Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Romantic Movement (with special reference to the Brocken, Scott and Goethe)
by Gerard de Vries

When Charles Kinbote learns that John Shade and his wife will spend a vacation in a little ranch at Cedarn, a mountain resort, he too rents a cabin there and ebulliently envisages their reunion. In his “goetic mirror” he foresees many meetings with “an anthology of poets and a brocken of their wives.” Webster’s dictionary includes neither "goetic" nor "brocken." The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary gives "goetic" as the adjective derived from “goety,” witchcraft or magic.”1 The entry for “brocken” directs us to Blokberg or Brocken, the highest mountain in Northern Germany. Although more than 1000 meters high, the Brocken does not look like a mountain. Set amidst an elevated area, it has the profile of a hummock. Nonetheless, situated in the centre of expansive woodlands, it has been isolated from civilization for many years, and is a rich source of folklore. The anthology of poets Kinbote dreams of is not unprecedented, as Nabokov would have known: in Pnin he recalls “Weimar, where walked Goethe, Herder, Schiller, Wieland, the inimitable Kotzebue and others”.2 Many writers have made their way to the Brocken, such as H.C. Andersen, Adelbert von Chamisso, Joseph von Eichendorff, and Heinrich von Kleist and the poets among them have devoted verses to the mountain or to the Harz Region to which it belongs. Coleridge wrote “I stood on Brocken’s sovran height”; Théophile Gautier “Montée sur le Brocken”; Goethe “Harzreise im Winter”; Heinrich Heine “Auf dem Brocken”; and Novalis “Der Harz.” The Brocken is also known for lending its name to the Brocken spectre. Under certain circumstances, including a low sun and fog, a person standing on its summit can see his magnified shadow cast on the clouds, a phenomenon which has intrigued many writers.

Furthermore, the Brocken is the scene of Walpurgis Night, the night preceding the first of May, when Saint Walpurgis is commemorated. Witches are believed to flock to the Brocken on Walpurgis Night, and during the final days of April people in the villages around the mountain still adorn their houses with man-sized puppets of witches on broomsticks. Walpurgis Night is also the subject of the famous scene in Faust. “Now to the Brocken the witches go,” sings the chorus in Shelley’s translation.3 With this passage in mind, Kinbote’s remark about the “brocken of their wives” may be a taunt directed at Mrs. Shade. And the term “brocken” appears in Henry Brocken, a novel by Walter de la Mare, whose work left echoes in some of Nabokov’s early stories.4

The first associations mentioned above point to Goethe, as does the word “goetic,” which suggests both Goethe’s name as well as the black magic of his best known work. Pale Fire includes several clear references to Goethe and his poem “Erlkönig”; its first two lines as translated by Shade appear in lines 662 and 664 of “Pale Fire,” which are commented upon by Kinbote.

In “Erlkönig” a father rides through night and wind, holding his son close to his breast. The child imagines that he is being accosted by the erlking and three times tells his father about his fears. The father hurries on and despairingly tries to reassure his son, but when he reaches the farmstead (“den Hof”) the child is dead. Nabokov, in his Commentary to his translation of Eugene Onegin, describes the poem as “hallucinatory,” thus beautifully pointing to the haunting impact the erlking has on the boy as well as the poem has on the reader.5 Why does the father rush onward while his son needs his full attention? Clearly, because at the farmstead there will be much-needed relief for the poor, delirious, boy: maybe a doctor, his mother, rest and comfort.

Hazel’s return home after her date, so eagerly awaited by her parents, who are beset by misgivings, might also have saved the poor girl, whose “small mad hope” is so abruptly dashed by Pete Dean. Like the boy from “Erlking,” she loses her life during a night bristling with rushing wind. Lines 662 and 664 follow a dialogue between Shade and his wife Sybil about the unusual noises the squalling wind makes outside, suggesting that Hazel’s ghost is trying to make itself known.

