Lyric Poetry

20 June 2014

 

Bird Images in Canto One of “Pale Fire” and Mysticism Poetics

 

1. Introduction

“Pale Fire” is a poem consisting of four Cantos, and also a part of bigger book Pale Fire (1962), which is a novel written by Vladimir Nabokov the author of Lolita (1955). This novel is completely delivered by an imaginary voice of Charles Kinbote, who is a literary critic and at the same time a neighbor of a poet John Shade. John Shade is a main character who is told to be an exile from the northern kingdom of Zembla, and who is the writer of the poem in the novel.

This poem is written in heroic couplet, of 999 lines divided into four Cantos—and supposed 1000th line is identical to the first. In this retrospective work, John Shade writes on his life and his ambitious life-long pursuit towards “survival after death”[1] (Canto Two, line 169), which he delusively thinks everyone but he knows and others conspire to hide from him.

Amongst, Canto One (lines 1-166) is about his early life before he knows of the survival after death. Here appear numerous examples of symbol of bird, which attracted my attention. Traditionally in western literature, bird, especially nightingale represents an image of melancholy poets, especially in Romantic era[2]. This is well shown in John Keats’ poem “Ode to a Nightingale” and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to a Skylark”, that “a poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds. (Shelley)”[3]

Nabokov himself intends ‘pure literature’, relatively indifferent to participations towards social problems or questioning moral or ethical problems existing, as he says “a work of art has no importance whatever to society. It is only important to the individual.”[4] His Lolita was of this perspective, and so is Pale Fire. Closely reading the Canto One of “Pale Fire”, I hope, would give a more specified view of his on art and literature. It will be carried through the variations of symbolism of bird in this Canto. In this paper I would like to analyse these symbols in aspect of art composing.

 

2. Form and Meter

“Pale Fire” is composed in heroic couplet, in iambic pentameter. This implies that the poet, John Shade considers himself as a heroic character. This will be discussed later. The meter of the poem seems to support this assumption, in that iambic pentameter is generally understood as similar to the rhythm of routine speech, contrary to tetrameters which represent more musical rhythm as in ballad form and nursery rhymes. It is also used at significant and crucial monologues of main characters in Shakespeare’s poetic dramas, like that of Act III Scene 1 in Hamlet.

Secondly, when we closely skim the poem, we can figure out that enjambments are so frequently used that we can scarcely encounter end-stopped lines. Actually, excluding the last lines of each stanza, we can only find only 24 end-stopped lines in Canto One which consists of 166 lines. This causes the reader to follow the lines in a hurried tempo as if he the author speaks with a nervous heart. However, thinking oppositely, we can understand that the poet wanted to mark some specific statements as significant, in each end-stopped line midst each stanza. These lines contain specific information about the speaker, as of his identity, his parents or his belief. For example, the first couplet “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain/By the false azure in the windowpane. (lines 1-2)” or “I was an infant when my parents died. (line 71)” and “My God they died young. Theolatry I found/Degrading, and its premises, unsound. (lines 99-100)”, these make the readers to slow down at the end of each line, who had been running on through the lines busily, and let them remark the statements there. This fact could be interpreted as a strategy of this long-length poem to give weight to some lines that contain important contents.

 

3. Hero and Heroic Melancholy

Above I mentioned melancholy heroes. However here we should be careful to distinguish between melancholy figure and melancholy hero. Generally we think of Oedipus of Sophocles, Hamlet of Shakespeare, Satan of Milton’s Paradise Lost and captain Ahab of Melville’s Moby Dick as typical heroic characters. Of their common characteristics we can say roughly three: first, one could be called a hero when one pursues not one’s own interest but what one values most, e.g. justice, beauty, fate and love. And secondly, in the course of the pursuit, one encounters one’s counterpart, or say, enemy. Lastly, the action or behavior of a character should represent a specific value(s) that could be sympathized and accepted as universally valid.

They are also said to be, but more than normal melancholy characters. However, Melancholy in general is, in cultural context, understood as “a sad thoughtful state of mind; pensiveness.”[5] Melancholy characters have outstanding faculty of reasoning as of Hamlet, are monomaniac as captain Ahab, and are bound to think of origin and end, especially essence and death of men, world, and universe i.e. everything—these are also the main themes of “Existenz” philosophy. These factors are together obviously presented in Canto Two of “Pale Fire.” Though deliberate analysis of these lines is not of interest in this paper, they are worth citing here for showing the melancholy of this poem.

