reached by logical methods and the validity of which can be checked by logical tests. In each case, the unifying principle of the organization which is the poem is an attitude or a complex of attitudes. We can discover, to be sure, propositions which seem to characterize, more or less accurately, the unifying attitude. But if we take such propositions to be the core of the poem we are contenting ourselves with reductions and substitutions. To do this, is to take the root or the blossoms of the tree for the tree itself.
The point is not a very abstruse one. It seems worth repeating here only because many of our professors and popular reviewers continue to act as if it were an esoteric principle. Our staple study of literature consists in investigations of the root system (the study of literary sources) or in sniffing the blossoms (impressionism) or -- not to neglect Yeats's alternative symbol -- in questioning the quondam dancer, no longer a dancer
[the dance interrupted; note for further use], about her life history (the study of the poet's biography).

Is Pale Fire a defense of New Criticism's methods, or a challenge to them? Or, perhaps, both, in the manner in which Brooks was wont to reconcile seemingly opposed dichotomies? Does this then make the authorship question more pertinent? Do the critic and artist merge? (And what of the author and reader?) Worryingly, the New Criticism movement reached its apex (or zenith, to keep that A-Z thang going) in just such a synthesis, with of all things archetypal criticism, in the work of Northrop Frye. Now, After Theory, we seem in some ways to be returning to the old New Criticism. (And my appetite's sorely whetted for the wit and wisdom of Empson's The Structure of Complex Words.)

I have by no means exhausted Pale Fire's potentialities, or what I've seen of them, but I have exhausted myself in this unaccustomed synthesis; a brief blog break seems in order, as does ceding development to future Kinbotes commentators. I trust the reader has enjoyed these notes.



A further example of intratextuality (that is, within Nabokov's writings):

"You'll be happy to know, Dr. Kinbote, that Professor So-and-so [...] has consented to act as our advisor in editing the stuff."
Now, 'happy' is something extremely subjective. One of our sillier Zemblan proverbs says:
the lost glove is happy. Promptly I refastened the catch of my briefcase and betook myself to another publisher.
-- Pale Fire, Foreword

[...] There was lovely, black-haired, aquamarine-eyed Miss Norcott, who lost a white kid glove at Nice or Beaulieu, where I vainly looked for it on the shingly beach among the colored pebbles and the glaucous lumps of sea-changed bottle glass. Lovely Miss Norcott was asked to leave at once, one night in Abbazia. She embraced me in the morning twilight of the nursery, pale-mackintoshed and weeping like a Babylonian willow, and that day I remained inconsolable ...
-- Speak Memory, 4.4

This subchapter of SM also gives correlation between Charles II/Kinbote's tutors (Beauchamp and Campbell) and those that succeeded VN's governesses, Burness and Cummings; even their successor, Dobuzhinski, continues that alphabetic scheme that threads through PF (ably recounted by Boyd, A-Z), starting with the Goldsworth girls Alphina, Betty, Candida and Dee, with King Alfin and Queen Blenda. Happily, 'Abbazia' also contains that movement, and a seed (well, fertilizer) for another line of enquiry, which will sprout in a subsequent post. But, while on the subject of the extremely subjective, I'll note that Dobuzhinski in SM4.5 is borrowed for the central chapter in Pnin (Victor's drawing master Lake). Yet this borrowing is commented upon: "... it was as if life had impinged upon my creative rights by wriggling on beyond the subjective limits so elegantly and economically set by childhood memories that I thought I had signed and sealed." These cross-references draws SM into the same tight matrix that PF, Pnin, Lolita & (to some extent) Ada occupy. (Such intratextuality is later self-parodied in 'Other works by the narrator' frontispiece in place of preface to Look at the Harlequins!.)

Also, SM4.4 ends with a limerick that doesn't:
... Usually at the end of the lesson a certain limerick was asked for and granted, the point of the performance being that the word "screamed" in it was to be involuntarily enacted by oneself every time Mr. Burness gave a formidable squeeze to the hand he held in his beefy paw as he recited the lines:
The was a young lady from Russia
Who (squeeze) whenever you'd crush her.
She (squeeze) and she (squeeze) ...
by which time the pain would have become so excruciating that we never got any farther.