Less clear is the comment by Kinbote that he, “the last king of Zembla, kept repeating these haunting lines to himself both in Zemblan and German, … while he climbed through the bracken belt of the dark mountains he had to traverse in his bid for freedom.” Even Kinbote cannot be not so self-absorbed that he would refer to a poem used by Shade as a memento for the loss of his daughter to point to the loss of his fatherland. And Kinbote’s thoughts during this part of his flight are far from nostalgic. On the contrary, as he wades through the bracken, he has “rather dull memories” about a picnic on the same mountainside.6 It is understandable that Andrew Field thinks that “[i]t is a strange poem to be reciting as one goes into exile.”7

What does exile mean to Kinbote? If we were to compress the subject matter of Pale Fire into a single sentence, it could be phrased thus: “a king, exiled from Zembla, although hunted by a revengeful murderer, is obsessed by a single idea: to have his past retold by an American poet.” Indeed, Kinbote wants an authentic American (“eminently Appalachian”) voice to air his Zemblan life.8 Nabokov, who retwisted his “own experiences when inventing Kinbote,” expressed his wish over the course of many years that his English might someday equal the quality of his Russian.9 Although as early as 1941 Edmund Wilson complimented him on his “fine English prose” and deemed him “a first-rate poet in English,” Nabokov, in 1942, became “more and more dissatisfied with [his] English.”10 In 1956, in the afterword added to Lolita, he still considered his English “second-rate,” and even ten years later he did not consider his English as providing him with a “natural vocabulary.”11 In light of such concerns, “Erlking” is a most salutary poem to concentrate on, as it is a heartening example that linguistic barriers need not always be unbending. “Erlking,” which borrows its content from Northern Germanic folklore, has been translated into English numerous times. It is to prove the poem’s translatability that Kinbote keeps repeating it “both in Zemblan and German.” He admires the way “Shade manages to transfer something of the broken rhythm of the ballad … into his iambic verse,” and is happy to note that the rhyme of Goethe’s two opening lines can be retained in French as well as in Zemblan (wind – kind; “vent-enfant”; “vett-dett”).

Nabokov was interested in Goethe not only because of the latter’s most famous poem but as well because of his opinion on the internationality of literature, as Omry Ronen has argued most convincingly. Goethe, who suggested that “literature ought to learn from their reflections in other literatures,” and who became “the creator of the concept of, and the term, Weltliteratur (world literature),” wrote that “’[t]he universal gleams and glimmers through the national and the personal in every feature, be it historical, mythological, fabulous, or even simply fictional ….’” “[M]ore than any other writer,” says Ronen, Nabokov, who “became the embodiment of a new, interlingual, transnational literature,” contributed to the realization of Goethe’s concept of world literature.12 And this statement might apply especially to Pale Fire which Ronen, in a related article, calls “a supranational novel,”13 referring to Mary McCarthy’s well known review. It is this aspect of international “literary cross fertilization” that is discussed extensively in Priscilla Meyer’s monograph on Pale Fire, in which she describes Nabokov “as a living synthesis of a process of literary exchange through translation and metamorphosis that began as far back as Norse mythology….”14 Although literary interaction has existed for centuries (Meyer mentions King Alfred’s translation and expansion of Orosius’ Historia) it was particularly manifest during the Romantic Movement, the period most strongly echoed in Pale Fire.

The greatest writers of the Romantic Age, Scott, Pushkin and Goethe, knew the others’ works and studied, translated or borrowed from them. Scott translated Goethe’s Götz von Berlichingen and several of his lyrics, and they exchanged letters. Scott’s novels were closely studied by Goethe, and Scott’s Letters on Demonology may have left traces in Faust II.15 Pushkin greatly admired Scott, and many borrowings from Scott’s poetry and novels have been identified in his own work. The two writers had a mutual friend, Denis Davydov.16 Pushkin’s “Scene out of Faust” inspired the episode of the bark’s arrival in Faust II, while Goethe’s “The Fisherman” may have been one of Pushkin’s sources for “The Water-Nymph.”17

These examples are most illustrative of the diminution of “linguistic distances” in Europe during the decades before and after 1800, a period of literary interactions “unique in history.”18 But this is not the only aspect of the Romantic Movement which has a bearing on Pale Fire, and before returning to the issue of literary exchange, some other features will be discussed. The Romantic Movement can be characterised by a number of manifestations. Nabokov, after having aired his aversion to forcing individual works of art into categories, presents “eleven forms or phases” of “romanticism.”19

Of the movement’s many qualities, we will discuss the interest of the Romantics in Northern Germanic poetry and mythology, Shakespeare’s art, and the supernatural.20

Pale Fire includes many references to Northern Germanic mythology and poetry, such as the poet Arnor, the Elder Edda, Embla, the Icelandic Collection in the university library, the Kongsskug-sio, and Thormodus Torfaeus. Romanticism’s orientation towards old Germanic poetry was excited by the very popular Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765), edited by Thomas Percy. Most of the verses were extracted from an ancient folio manuscript, containing “compositions of all times and dates,” preserved by minstrels, bards and scalds, who were held in great esteem “by almost all the first inhabitants of Europe, whether of Celtic or Gothic race;” but by none more than the “Teutonic ancestors” of the English people, and of these “[in] particular by all the Danish tribes.”21