 

There was a time in my demented youth

When somehow I suspected that the truth

About survival after death was known

To every human being: I alone

Knew nothing, and a great conspiracy

Of books and people hid the truth from me.

 

There was the day when I began to doubt

Man’s sanity: How could he live without

Knowing for sure what dawn, what death, what doom

Awaited consciousness beyond the tomb?

 

And finally there was the sleepless night

When I decided to explore and fight

The foul, the inadmissible abyss,

Devoting all my twisted life to this

One task. Today I’m sixty-one. Waxwings

Are berry-pecking. A cicada sings.

 

“Pale Fire”, Canto Two, lines 167-182.

 

As we can see, the speaker is a monomaniac character who believes there exists “survival after death” but everyone “hid the truth” from him, so that his life was “The foul, the inadmissible abyss” to “explore and fight” for all his time. He thinks it is hardly sane to “live without/Knowing for sure what dawn, what death, what doom” is waiting for him.

This exploration had taken place from his “demented youth” to the age of “sixty-one.” Though we cannot call him a hero, we could say that the speaker is somehow ‘heroic’, as he had pushed ahead his melancholy to such extremity though his confrontation against those who hid the “survival after death” remained imaginary till the end of this poem.

 

4. Bird Metaphor and Forlorn Melancholy

The symbol of bird is the kernel of Canto One, sophisticatedly built up with numerous bird-metaphors, each representing different meanings. To list all the bird metaphors in Canto One here: line 1(waxwing), line 24(pheasant), line 63(mockingbird), and again line 131(waxwing). Metaphors related to birds appear in: line 72(ornithologists), line 79(preterist) and line 106(cage). Here I would like to show that these bird-metaphors are together indicating the speaker’s three different aspects.

 

4.1. Waxwing: Forlorn Solitude

Waxwing is a common bird species in the United States. The speaker of the poem lives in New Wye, Appalachia, U.S.A.(as shown in Canto Two, line 250) The commonplaceness of this bird makes a vivid contrast to the rarity and ethereality of Nightingale or Skylark which are the symbol of Romantic poets. This will be discussed later.

The speaker claims that he “was the shadow of the waxwing slain/By the false azure in the windowpane. (Canto One, lines 1-2)” This bird is assumed to have tried to fly off the cage adoring the azure brightness of the sky, but fails to escape, being crashed into the window. This metaphor is quite abject and even self-depreciating. It needs close interpretation. In the core of this metaphor lies the solitude(which is also a significant keyword to melancholy) of the speaker. He says:

 

I was an infant when my parents died.

They both were ornithologists. I’ve tried

So often to evoke them …

 

Lines 71-73

 

And Then,

 

My God they died young. Theolatry I found

Degrading, and its premises, unsound.

No free man needs a God: but was I free?

            

             Lines 99-101

 

Ornithologist is who studies birds. Common birds would be of no interest for them. The speaker feels alienated from his parents in that supposedly they gave little attention to their child, and critically, they “died young”, when the speaker “was an infant.” The fact, immediately, caused his belief in God(theolatry) to become “degrading” and “its premises” to seem “unsound.” Precisely what premise that the religion presupposed here is not clear.

This feeling of loneliness is closely linked to its consequence, that the speaker thinks he is not free, “most artistically caged. (line 114)” Cage is an extended metaphor that came from the original metaphor of waxwing, a bird. In Canto One, there appear various lines that depict sceneries from his home and around. However, the boundary is not wide. From the first stanza the speaker starts from a view from his room, then snowy outdoor scene, to the lake and the “Lake Road to school (line 43)”. Then he comes to his old house, never to mention any scenery outside.

Of his narrow range of activity we can say that his ‘problem’ is somehow related to it. At first we might come up with his illness:

 

                           A thread of subtle pain

Tugged at by playful death, released again,

But always present, ran through me. One day,

When I’d just turn eleven, as I lay

Prone on the floor and watched a clockwork toy—

A tin wheelbarrow and pushed by a tin boy—

Bypass chair legs and stray beneath the bed,

There was a sudden sunburst in my head.

 

Lines 140-146

 

In this pain he experiences:

 

And then black night. That blackness was sublime.

I felt distributed through space and time:

One foot upon a mountaintop, one hand

Under the pebbles of a panting strand,

One ear in Italy, one eye in Spain,

In caves, my blood, and the stars, my brain.