For all his appreciation of nonsense versifiers, VN seems to have done little of it himself, and not in limerick, double dactyl, or other such forms; even in his correspondence with Edmund Wilson, who was an aficianado of such (even attempting a Russian clerihew), the closest Nabokov got was in '49:
Do you still work upon such sets
as for example "step" and "pets"
as "Nazitrap" and "partizan"
"red wop" and "powder," "nab" and "ban"?

And despite seeming resistance to being incorporated into light verse forms, the challenge has been answered (the glove retrieved). So, I'll second this:

A penchant for formal inversion
(And for consonne d'appui
If it doesn't sound screwy)
Afforded Nabokov diversion
Though pedants pronounced it perversion.


errata tat tat

Res ipsa loquitur:

Pale Fire, Kinbote, C149 (Charles II, escaping through Zembla, atop a mountain pass): ... a tender haze enveloped more distant ridges which led to one another in an endless array, through every grade of soft evanescence.
Kinbote, C894: [Shade:] "Kings do not die--they only disappear, eh, Charles?"
[... farther on, on Pnin ...] Shade: "Sir, we all find it difficult to attack that name" [laughing].
Professor Hurley: "Think of the French word for 'tire': punoo."
Shade: Why, sir, I am afraid you have only punctured the difficulty" [laughing uproariously]
"Flatman," quipped I. [...]

DeQuincey's Confessions: The reader may choose to think of him as possibly no more than a sublunary druggist; it may be so, but my faith is better: I believe him to have evanesced, or evaporated. So unwillingly would I connect any mortal remembrances with that hour, and place, and creature, that first brought me acquainted with the celestial drug.
DeQuincey's note: Evanesced. - this way of going off the stage of life appears to have been well known in the 17th century, but at that time to have been considered a peculiar privilege of blood-royal, and by no means to be allowed to druggists. For about the year 1686, a poet of rather ominous name (and who, by the bye, did ample justice to his name), viz., Mr. Flat-man, in speaking of the death of Charles II expresses his surprise that any prince should commit so absurd an act as dying; because, says he,
"Kings should disdain to die, and only disappear."
They should abscond, that is, into the other world.
Barry Milligan's note: Misquoted from 'On the Much Lamented Death of Our Late Sovereign Lord King Charles II, of Blessed Memory, a Pindaresque Ode' by Thomas Flatman (1637-88), 21-5: "But Princes (like the wondrous Enoch) should be free/From Death's Unbounded Tyranny,/And when their Godlike Race is run,/And nothing glorious left undone,/Never submit to Fate, but only disappear."

Chateaubriand's René: One day, as I was walking in a large city, I passed through a secluded and deserted courtyard behind a palace. There I noticed a statue pointing to a spot made famous by a certain sacrifice. I was struck by the stillness of the surroundings; only the wind moaned weakly around the tragic marble. Workmen were lying about indifferently at the foot of the statue or whistled as they hewed out stones. I asked them what the monument meant; some knew little indeed, while the others were totally oblivious of the catastrophe it commemorated. Nothing could indicate so vividly the true import of human events and the vanity of our existence. What has become of those figures whose fame was so widespread? Time has taken a step and the face of the earth has been made over.
Chateaubriand's note: At London, behind Whitehall, the statue of Charles II.
Irving Putter's note: He was apparently deeply affected by this statue, and has written about it elsewhere, adding that Charles II is pointing to the spot where his father Charles I was executed. In reality, it was a bronze statue of James II, the brother of Charles II.

My note: Restoration comedy, to be sure. But I've fumbled around this issue of intentional error in Nabokov, of which L98 ("Red Sox beat Yanks 5-4/On Chapman's Homer") seems exemplary: Ben Chapman (better known as a Yank, and for leading league in steals) was not on the Sox in any 5-4 game ('37 instance preceded his arrival), but, as NYT bookchatter 'whiskeypriest' put it, "One thinks of Big Ben as hitting a two run blast to beat the Yanks, in the bottom of the ninth, following a two-out single, and wonders, who was On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer."
And Kinbote's commentary on this [C98]: "A reference to the title of Keats' famous sonnet (often quoted in America) which, owing to a printer's absent-mindedness, has been drolly transposed, from some other article, into the account of a sports event. For other vivid misprints see note to line 802."
-- which is really in C803 ('misprint', giving an instance of 'paradiorthosis', or incorrect correction; TSEliot adapted the term to proverb-modifiers). C802 is on 'mountain', which Kinbote ties back to C149. Full circle, glorious revolution.