Beowulf, the first substantive poem in English, owes much to Norse forms, and many of its major events recur in one of the main Icelandic sagas, Grettir the Strong.22 In that era the Icelandic language covered the whole of Northern Europe as it “was spoken by the four great branches of the Scandinavian race who peopled the countries abutting on the Baltic, the Norsemen or North men, Swedes, Danes and Goths… as well as by the inhabitants of those parts of Northern Russia which were then known by the name of Gardar.”23 The Russian grad stemming from Gardar, the Icelandic equivalent for Russia, directs us, through vinograd (from which, according to Kinbote, the name "Gradus" is derived) to Vinland, Icelandic for America.24 As the Icelanders “had been for a thousand years the most literary nation in the world,” their poetry was regarded as the “true national literature” by the countries of Northern Europe.25 Walter Scott, in order to present his readers with an abstract of it, translated the Eyrbiggia – Saga, and Johann Gottfried Herder, who followed Percy’s example with Stimmen der Völker im Liedern, included translations from the Icelandic in his own work.26

Pale Fire includes many references to Shakespeare’s tragedies, Hamlet being the most prominent among them, and these references are discussed comprehensively by Priscilla Meyer.27 The Romantic Movement contributed much to the revival of the interest in Shakespeare’s plays and to the elimination of the vicissitudes which were its lot until that time. Shakespeare was popularised by Wieland’s prose translations, but it was August Wilhelm von Schlegel’s work on Shakespeare which proved to be of lasting importance. Pushkin read it, and Coleridge championed Schlegel’s views.28 A century later, A.C. Bradley called the “Schlegel-Coleridge theory […] the most widely received view on Hamlet’s character.”29 Goethe’s Götz von Berlichingen, which was translated by Scott, and Pushkin’s Boris Godunov owe much to their authors’ studies of Shakespeare. Both were attracted by the degree of freedom Shakespeare’s plays display (compared to the restrictiveness of the then dominant form of theatre dictated by the strict rules of French classicism) and by Shakespeare’s treatment of guilt and evil, traits which, rather than discriminating some human beings from others, are innate to all.30

Supernatural phenomena pervade Pale Fire. In Zembla the deceased queen communicates with her son by means of a medium. In New Wye a “poltergeist” rages in the Shades’ home, while in nearby Dulwich Forest a barn shelters a ghost. After her death Hazel makes herself known on stormy nights by means of uncanny expedients. And during his flight, Kinbote is haunted by the fear of elves, who also loiter in the erlking’s “alder wood,” from whose family tree the “German lecturer from Oxford” who visits Wordsmith College stems.31 Elves and fairies are mentioned by Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare and Pope, but Zemblan elves, which elicit fear, have a Scandinavian origin. The interest of the Romantics in ballads and folk poetry was soon followed by attention to folk tales. The brothers Grimm, composers of the best-known collection of fairy tales, were intimately acquainted with Northern Germanic mythology and folklore and edited a volume of the Poetic Eddas. In his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border Scott relates the attraction that the “whole enchanted land of German faëry and diablerie” had for English writers, and the same could be said of Russian authors, who pilfered “E.T.A. Hoffmann, Ludwig Tieck, and Charles Maturin and his disciples of l’ecole frénétique … for themes and motifs for tales of the supernatural.”32 It was after reading and translating Bürger, Schiller, Goethe, and the works of other German writers that Scott “acquired sufficient confidence to attempt the imitation of what [he] admired,” and the first original poem he composed was Glenfilas.33 Glenfinlas; or, Lord Ronald’s Coronach is the poem which Walter Campbell, young Kinbote’s tutor, teaches little princesses to enjoy.

Two friends, Moy and Lord Ronald of Glenartney, rest after a day of hunting in a solitary bothy or cabin in the valley of Glenfinlas. Ronald, longing for a female companion, leaves the cabin in search of “the fairest of our mountain maids.” “Though midnight came,” Ronald does not return. Instead, Moy is visited by a maid with “robes of green”. When he asks her to pray with him and to kiss “the holy reed,” the sorceress is revealed to be a witch who cannot stand the prayers, and, raging wildly, leaves Moy, who thus escapes the fate of Lord Ronald, whose body is found torn to pieces.