There were dull throbs in my Triassic; green

Optical spots in Upper Pleistocene,

An icy shiver down my Age of Stone,

And all tomorrows in my funny bone.

 

Lines 147-156

 

His forlornness is also well presented in his past living with his aunt Maud (line 86) after his loss of both parents. However, she was no complete substitute for his parents or his model to learn from, as he writes she was “dear” yet “bizarre (ibid.)” with “grotesque growths and images of doom (line 89).” The words here at the Index of a open verse book support this: “Moon (line 94)” for lunatic, “Moor (line 85)” for barren land and “Moral (ibid.)” for spirit or mentality; and moor and moral together point out that the mental state of aunt Maud (or furthermore John Shade himself) was quite desolate. As Freud puts:

 

The melancholic displays something else besides which is lacking in mourning—an extraordinary diminution in his self-regard, an impoverishment of his ego on a grand scale. In mourning it is the world which has become poor and empty; in melancholia it is the ego itself.[6]

 

4.2. Mockingbird: Empty Self and Mannerism Life

This state of life would have made him feel dull and bored. All his interest became his picture book (line 105) and celestial things in the book and in the sky, as constellations (“the Great Bear”; line 120) and Milky Way (line 126). These were what built up his spiritual ‘world’ of his youth. (lines 105-106)

But those would be not enough to fulfill his emptiness. The metaphor of mockingbird seems to demonstrate his early mannerism life. It is dramatically presented when the speaker revisits his old home. In that scene he encounters a mockingbird echoing “all the programs she had heard (line 64)”, “rasping out (line 66)” some fragments she remembers and then “Returning to her perch—the new TV (line 70)”, as if he witnesses his own early life at the very moment of reminiscence.

However, when we carefully grope in dark around the first and third stanza, we find there is a possibility that the speaker had not at all been entirely anchored in that dull living. It can be found in ‘fancy.’

 

And from the inside, too, I’d duplicate

Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:

 

Lines 5-6

 

Whatever in my field of vision dwelt—

An indoor scene, hickory leaves, the svelte

Stilettos of a frozen stillicide—

Was printed on my eyelids' nether side

Where it would tarry for an hour or two,

And while this lasted all I had to do

Was close my eyes to reproduce the leaves,

Or indoor scene, or trophies of the eaves.

 

Lines 33-40

 

In these lines, words as ‘duplicate (line 5)’ and ‘reproduce (line 39)’ are remarked. These are the evidence that the poet has a faculty of fancying and he had made it as a part of his world. But just copying the world outside into inside?

 

4.3. Pheasant: Lunatic Creativity of Imagination

That seems not the case. Scenery of falling snow the speaker is amazed at is described in the first stanza and then continues through the second. There appears our pheasant:

 

Whose spurred feet have crossed

From left to right the blank page of the road?

Reading from left to right in winter's code:

A dot, an arrow pointing back; repeat:

Dot, arrow pointing back...A pheasant's feet!

Torquated beauty, sublimated grouse,

Finding your China right behind my house.

Was he in Sherlock Holmes, the fellow whose

Tracks pointed back when he reversed his shoes?

 

Lines 20-28

 

These lines can be understood as an implied allusion to Ted Hughes’ “The Thought Fox (1957).” In both, an animal, symbolizing creativity, had passed through the snow, the “blank page”, and the speaker only discovers the foot prints and traces its tracks. It is clearer in those lines above, that the “feet” of an animal “have crossed” “the blank page” of winter snow “from left to right” in a hurried, “spurred” feet. The speaker but figures out that the foot prints are of an ethereal bird that has “Torquated beauty (a ring-shaped shade around the neck)” and is a “sublimated” one.

Then alluding Sherlock Holmes, he curiously asks: “Was he in Sherlock Holmes, the fellow whose/Tracks pointed back when he reversed his shoes?” ‘He’ here is a killer who committed the crime in the snow-covered mountain cottage and then disappeared without any trace left behind. The fact was that, on the way back down he reversed his shoes and trod the very prints that were made on the way up. Alike, the speaker says the trace of the pheasant is not of easy pursuit.

In the context up to here, the pheasant can be viewed as a faculty or an aspect in the poet John Shade. However, unlike the other two metaphors i.e. waxwing and mockingbird, the pheasant is depicted as rather mystical one. He can only see the track left behind that allows no chase after it, as its feet are “spurred.” The move of imagination, the poet himself could not get any hint of it. It is lunatic.