Alexander Zholkovsky provides more memorable monkeyshines of this sort.

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.



The Garden

Alexander Pope sets the ground-work for the form of Pale Fire, not merely in rhymed iambic mock-heroic couplets (and in figuration from other Essays; even Pope's grot, separating his house and garden, plays a part in Kinbote's escape tunnel, terminating in a green door), but in the preface/poem/notes/index structure that the latter (and Nabokov's own Eugene Onegin) shares with The Dunciad. And as The Dunciad surveys the landscape of Pope's contemporaries (first from his viewpoint, then from the dunce's), Pale Fire encompasses the development of English poetry from the Metaphysical Poets to 20th century American, especially T.S.Eliot. (Pope's necessary other, Swift, deserves more than passing mention for "Tale of the Tub".) Boyd's Nabokov's Pale Fire handles particular contributions from Pope (The Rape of the Lock, An Essay on Man) and Eliot (The Waste Land, The Four Quartets) in admirable depth, but dismisses the broader satire as subservient to the afterlife theme. Others have investigated allusions to specific poets (e.g. Sicker ['92] on Coleridge and Wordsworth -- note the syllable swap in Wordsmith/Goldsworth), but it's well worthwhile to trace these through John Shade's own corpus.

The first Shade work mentioned is Supremely Blest [L384] as is appropriate for a Pope scholar. Robert Browning is up next, via oblique reference in The Untamed Seahorse [L671-2]: Kinbote directs us to My Last Duchess, oblivious to the complaint of the patron directing the artist's hand, while himself complaining about pulling titles out of the airs of prior poets (which in this case does not apply, as the words 'untamed seahorse' do not appear in Browning's poem). Then we come to Shade's poems [L957-62]:

Dim Gulf was my first book (free verse); Night Rote
Came next; then Hebe's Cup, my final float
In that damp carnival, for now I term
Everything "Poems," and no longer squirm.
(But this transparent thingum does require
Some moondrop title. Help me, Will! Pale Fire.)

'Hebe's Cup' is from Richard Crashaw's "Music's Duel" (with help from the Crashaw Club lecture [L683]), 'Dim Gulf' from Poe's "To One in Paradise", and the poem from which 'Pale Fire' derives (Will nowithstanding) is Yeats' "A Poet to his Beloved".

'Night Rote' took a little more doing to uncover, and I had to sidetrack through Joyce to get there: Though Nabokov famously denied that John Shade's and Stephen Dedalus' nail-paring was anything more than a coincidence, I've never been able to extirpate the feeling that the shaving rite in Canto Four of Pale Fire alludes to the introit to Joyce's Ulysses. But a particular sentence from the latter, not much farther on, caught my attention:
"A deaf gardener, aproned, masked with Matthew Arnold's face, pushes his mower in the sombre lawn watching narrowly the dancing motes of grasshalms." (Ulysses, 7)
The gardener reference piqued my interest, especially the dancing echo with the disregarded butterfly at the close of the poem; in the NYT VN bookchat (since deleted, but resurrected into the current bookchat-of-the-month [reg req'd]), teddy pointed out the corresponding reference in Kinbote's commentary to the non-existent L1000, wherein gardeners real and faux play their parts:
"Oh, he was aiming at me all right but missing me every time, the incorrigible bungler, as I instinctively backed, bellowing and spreading my great strong arms (with my left hand still holding the poem, 'still clutching the inviolable Shade,' to quote Matthew Arnold, 1822-1888) ..."
The embedded quote is from 'The Scholar-Gipsy', first published in Arnold's 1853 revised edition. This edition also includes Arnold's first critical writing, a preface on his theory of poetry; and the poem 'Sohrab and Rustum', which contains the following gardener allusion, L631-9, after the latter has slain the former in combat:

... And he saw that Youth,
Of age and looks to be his own dear son,
Piteous and lovely, lying on the sand,
Like some rich hyacinth which by the scythe
Of an unskilful gardener has been cut,
Mowing the garden grass-plots near its bed,
And lies, a fragrant tower of purple bloom,
On the mown, dying grass--so Sohrab lay,
Lovely in death, upon the common sand.