Scott’s Lady of the Lake, the poem from which Nabokov borrowed the name Hazel Shade, opens with the famous chase of a stag by a hunter that begins in the woods of Glenartney and ends at the shore of Loch Katrine.34 Scott’s poetry thus connects Kinbote’s Zemblan past with the story of Hazel’s life, especially since the chase must have led his hunter across Glenfilas, as this vale lies between Glenartney and Loch Katrine.

Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border contains a momentous treatise “On the Fairies of Popular Superstition, Introduction to the Tale of Tamerlane,” which is very helpful in clarifying a number of references made in Pale Fire.35 Scott praises Thormodus Torfaeus (1636-1719), the Icelandic historian with whom Queen Blenda used to chat by means of a planchette during séances, because his preface to the history of Hrolf Kraka presents “the most distinct account” of elves. And when Kinbote, commenting on Shade’s variant “In woods Virginia Whites occurred in May,” questions whether the whites might refer to “[f]airies? Or cabbage butterflies?” he is very near the mark. The Virginia White or Pieris virginiensis is indeed a butterfly, closely related to the Cabbage White.36 But the name may also refer to fairies, since white virgins, “the white nymphs of the ancients,” were once well known spectres.37 A third revelation that can be gleaned from Scott’s exposition concerns “the bracken belt of the dark mountains [Kinbote] had to traverse in his bid to freedom.” It was as he “waded into the damp, dark bracken” that he “sensed those thick fingers of fate.” But he is able to resist “the desperate resolution of resting” and to save his life, despite the “drumming fatigue and anxiety” he feels “that night, on the damp ferny flank of Mt Mandevil.”38 Why does Kinbote explicitly refer three times to the vegetation on this stretch of his journey, which was apparently the most menacing part of his escape? Scott explains that the fern was “looked upon as a magical herb,” since its seed protects people against “charms and incantations” by “spirits of the wild.”39

While still in Zembla the king used to lecture at the university and discuss “the Zemblan variants, collected in 1798 by Hodinski of the Kongs skugg-sio (The Royal Mirror).” This “Kongs skugg-sio or Royal Mirror” is mentioned in Scott’s Minstrelsy as well, in the introduction by John Leyden for his poem “The Mermaid,” where it is given as the oldest literary source in which mermen and mermaids appear. In Leyden’s “Mermaid” much depends on a ruby ring:

“When on this ring of ruby red
shall die,” she said, “the crimson hue,
know that thy favourite fair is dead,”
just as Sybil Shade’s

“… ruby ring made life and laid the law.”40

The Lady of the Lake includes the ballad “Alice Brand,” which contains many features of fairy tradition, such as the perilous state of unconsciousness “’twixt life and death” in which mortals can be snatched away into Fairyland.41

After these jaunts to explore some of the elements characteristic of the Romantic Movement – Northern Germanic literature, Shakespeare and the supernatural – we will resume the discussion of the relevance of Goethe’s work for Pale Fire. Nabokov’s assessment of Goethe can probably be dissected into his low opinion of his plays and novels, his high regard for Goethe’s lyrical poetry, his disdain for the author as a person, and his acknowledgment of Goethe’s significance for European literature. Of Faust, Nabokov wrote that “there is a dreadful streak of poshlust running through [it],” and he would certainly have endorsed his wife Véra’s verdict that it is “one of the shallowest plays ever written.” Werther is qualified as “moribund,”and Wilhelm’s saying of Ophelia in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre “Reife süsse Sinnlichkeit” is compared to giving her “the guise of a canned peach.”42

These gibes are in contrast to Nabokov’s assessment of some of Goethe’s poems: he called “Erlkönig” “hallucinatory” and “Über allen Gipfeln” “marvellous”. With regard to Goethe the man, Nabokov seems to have savored a statement in 1946 that the “fundamental flaws” in Goethe’s character “seem also to be inherent in the type of German now in power.” He makes the same connection more subtly in Pnin by means of his references to Goethe and Buchenwald, which are intricately interrelated as Ronen has explained.43 And by dressing Goethe as “Johann Wolfgang, Ger. poet, nov., dram. & phil.,” Nabokov simultaneously illustrates and ridicules Goethe’s exceptional measure of complacency. Nabokov’s dislike of Goethe’s work and character, with the exclusion of his poetry, is far from uncommon among Russian men of letters. The poets who pay him the highest tribute invariably address Goethe the poet. Zhukovsky said that “in the universe Goethe perceived all, but yielded to nothing.”44

