We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Pale Fire is a Jack-in-the-box, a Faberge gem, a clockwork toy, a chess problem, an infernal machine, a trap to catch reviewers, a cat-and-mouse game, a do-it-yourself novel. It consists of a 999-line poem of four cantos in heroic couplets together with an editor's preface, notes, index, and proof-corrections. When the separate parts are assembled, according to the manufacturer's directions, and fitted together with the help of clues and cross-references, which must be hunted down as in a paper-chase, a novel on several levels is revealed, and these "levels" are not the customary "levels of meaning" of modernist criticism but planes in a fictive space, rather like those houses of memory in medieval mnemonic science, where words, facts, and numbers were stored till wanted in various rooms and attics, or like the Houses of astrology into which the heavens are divided.
Pale fire may be my favorite Nabokov, which is saying something. I remembering reading it over the course of a couple of days, then rereading it, working through all the layers and trying to follow all the references in the footnotes. Great stuff.
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As, to be hated, needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
But where th` extreme of vice, was ne`er agreed:
Ask where`s the north? at York, `tis on the Tweed;
In Scotland, at the Orcades; and there,
At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where.
No creature owns it in the first degree,
But thinks his neighbour farther gone than he:
Ev`n those who dwell beneath its very zone,
Or never feel the rage, or never own;
What happier natures shrink at with affright,
The hard inhabitant contends is right.
Virtuous and vicious ev`ry man must be,
Few in th` extreme, but all in the degree;
The rogue and fool buy fits is fair and wise;
And ev`n the best, by fits, what they despise.
`Tis but by parts we follow good or ill;
For, vice or virtue, self directs it still;
Each individual seeks a sev`ral goal;
But heav`n`s great view is one, and that the whole,
That counter - works each folly and caprice;
That disappoints th` effect of ev`ry vice;
That, happy frailties to all ranks apply`d,
Shame to the virgin, to the matron pride,
Fear to the statesman, rashness to the chief,
To kings presumption, and to crowds belief:
That, virtue`s ends from vanity can raise,
Which seeks no int`rest, no reward but praise;
And build on wants, and on defects of mind,
The joy, the peace, the glory of mankind.
Heav`n forming each on other to depend,
A master, or a servant, or a friend,
Bids each on other for assistance call,
`Till one man`s weakness grows the strength of all.
Wants, frailties, passions, closer still ally
The common int`rest, or endear the tie.
To these we owe true friendship, love sincere,
Each home - felt joy that life inherits here;
Yet from the same we learn, in its decline,
Those joys, those loves, those int`rests to resign;
Taught half by reason, half by mere decay,
To welcome death, and calmly pass away.
Whate`er the passion - knowledge, fame, or pelf,
Not one will change his neighbour with himself.
The learn`d is happy nature to explore,
The fool is happy that he knows no more;
The rich is happy in the plenty giv`n,
The poor contents him with the care of heav`n.
See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing,
The sot a hero, lunatic a king;
The starving chemist in his golden views
Supremely blest, the poet in his muse.
Pope's An Essay On Man
Thanks for prompting me to read Pale Fire for the first time!
Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Romantic Movement (with special reference to the Brocken, Scott and Goethe)
by Gerard de Vries
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.
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.