'Sohrab and Rustum' replaced 'Empedocles at Etna' from an earlier edition; Mark Seigchrist ('78) pointed out the constructive reliance on counterweighting dualities, but critics have debated whether the poem truly satisfies the criteria Arnold set forth in his preface; this, and the theme of the poem, is often seen as emblematic of Arnold's own career, as are these lines, from 'Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse' in the same edition:
Wandering between two worlds, one dead, The other powerless to be born
It was by wandering down this carefully planted garden path that I arrived at "Dover Beach" as the source for 'Night Rote' hitting the right note; and 'a distant northern sea' evokes the commentator's last word (index entry for Zembla).

So that, aside from the metaphysical Crashaw, the poetic references are to 19c poets who were also critics and theorists. ("Poems" is too ambiguous to lay at Eliot's door, but still ...) That this plays into the satiric mode is clear enough, but I remained unsatisfied with the prominence of the gardener in Pale Fire until I looked into Sybil Shade's contribution, her translation of Donne and Marvell [L677-8], the latter of which gets disproportionate space in the commentary. The poem in question is "The Nymph complaining for the death of her Faun"; within the poem, reference to Silvio helps to establish Sybil (nee Irondell) Shade's identification with the pivotal Sylvia O'Donnell (well-connected to Zemblans and Wordsmith administrators alike), and the opening couplet ("The wanton Troopers riding by/Have shot my Faun and it will dye.") hearkens back to the epigraph by Samuel Johnson (by way of Boswell: "... Hodge shall not be shot."). Widening my view to Marvell's larger corpus, I found that the late lyrics correlate not only with the aforementioned sources for John Shade's titles (e.g. Music's Duel with Musicks Empire), but with other thematic aspects (cf. Arnold above) as well; the late advices to the painter are suggestive of Browning's Last Duchess. The choice of Donne and Marvell for translation is explained in part by Eliot's essay on Marvell's je ne sais quoi.

But the clincher, for me, was consideration of Marvell's trajectory as a poet: his progression through lyric/panegyric/mock heroic/satiric (a movement culminating in Pope) mirrors that of the poem 'Pale Fire' as it passes from hand to hand, and that progression is synchronized with the English government's passing through Charles I and Cromwell to Charles II, model for Kinbote's sovereign encapsulated by Boyd (NPF, 80):
"... foremost in England's Charles II, whom Kinbote happily evokes in his Commentary, because of his flair, looks, and popularity, and especially his romantic escape after the battle of Worcester in 1651: "Many times that night our King cast himself upon the ground with the desperate resolution of resting there till dawn that he might shift with less torment what hazard soever he ran. (I am thinking of another Charles, another long dark man above two yards high)" (C597-608). In the first sentence, Kinbote quotes almost verbatim from the History of the Rebellion (1702-4) by Edward Hyde, the Earl of Clarendon ..."
"Clarendon's Housewarming" is coincidentally one of Marvell's satires, bracketed by the advices to the painter. But, lest it be thought I merely make ornaments of accidents and possibilities, I draw your attention to Marvell's last lyric, "The Garden". In Some Versions of Pastoral, Empson begins:
"The chief point of the poem is to contrast and reconcile conscious and unconscious states, intuitive and intellectual modes of apprehension; and yet that distinction is never made, perhaps could not have been made; his thought is implied by his metaphors. [...] The Oxford edition notes bring out a crucial double meaning (so that this at least is not my own fancy) in the most analytical statement of the poem, about the Mind --
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade."

I shan't try to gloss the argument (go read Empson!), beyond noting that it sees this as the crisis, mid-poem, and that Empson speaks of the escalation in levels of thought leading up to it: "... the three central verses of the Marvell poem ... in the course of suggesting various interlocking hierarchies (knowing that you know that you know, reconciling the remaining unconscious with the increasing consciousness, uniting in various degrees perception and creation, the one and the many), it does in fact rise through a hierarchy of three sharply contrasted styles and with them gives a more and more inclusive account of the mind's relation to nature." But Nabokov plexes the artistry by taking this to the next level, or three, in correlating the sequel to Shade's glimpse of the afterlife (stanza vii), Kinbote's solipsism (viii), and the final resolution by our metaphysical gardener, Negative Capability Brown (ix). The structural sublimity of his satire makes Nabokov's no child's garden of verse.