In Pale Fire, references to Goethe appear to be confined to his poetry. Apart from “Erlkönig,” “Der König in Thule,” “An Belinden,” and “A Song over the Unconfidence toward Myself,” “Gingo biloba” and "Der Fischer" have a bearing on Pale Fire, albeit in some cases indirectly via Nabokov’s stories “Ultima Thule” and “Solus Rex,” both of which have “an overall parallel” with the novel.45Der König in Thule” is about a king’s faithfulness to his deceased mistress, as intense as the devotedness Sineusov feels for his departed wife. The king lives in Thule in a “Schloss am Meer” [castle by the sea], like Sineusov who “moves into a bleak palace on a remote northern island.”46 Of “An Belinden,” John Kopper says that it “may have provided Nabokov with the name of [K]’s queen,” but Goethe’s own source, the Belinda of Alexander Pope’s ‘The Rape of the Lock’ is probably Nabokov’s source as well.47 It is, however, remarkable that Goethe, rather than admiring Belinda in her role as the heroine of Pope’s poem, dissociates her and turns her into an object of his love, just as Sineusov takes his Belinda from “the epic poem ‘Ultima Thule’” in order to resurrect his wife in this disguise.

Der Fischer” is about a fisherman who is seduced and carried away by a sea nymph. Although seemingly a traditional poem based on mermaid folklore, Goethe’s verses suggest that it may be the water as well as the maid that allures the fisherman: “[t]he fascination of water luring into its treacherous depths, is wonderfully expressed.”48 The theme of “A Song over the Unconfidence toward Myself,” which Goethe composed in English, is rather surprising for someone for whom the accusation of being uncommonly modest could have been the last of his fears, unless it applies to his expressions because lines like “Then I – forgive me, tender maid - / She is a false one, thought” is English as syntactically unnatural as Uncle Conmal’s “I am not slave!”49 The ginkgo tree, or rather its leaf, is beautifully addressed by Goethe in the twelve lines of “Gingo biloba.” The poet stresses that the leaf’s two lobes suggest unity as well as duality (“[d]ass ich eins und doppelt bin,”) since its shape may be regarded either as a whole or as consisting of two symmetric parts. In Pale Fire the ginkgo is the subject of a short poem, “The Sacred Tree,” from Shade’s collection Hebe’s Cup. In it, the fruit of the ginkgo is compared to a “Muscat grape” which Kinbote associates with a “cat-and-mouse game.” This, in turn, keeping in mind that “Hebe” points to Greek mythology, suggests the name of Cadmus, who introduced the alphabet into Greece.50 Goethe’s two-in-one idea might possibly have been applied by Nabokov to languages, two tongues blending into a single literary achievement.

In his comments on “two tongues” in line 615 of Shade’s poem, Kinbote lists no less than 17 combinations of mostly European language, but two combinations are conspicuously lacking: "English and German" and "English and French." Interestingly, these are precisely the languages Kinbote considers when discussing the merits of Shade’s translation of the first two lines of “Erlkönig.” In the same note, Kinbote mentions the anxiety he felt during his flight from Zembla. ”Erlkönig” clearly has a double meaning in Pale Fire, one related to its translatability, the other to the poem’s content. In “Erlkönig” it is strongly suggested that reaching the destination might end the travellers’ worries: stopping in the woods, in any case, would be fatal. Kinbote feels similarly: failure to resist the temptation of stopping to rest could be disastrous: he “sensed the thick fingers of fate.” And the Shades’ experience clearly shows, whatever course their daughter’s blind date may have taken, that Hazel’s return home would have afforded her, if not relief, at least safety. By persistently continuing his difficult trudge, Kinbote is finally rewarded by “a pinhead light,” while the “pinhead light” that Hazel’s parents see dwindles and dies in blackness at the moment when Hazel’s life “snap[s]” after she stops in a wood of “ghostly trees.” And the bus driver who says to her “It is only Lochanhead,” must think it

…queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

lines borrowed from the second stanza of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowing Evening,” a poem alluded to in Pale Fire.51 In “Erlkönig” the ailing boy notices three times the alarming presence of the magician and his daughters, which the father explains as the frightening effect that the wild weather, the woods, and the wind are having on the child’s imagination. Weather, woods, and wind appear in exactly the same forms on Hazel’s last night alive. The father first tells his child that what deceives him is “ein Nebelstreif,” a strip of fog, just as fog envelops the bus which brings Hazel to Lochanhead.52 Next the father explains that it is the wind that in “dürren Blättern säuselt” (rustles in dry leaves), just as the wind on the night of Hazel’s death is heard rustling and throwing “twigs at the windowpane.” Third, the father tells his boy that the daughters of the Erlking he imagines seeing are “die alten Wiesen so grau,” dreary old willow trees, which return in the “ghostly trees” of line 460.