At this point of analysis, we could say that the pursuit towards the mad imagination is what made John Shade live. His grave confrontation against death here will be mentioned, as art survives any death, it is a fertile fountain of meaning. Melancholy makes people solitary, and then makes them feel deep nothingness, deficiency and meaninglessness of the world and their ego, following Freud above. The struggle to find out the meaning and essence in their life often chooses its way to the art. In this respect we can understand Shakespeare’s obsessive pursuit towards immortality and other people like John Keats or Jean Paul Sartre and so on. John Shade is one of them.

 

5. The Mysticism Poetics against Romantic Scheme

I insist here that the image of the pheasant is John Shade’s, furthermore Nabokov’s view on Imagination which is a sole true origin of poetry composing. This becomes clear when we refer to the following excerpt from Canto Four:

 

I’m puzzled by the difference between

Two methods of composing: A, the kind

Which goes on solely in the poet’s mind,

A testing of performing words, while he

Is soaping a third time one leg, and B,

The other kind, much more decorous, when

He’s in his study writing with a pen.

 

In method B the hand supports the thought,

The abstract battle is concretely fought.

The pen stops in mid-air, then swoops to bar

A canceled sunset or restore a star,

And thus it physically guides the phrase

Toward faint daylight through the inky maze.

 

But method A is agony! The brain

Is soon enclosed in a steel cap of pain.

A muse in overalls directs the drill

Which grinds and which no effort of the will

Can interrupt, while the automaton

Is taking off what he has just put on

Or walking briskly to the corner store

To but the paper he has read before.

 

Canto Four, lines 840-860

 

Here the poet conflicts between abstraction (method B) and agony (method A), but soon he raises the hand of the latter. The muse in the poet’s head “directs the drill” of inspiration like the “spurred feet (line 20)” of a pheasant, and “no effort of the will/Can interrupt” it. This view on art composing is kind of a reminiscence of Plato, who thought “poiēsis”, which indicates a human creation especially of art, that cannot be reduced to technical training, to come solely from the “divine madness” inspired by Muses. And the divine madness, later by Aristotle was understood as an imaginative power of Melancholy.

However, in Renaissance and following Romantic era, the focus of creativity had moved to human being, as to change the concept of “poet” from a divine person to rather a normal character, and especially in Romantic era, yet who must be sensitive to one’s deep heart. This Romantic scheme is believed to begin from William Wordsworth, who regards poem as “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” of the poet.

Yet the foreshadow of its failure was cast by John Keats and his poem “Ode to a Nightingale (1819).” Spite that Shelley announced the poet is a nightingale, Keats’ speaker ends up failing to identify himself with his admirable Nightingale.

 

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell

         To toll me back from thee to my sole self!

Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well

         As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf.

 

John Keats. “Ode to a Nightingale”. Lines 57-60

 

Then he is left forlorn. Romantic dilemma of poetics here unravels itself. The Imagination, especially artistic and poetic imagination is what an individual cannot grasp and possess for whole, because when it is completely caught up in any consciousness at all, it would cease to be imagination. Imagination always has its indigenous realm that is not reduced to any consciousness. It moves like a pheasant. This is why the poet in the first hand compared himself not with an ethereal bird like Nightingale but with a common figure of waxwing.

In “Pale Fire”, a poet struggles to seize at least a flash, or “a sudden sunburst (“Pale Fire”, Canto One, line 146)” of imagination (pheasant’s spurred feet), between his/her melancholy (waxwing) and lethargic mannerism (mockingbird). Yet the poet does not release the hands just waiting for un-promised arrival of divine inspiration. In his/her mind goes a “testing of performing words. (line 843)” This poetics, based on the belief in human imagination, is rather a dialectic one, opposing both the archaic view of Plato and the self-contradictory Romantic scheme, yet sublimating both to a higher degree.

 

6. Conclusion

The very title of this poem is also an allusion to Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens: “The moon's an arrant thief,/And her pale fire she snatches from the sun” (Act IV, scene 3). The fire here means creativity and inspiration. It would be of no trouble to read the Canto One of “Pale Fire” as subtle rhymes implicitly concerning poetry itself. In this poem Nabokov created a heroic melancholy character John Shade who obsessively pursues the “survival after death.” The speaker alludes himself to specific kinds of birds i.e. waxwing, mockingbird and pheasant.

