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Набоков Владимир. Книга: [Proofed to line 1994]. Страница 3
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To this poem we now must turn. My Foreword has been, I trust, not too skimpy. Other notes, arranged in a running commentary, will certainly satisfy the most voracious reader. Although those notes, in conformity with custom, come after the poem, the reader is advised to consult them first and then study the poem with their help, rereading them of course as he goes through its text, and perhaps, after having done with the poem, consulting them a third time so as to complete the picture. I find it wise in such cases as this to eliminate the bother of back-and-forth leafings by either cutting out and clipping together the pages with the text of the thing, or, even more simply, purchasing two copies of the same work which can then be placed in adjacent positions on a comfortable table - not like the shaky little affair on which my typewriter is precariously enthroned now, in this wretched motor lodge, with that carrousel inside and outside my head, miles away from New Wye. Let me state that without my notes Shade's text simply has no human reality at all since the human reality of such a poem as his (being too skittish and reticent for an autobiographical work), with the omission of many pithy lines carelessly rejected by him, has to depend entirely on the reality of its author and his surroundings, attachments and so forth, a reality that only my notes can provide. To this statement my dear poet would probably not have subscribed, but, for better or worse, it is the commentator who has the last word.

CHARLES KINBOTE Oct. 19, 1959, Cedarn, Utana


A Poem in Four Cantos

Canto One

1I 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

10Covered 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

20Express 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.

30My 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,

40Or 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, I look but fail to see

Even the roof. Maybe some quirk in space

Has caused a fold or furrow to displace

The fragile vista, the frame house between

Goldsworth and Wordsmith on its square of green.

I had a favorite young shagbark there

50With 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

60A 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 she had heard;

Switching from chippo-chippo to a clear

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

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

Or gracefully indulging in a soft

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

70Returning 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.

80Here 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.

90She 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 book 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 died young. Theolatry I found

100Degrading, 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,

110In 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.

120A 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,

130I 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,

140Tugged 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 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

150Under the pebbles of a panting strand,

One ear in Italy, one eye in Spain,

In caves, my blood, and in 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 funnybone.

During one winter every afternoon

I'd sink into that momentary swoon.

And then it ceased. Its memory grew dim.

160 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.

Canto Two

There was a time in my demented youth

When somehow I suspected that the truth

About survival after death was known -

170To 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,

180Devoting all my twisted life to this One task.

Today I'm sixty-one. Waxwings

Are berry-pecking. A cicada sings.

The little scissors I am holding are

A dazzling synthesis of sun and star.

I stand before the window and I pare

My fingernails and vaguely am aware

Of certain flinching likenesses: the thumb,

Our grocer's son; the index, lean and glum

College astronomer Starover Blue;

190The middle fellow, a tall priest I knew;

The feminine fourth finger, an old flirt;

And little pinky clinging to her skirt.

And I make mouths as I snip off the thin

Strips of what Aunt Maud used to call "scarf-skin."

Maud Shade was eighty when a sudden hush

Fell on her life. We saw the angry flush

And torsion of paralysis assail

Her noble cheek. We moved her to Pinedale,

Famed for its sanitarium. There she'd sit

200In the glassed sun and watch the fly that lit

Upon her dress and then upon her wrist.

Her mind kept fading in the growing mist.

She still could speak. She paused, and groped, and found

What seemed at first a serviceable sound,

But from adjacent cells impostors took

The place of words she needed, and her look

Spelt imploration as she sought in vain

To reason with the monsters in her brain.

What moment in the gradual decay

210Does resurrection choose? What years? What day?

Who has the stopwatch? Who rewinds the tape?

Are some less lucky, or do all escape?

A syllogism: other men die; but I

Am not another; therefore I'll not die.

Space is a swarming in the eyes; and time,

A singing in the ears. In this hive I'm

Locked up. Yet, if prior to life we had

Been able to imagine life, what mad,

Impossible, unutterably weird,

220Wonderful nonsense it might have appeared!

So why join in the vulgar laughter? Why

Scorn a hereafter none can verify:

The Turk's delight, the future lyres, the talks

With Socrates and Proust in cypress walks,

The seraph with his six flamingo wings,

And Flemish hells with porcupines and things?

It isn't that we dream too wild a dream:

The trouble is we do not make it seem

Sufficiently unlikely; for the most

230We can think up is a domestic ghost.

How ludicrous these efforts to translate

Into one's private tongue a public fate!

Instead of poetry divinely terse,

Disjointed notes, Insomnia's mean verse!

_Life is a message scribbled in the dark._

Anonymous. Espied on a pine's bark,

As we were walking home the day she died,

An empty emerald case, squat and frog-eyed,

Hugging the trunk; and its companion piece,

240A gum-logged ant. That Englishman in Nice,

A proud and happy linguist: je nourris

Les pauvres cigales - meaning that he

Fed the poor sea gulls! Lafontaine was wrong:

Dead is the mandible, alive the song.

And so I pare my nails, and muse, and hear

Your steps upstairs, and all is right, my dear.

Sybil, throughout our high-school days I knew

Your loveliness, but fell in love with you

During an outing of the senior class

250To New Wye Falls. We luncheoned on damp grass.

Our teacher of geology discussed

The cataract. Its roar and rainbow dust

Made the tame park romantic. I reclined

In April's haze immediately behind

Your slender back and watched your neat small head

Bend to one side. One palm with fingers spread,

Between a star of trillium and a stone,

Pressed on the turf. A little phalange bone

Kept twitching. Then you turned and offered me

260A thimbleful of bright metallic tea.

Your profile has not changed. The glistening teeth

Biting the careful lip; the shade beneath

The eye from the long lashes; the peach down

Rimming the cheekbone; the dark silky brown

Of hair brushed up from temple and from nape;

The very naked neck; the Persian shape

Of nose and eyebrow, you have kept it all -

And on still nights we hear the waterfall.

Come and be worshiped, come and be caressed,

270My dark Vanessa, crimson-barred, my blest

My Admirable butterfly! Explain

How could you, in the gloam of Lilac Lane,

Have let uncouth, hysterical John Shade

Blubber your face, and ear, and shoulder blade?

We have been married forty years. At least

Four thousand times your pillow has been creased

By our two heads. Four hundred thousand times

The tall clock with the hoarse Westminster chimes

Has marked our common hour. How many more

280Free calendars shall grace the kitchen door?

I love you when you're standing on the lawn

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