A fine example of the wind’s power to deceive can be found in Scott’s Old Mortality:

‘Hist!’ he said – ‘I hear a distant noise.’
‘It is rushing of the brook over the pebbles,’ said one.
‘It is the sough of the wind among the bracken,’ said another
‘It is the galloping of horse,’ said Morton…. (Ch. 33).

In Pale Fire we read the following wind-inspired exchange:

‘What is that funny creaking – do you hear?’
‘It is the shutter on the stairs, my dear.’
….
‘It is a tendril fingering the pane.’
….
‘It is the old winter tumbling in the mud.’ (lines 653-60)53

The opening lines of “Erlkönig” appear immediately after the lines cited above. Kinbote introduces Goethe’s poem as “the well-known poem… about the erlking, hoary enchanter of the elf-haunted alder wood,” thus connecting the erlking with both elves and alders. Erlkönig, meaning “alder king,” is often supposed to be a mistranslation from the Danish, introduced by Herder in his “Erlkönigs Tochter,” which inspired Goethe’s poem. However, as Herder refers to elves as well as to the alder, such confusion is unlikely. Celtic mythology had an alderking, and Robert Graves thinks it likely that the ancient Greeks had a Goddess named "alder," which via the Spanish aliso “seems to be recorded in the Ilse, the stream that runs from the Brocken to the Oker.”54 In Pale Fire the alder is referred to ten times, once as a synonym for “[t]he peacock-herl… the body of a certain sort of artificial fly,” probably because this fly imitates the nymph or larva of the alderfly, which lives in water until it pupates into the fly, a possible parallel with the transformation Hazel experiences in Brian Boyd’s reading of the novel.55

What general conclusions can be drawn from this discussion? One is that a number of Pale Fire’s salient flames have their origin in the Romantic Movement. This fact makes Nabokov’s achievement even more striking, since he re-arranges these features, which were formally bound by the rules of literary evolution in the decades before and after 1800, in the intarsia of a Zemblan setting with its fulgent Appalachian reflection.

The second conclusion relates to the transition from one language to another, which is the heart of the matter of Pale Fire. Of his transition from Russian to English Nabokov said that it was “linguistically, though perhaps not emotionally,… endurable.”56
Pale Fire shows both aspects of the transition: its brilliant style is evidence of the linguistic success, its dramatic content of the emotional affliction. Several authors have given special attention to the impact the loss of his Russian had on Nabokov,57 others have praised his unique interlinguistic achievements and demonstrated “how widely varied cultural strands can flourish” within an individual,58 and some have connected these achievements especially with Pale Fire.59 Linking the dramatic events in Pale Fire with the pain Nabokov experienced as a result of abandoning his native language is, however, still on the agenda.

Notes

1. Pale Fire, 1962, New York: Vintage Books, 1989, 183. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. I, Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1974.

2. Pnin, 1953, New York: Vintage Books, 1989, 135.

3. The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, London: Oxford University Press, 1927, 746.

4. D. Barton Johnson, “Vladimir Nabokov and Walter de la Mare’s ‘Otherworld,’” » in Jane Grayson, Arnold McMillin and Priscilla Meyer (eds.), Nabokov’s World, Vol. 1: The Shape of Nabokov’s World, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002, 71-87.

5. Aleksandr Pushkin, Eugene Onegin, A Novel in Verse, Translated from the Russian with a Commentary by Vladimir Nabokov, 4 vols., Princeton: PUP, 1964, 2, 235.

6. Pale Fire, 139.

7. Andrew Field, VN, The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov, New York: Crown Publishers, 1986, 343.

8. Pale Fire, 296.

9. Vladimir Nabokov, Strong Opinions, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974, 77.

10. Simon Karlinsky (ed.), The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, 1940-1971, New York: Harper & Row, 1980, 49, 50, 69.

11. The Annotated Lolita, 1955, New York: Vintage Books, 1991, 137; Strong Opinions, 106.

12. Omry Ronen, “The Triple Anniversary of World Literature, Goethe, Pushkin, Nabokov,” in Gavriel Shapiro (ed.), Nabokov at Cornell, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003, (172-181) 173-175.