Why he did not identify himself direct with a waxwing but a “shadow” of the waxwing, it is still a mystery (one reason—an allusion to his name, Shade). But through these peculiar metaphors we can draw our conclusion that, John Shade, furthermore Nabokov himself viewed the process of art composing as a witty yet painstaking work in which the poet tries to grasp a hint of his/her swift-moving imagination, carefully following the trace of it, at least to catch its tip of the tail. The poet has to struggle between his/her forlorn solitude of melancholy, which waxwing symbolizes, and the torpor of mannerism, which mockingbird represents, to hold the moment of flash. The process of art, mainly confronting death, in that it never ends as a complete form, is heroic. This rather mysticism poetics is in conflict with both the ancient view of poetry and the Romantic view of poets, dialectically uplifting both to a more refined level.


 

Reference

 

§ Sigmund Freud. “Mourning and Melancholia”. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV (1914-1916): On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, Papers on Metapsychology and Other Works.

§ Tom Furniss, Michael Bath. Reading Poetry. London and Ney York: Routledge.

§ Vladimir Nabokov (1962). Pale Fire. New York: Vintage International.

§ Percy Bysshe Shelley  (1903). A Defense of Poetry. Boston, MA: Ginn & Company.

§ “Nabokov's interview(03)”. Playboy [1964]. http://lib.ru/NABOKOW/Inter03.txt. Date of Access: 16 June 2014.

 


 

 

Appendix: “Pale Fire(A Poem in Four Cantos)”, Canto One

 

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By the false azure in the windowpane

I was the smudge of ashen fluff--and I

Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky,

And from the inside, too, I'd duplicate

Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:

Uncurtaining the night, I'd let dark glass

Hang all the furniture above the grass,

And how delightful when a fall of snow

Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so

As to make chair and bed exactly stand

Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!

 

Retake the falling snow: each drifting flake

Shapeless and slow, unsteady and opaque,

A dull dark white against the day's pale white

And abstract larches in the neutral light.

And then the gradual and dual blue

As night unites the viewer and the view,

And in the morning, diamonds of frost

Express amazement: Whose spurred feet have crossed

From left to right the blank page of the road?

Reading from left to right in winter's code:

A dot, an arrow pointing back; repeat:

Dot, arrow pointing back...A pheasant's feet!

Torquated beauty, sublimated grouse,

Finding your China right behind my house.

Was he in Sherlock Holmes, the fellow whose

Tracks pointed back when he reversed his shoes?

 

All colors made me happy: even gray.

My eyes were such that literally they

Took photographs. Whenever I'd permit,

Or, with a silent shiver, order it,

Whatever in my field of vision dwelt--

An indoor scene, hickory leaves, the svelte

Stilettos of a frozen stillicide--

Was printed on my eyelids' nether side

Where it would tarry for an hour or two,

And while this lasted all I had to do

Was close my eyes to reproduce the leaves,

Or indoor scene, or trophies of the eaves.

 

I cannot understand why from the lake

I could make out our front porch when I'd take

Lake Road to school, whilst now, although no tree

Has intervened, Ilook but fail tosee

Even the roof. Maybe some quirk in space

Has caused a fold or furrow to displace

The fragile vista, the frame house between

Goldworth and Wordsmith on its square of green.

 

I had a favorite young shagbark there

With ample dark jade leaves and a black, spare

Vermiculated trunk. The setting sun

Bronzed the black bark, around which, like undone

Garlands, the shadows of the foliage fell.

It is now stout and rough; it has done well.

White butterflies turn lavender as they

Pass through its shade where gently seems to sway

The phantom of my little daughter's swing.

 

The house itself is much the same. One wing

We've had revamped. There's a solarium. There's

A picture window flanked with fancy chairs.

TV's huge paperclip now shines instead

Of the stiff vane so often visited

By the naive, the gauzy mockingbird

Retelling all the programs that she had heard;

Switching from chippo-chippo to a clear

To-wee, to-wee; then rasping out: come here,

Come here, come herrr'; flitting her tail aloft,

Or gracefully indulging in a soft

Upward hop-flop, and instantly (to-wee)

Returning to her perch--the new TV.

 

I was an infant when my parents died.

They both were ornithologists. I've tried

So often to evoke them that today

I have a thousand parents. Sadly they

Dissolve in their own virtues and recede,

But certain words, chance words I hear or read,

Such as"bad heart" always to him refer,

And "cancer of the pancreas" to her.

 

A preterist: one who collects cold nests.

Here was my bedroom, now reserved for guests.

Here, tucked away by the Canadian maid,

I listened to the buzz downstairs and prayed

For everybody to be always well,

Uncles and aunts, the maid, her niece Adele,

Who'd seen the Pope, people in books, and God.

 

I was brought up by dear bizarre Aunt Maud,

A poet and a painter with a taste

For realistic objects interlaced

With grotesque growths and images of doom.

She lived to hear the next babe cry. Her room

We've kept intact. Its trivia create

A still life in her style: the paperweight

Of convex glass enclosing a lagoon,

The verse open at the Index (Moon,

Moonrise, Moor, Moral), the forlorn guitar

The human skull; and from the local Star

A curio: Red Sox Beat Yanks 5-4

On Chapman's Homer, thumbtacked to the door

 

My God they died young. Theolatry I found

Degrading, and its premises, unsound.

No free man needs a God; but was I free?

How fully I felt nature glued to me

And how my childish palate loved the taste

Half-fish, half-honey, of that golden paste

 

My picture book was at an early age

The painted parchment papering our cage:

Mauve rings around the moon; blood-orange sun;

Twinned Iris; and that rare phenomenon

The iridule--when beautiful and strange,

In a bright sky above a mountain range

One opal cloudlet in an oval form

Reflects the rainbow of a thunderstorm

Which in a distant valley has been staged--

For we are most artistically caged.

 

And there's the wall of sound: the nightly wall

Raised by a trillion crickets in the fall.

Impenetrable! Halfway up the hill

I'd pause in thrall of their delirious trill.

That's Dr. Sutton's light. That's the Great Bear.

A thousand years ago five minutes were

Equal to forty ounces of fine sand.

Outstare the stars. Infinite foretime and

Infinite aftertime: above your head

They close like giant wings, and you are dead.

 

The regular vulgarian, I daresay,

Is happier: He sees the Milky Way

Only when making water. Then as now

I walked at my own risk: whipped by the bough,

Tripped by the stump. Asthmatic, lame and fat,

I never bounced a ball or swung a bat.

 

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By feigned remoteness in the windowpane.

I had a brain, five senses (one unique),

But otherwise I was a cloutish freak.

In sleeping dreams I played with other chaps

But really envied nothing--save perhaps

The miracle of a lemniscate left

Upon wet sand by nonchalantly deft

Bicycle tires.

 

                        A thread of subtle pain,

Tugged at by playful death, released again,

But always present, ran through me. One day,

When I'd just turned eleven, as I lay

Prone on the floor and watched a clockwork toy--

A tin wheelbarrow and pushed by a tin boy--

Bypass chair legs and stray beneath the bed,

There was a sudden sunburst in my head.

 

And then black night. That blackness was sublime.

I felt distributed through space and time:

One foot upon a mountaintop, one hand

Under the pebbles of a panting strand,

One ear in Italy, one eye in Spain,

In caves, my blood, and the stars, my brain.

There were dull throbs in my Triassic; green

Optical spots in Upper Pleistocene,

An icy shiver down my Age of Stone,

And all tomorrows in my funny bone.

 

During one winter every afternoon

I'd into that momentary swoon.

And then it ceased. Its memory grew dim.

My health improved. I even learned to swim.

But like some little lad forced by a wench

With his pure tongue her abject thirst to quench,

I was corrupted, terrified, allured,

And though old Doctor Colt pronounced me cured

Of what, he said, were mainly growing pains,

The wonder lingers and the shame remains.



[1] Hereafter, all the citation of “Pale Fire” is from Vladimir Nabokov (1962). Pale Fire. New York: Vintage International.

[2] Tom Furniss, Michael Bath. Reading Poetry. London and Ney York: Routledge. p.300

[3] Bysshe Shelley, Percy (1903). A Defense of Poetry. Boston, MA: Ginn & Company. p. 11

[4] “Nabokov's interview(03)”. Playboy [1964]. http://lib.ru/NABOKOW/Inter03.txt. Date of Access: 16 June 2014.

[5] “Melancholy” 2, Collins English Dictionary

[6] Sigmund Freud. “Mourning and Melancholia”. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV (1914-1916): On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, Papers on Metapsychology and Other Works. p. 246

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