13. Omry Ronen, “Nabokov and Goethe,” in Gennady Barabtarlo (ed.), Cold Fusion: Aspects of the German Cultural Presence in Russian. New York: Berghahn Books, 2000 (241-251) 242.

14. Priscilla Meyer, Find What the Sailor Has Hidden: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1988, 56 and 4.

15. Friedrich Gundolf, “Scott and Goethe,” Trans. Frank Nicholson, in H.J.C. Grierson (ed.), Sir Walter Scott To-Day, Some Retrospective Essays and Studies, London: Constable and Co, 1932, 41-65.

16. Gerard de Vries, “Nabokov, Pushkin and Scott,” Revue de Littérature Comparée, 3/1997, 307-322.

17. Omry Ronen, “Nabokov and Goethe,” loc.cit., 242; Walter N. Vickery, “‘The Water-Nymph’ and ‘Again I Visited…’: Notes on an Old Controversy,” Russian Literature Triquarterly, 3/1972 (195-205) 204.

18. Barbara M.H. Strang, A History of English, London: Methuen, 1970, 74-75.

19. Aleksandr Pushkin, Eugene Onegin, A Novel in Verse, op. cit., 3/33.

20. See for example Morris Bishop, A Romantic Storybook, “Preface,” Ithaca: Cornell University Press; Howard E. Hugo, The Portable Romantic Reader, New York: The , Viking Press, 1957 and Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony, Trans. Angus Davidson, 1933, London: Collins, 1966. Nabokov seems to have consulted Praz: see note 19 and Praz 31 and 38, where the same quotations from Pepys and Campbell are given.

21. Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 2 vols., London: J.M. Dent, vol. 1, 3; 9.

22. George Saintsbury, A Short History of English Literature, London: Macmillan, 1908, 3-4.

23. Gudbrand Vigfusson, An Icelandic – English Dictionary, Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1874, III. This dictionary is based on the MS. Collections of Richard Cleasby, a friend of the brothers Grimm, an acquaintance of Walter Scott, and a visitor to the Brocken.

24. Ibid., 191/2 and 717. Priscilla Meyer, op. cit., 87-98 discusses borrowings from the Icelandic extensively.

25. George Ainsley Hight, “Introduction,” The Saga of Grettir the Strong, London: J.M. Dent, 1914; Margaret Clunies Ross and Lars Lönnroth, “The Norse Muse, Report from an International Research Project,” Alvíssmál, 9 (1999) 18.

26. Walter Scott, Tales and Essays, Paris: Galignani, 1829, 97-166; Clunies Ross and Lönnroth, 18.

27. Priscilla Meyer, op. cit., 107-133.

28. Tatiana Wolff, Pushkin on Literature, London: Methuen & Co, 1971, 104. Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Darker Reflections, London: Harper Collins, 1998, 281.

29. A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy, 1904 London: Macmillan & Co, 1960, 105-6.

30. Wolff, op. cit., 105-6; G.H. Lewis, The Life & Works of Goethe, 1863, London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1911.

31. Pale Fire, 165; 185-193; 57; 239; 265-66. See also Meyer, op. cit., 183-192 and her “Dolorous Haze, Hazel Shade: Nabokov and the Spirits,” in Jane Grayson, Arnold McMillan and Priscilla Meyer (eds.), Nabokov’s Worlds, 2 vols., vol. 1: The Shape of Nabokov’s World, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002, 88-103.

32. Walter Scott, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, 1802, London: George G. Harrap & Company, 1931, 551. John Mersereau, Jr., “Yes, Virginia, There Was a Russian Romantic Movement,” in Christine Rydel (ed.), The Ardis Anthology of Russian Romanticism, Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1984 (511-517) 515.

33. Scott, Minstrelsy, 557; 641-649.

34. Mary McCarthy, “A Bolt from the Blue,” New Republic 4 June 1962, 21-7. Repr. in The Writing on the Wall, 1969, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 30. Brian Boyd, Nabokov’s Pale Fire, The Magic of Artistic Discovery, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999, 152 and 164.

35. Scott, Minstrelsy, 288-327.

36. Dieter E. Zimmer, A Guide to Nabokov’s Butterflies and Moths, Hamburg, 2001, 229.

37. Minstrelsy 295. As this butterfly is one of the variants of Hazel’s transformation beyond death (Brian Boyd, op. cit., 144), the ambiguity of its name connects her with fairies as does line 310.

38. Pale Fire, 139; 233; 239.

39. Minstrelsy 299. Cf. the “healing spleenwort” in Pope’s Rape of the Lock. One of Queen Disa’s favourite trees is the maidenhair, which shares its fan-shaped leaves with the maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris), to be distinguished from the maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes), whose wiry vascular stalks reminds one of Medusa’s hair (see for example Caravaggio’s Medusa – 1590), who makes her appearance in Pale Fire personified as Kinbote’s landlady, “a Medusa-locked Hag.”

40. Minstrelsy, 652; 654. Pale Fire.

41. Lady of the Lake, Canto IV, l. 261-372. Cf. Katharine Briggs, A Dictionary of Fairies, 1976, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977, 349. In Note XLIX Scott informs the reader that this ballad is “founded upon a very curious ballad” of Danish origin, named “The Elfin Gray.” The word “skugg” in the ballad is glossed by Scott as meaning “shade.” The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott, London: Henry Frowde, 1904, 298. This edition has been reprinted frequently by the Oxford University Press until at least 1967.

42. Nikolai Gogol, 1944, New York: New Directions, 1961, 64; Stacy Schiff, Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), New York: Random House, 1999, 187; Bend Sinister, 1947, New York: Vintage International, 1990, 116.

43. Aleksandr Pushkin, op. cit., 2/235; Brian Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years, London: Chatto & Windus, 1992, 90; Omry Ronen,” Nabokov and Goethe,” loc. cit., 248-49.

44. Bend Sinister, 116; Waclaw Lednicki, “Goethe and the Russian and Polish Romantics,” in Waclaw Lednicki, Bits of Table Talk on Pushkin, Mickiewicz, Goethe, Turgenev and Sienkiewicz, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1956 (198-219), 205 and 207. On page 213 Mickiewicz’s summary of his trip to Germany is quoted: “In Hamburg – beefsteak, in Bonn ; potatoes, in Weimar – Goethe.”

45. D. Barton Johnson, Worlds in Regression: Some Novels of Vladimir Nabokov, Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1985, 216.

46. The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996, 654.

47. John M. Kopper, “Nabokov’s Art of Translation in Solus Rex,” Slavic and East European Journal, vol. 33, no. 2, 1989 (255-274) 272.

48. G.H. Lewis, op. cit., 236. See also Priscilla Meyer, op. cit., 188 for different associations.

49. Goethes Gedichten in Zeitlicher Folge [Goethe’s Poems in Chronological Order], Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1982, 27. Pale Fire, 286.

50. Pale Fire, 93; Thomas Bulfinch, The Golden Age of Myth and Legend, Ware: Wordsworth Editions, 1993, 116.

51. 203.

52. 49.

53. See for the echoes from T.S. Eliot, John Burt Foster, Jr., Nabokov’s Art of Memory and European Modernism, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993, 129-232.

54. Robert Graves, The White Goddess, 1961, London: Faber and Faber, 1986, 191 and 254. A saga related to a princess who derives her name from this body of water is retold by H.C. Andersen in his Shadow Pictures from a Journey to the Harz Mountains and Saxon Switzerland, etc., etc., in the Summer of 1831.

55. Nabokov’s Pale Fire, The Magic of Artistic Discovery, op. cit.. The peacock-herle is to be used preferably in May, June and July, see Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton, The Complete Angler, 1653, London: Oxford University Press, 1960, 289-298.

56. Strong Opinions, 109.

57. Brian Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov: American Years, see “Index,” entries under “Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich,” “Life and Character,” “Russian: compared to English,” 772; D. Barton Johnson, op. cit., 10-27; Michael Wood, The Magician’s Doubts: Nabokov and the Risks of Fiction, London: Chatto & Windus, 1994, 306.

58. John Burt Forster, Jr., “Framing Nabokov: Modernism, Multiculturalism, World Literature," Cycnos, vol. 24 (1) 2007 (105-118) 111; see also George Steiner, “Extraterritorial,” in Alfred Appel, Jr., & Charles Newman, eds., Nabokov, Criticism, Reminiscences, Translations and Tributes, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970, 119-127, and Omry Ronen, “The Triple Anniversary of World Literature: Goethe, Pushkin, Nabokov.”

59. Priscilla Meyer, op. cit.. Cf. John M. Kopper, loc. cit., 256: “In Pale Fire … translation is not simply an event, but a project that cannot be disentangled from the work itself.”


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