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Need a translator? Translator tool. Browse wishful thinking noun. Test your vocabulary with our fun image quizzes. Image credits. Word of the Day blondie. Blog When disaster strikes: ways of describing bad events November 20, Read More. New Words laughter club. In calling the Siren "a teaser of sailors," See Apuleius, Metamorphoses, 2 vols. Otto Schmitt et al. Stuttgart: J. Metzler, , 6: col. Nabokov's works started appearing in his native land only in the s, after his death.

There, Circe warns Odysseus about the Sirens, past whose rocky island he has to steer his ship. The Sirens' island is strewn with the bones of men who, by the irresistible lure of their song, have perished there. Though warned by Circe of the Sirens' lethal charm, Odysseus is still curious to hear their song; he has his companions plug their ears with wax and bind him to the mast, thereby ensuring the ship's safe passage.

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This event spells the Sirens' ruin: an oracle has predicted that they will die if ever a ship passes by them unharmed. The famous Attic stamnos in the British Museum collection depicts this episode: Odysseus standing firmly tied to the mast, his ship sailing past the island, and one of the Sirens hurling herself into the sea. Petersburg Hermitage Museum which Nabokov could have seen in his boyhood and early youth. And Nabokov affirms the importance of this power of a writer when he says: "A major writer combines these three—storyteller, teacher, enchanter—but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer.

See S. The Hermitage Museum has been open to the public since the mid-nineteenth century. The stories told by the Sirens are instructive because, as these legendary creatures put it, they "know all the toils that in wide Troy the Argives and Trojans endured through the will of the gods" and "all things that come to pass upon the fruitful earth" Odyssey, XII: It is following this tradition that Ovid dubs them the "know- ing" Sirens doctae sirenes Metamorphoses, V: In later times, the term "Siren" was applied to indicate great learning and eloquence, and the Byzantine humanists used the word to praise Homer and Pindar—as- sociations that Nabokov would find congenial.

This connection is already suggested in the ancient Greek legends: according to one, the Sirens were the daughters of the Muses;15 according to another, the Sirens dared to challenge the Muses to a singing contest. Enraged by the Sirens' impertinence, the Muses plucked off their feathers and adorned their own heads with them.


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Frank Cole Babbitt et al. In referring to the Siren as a "transporter of souls," Nabokov alludes to her other incarnation as the Muse of the Underworld, in which guise she frequently appeared on tombs and sarcophagi. The Siren was also associated with the otherworldly joys of celestial harmony, somewhat reminiscent of Plato's vision of her as a divinity of the beyond.

Alexan- drov has amply demonstrated in his recent study. Nabokov in that interview also identifies the Sirin, as in old Russian mythology, "a multicolored bird, with woman's face and bust. We find a pair of these mythical halfbirds-halfmaidens depicted on a golden enameled earring and another such creature carved in a stone relief. Petersburg, , pi. II, fig. Leipzig: Teubner, , Unless they cease singing, a man, upon hearing their song, will become entranced and, walking after them, will die. As can be seen from this excerpt, the Sirin, unlike its Greek predecessor, is of both feminine and masculine gender.

The fascination of the Russians with the Sirin from the seventeenth throughout the mid-nineteenth century was so great that references to this mythical bird abound in literature, the visual arts, and even everyday life. Petersburg, , According to Viacheslav Vs. Petersburg: Ogni, , It is noteworthy that Liatskii, who also wrote articles on Chemyshevskii, is mentioned in The Gift.

Curiously enough and a coincidence Nabokov would have liked , Vladimir Peretts's On Nabokov's Pen Name Sirin 17 Sirin or perhaps the Alkonost, another heavenly bird, with which the Sirin has many iconographic affinities is depicted on the stone medallion of the Church of Resurrection "na Debre," built in the city of Kostroma in the mid-seventeenth century.

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The popularity of the Sirin in Russian culture is also evident from its frequent appearance in embroidery. A fragment of a mid-nineteenth- century linen sheet from the Olonetsk Province, which neighbored that of St. Petersburg where the Nabokov family estates were located, is not unlike those "gaudily embroidered shirts, sashes and kerchiefs" Nabokov later recalls in his English article "Laughter and Dreams.

Petersburg: F. Brokgauz and I. See D.

Petersburg: R. Golike, , 1: Some contemporary scholars, however, believe that the mythical bird in the medallion is rather the Alkonost. See I. Moscow, , 1, pt. See L. Efimova and R.

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M See V. Moscow: Iskusstvo, , and Petersburg, , 39, no. The caption of this lubok, reminiscent of the Russian Chronograph entry suggests that the Sirin, who resides in the East, in the Garden of Eden occasionally visits our domain, and those who listen to its heavenly songs forget everything in this world and die. The caption of another lubok about the Sirin appearing in India, where, to avoid temptation by the bird's singing, the people fire a cannon, and the Sirin, startled by the unusual noise, flies away.

Nabokov was no doubt familiar with the lubok. Rovinskii's funda- mental study of Russian folk pictures is listed in the catalogue of his father's library.

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Here he writes: "What strikes me too, is the connection between wooden Russian toys and the bright damp mushrooms and berries found in such profusion in the dark rich depths of northern forests. I seem to see the peasant unconsciously drinking in their purple, blue, scarlet hues and remembering them afterwards when On Nabokov's Pen Name Sirin 19 carving and painting a plaything for his child. According to Nabokov, '4his wonderbird made such an impression on the people's imagination that its golden flutter became the very soul of Russian art; mysticism transformed seraphim into long-tailed, ruby-eyed birds, with golden claws and unimaginable wings; and no other nation on earth is so much in love with peacock feathers and weathercocks.

With the renewal of interest in Russian folk art, particu- larly the lubok, at the end of the nineteenth century, the Sirin reemerged in Russian culture. It was probably Viktor Vasnetsov , an artist with a strong predilection for Russian folk art, who was most re- sponsible for reviving the image of Sirin, as well as the two other mythical birds, Alkonost and Gamaiun.

Vasnetsov included these two paintings in his personal exhibition which opened in the St.

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Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts on February 4, , attracting much attention from art 32 Carrousel, Nabokov's later rejecting the idea of being called "a frivolous firebird," with an apparent emphasis on "frivolous. See N.

For Nabokov's appreciation of these artists, see his Speak, Memory. An Autobiography New York: G.

The complete set of the journal for was available to him in his father's library. The poem "Sirin and Alkonost" consists of twenty-four lines, the first twelve of which are devoted to the Sirin. Gordin and M. And, holding its breath, Exposing its feathered torso to the rays, It inhales the entire fragrance, The surge of mysterious spring And mollitude of mighty effort Befogs the shine of its eyes with a tear Wait, wait, it will spread its wings And will fly away in the shafts of light!

Sirin, this heavenly bird of joy and happiness, so symbolic of Nabokov's Russian childhood and youth, could have been chosen by the displaced and homeless young writer as a lucky charm. It is noteworthy that the Sirin in this poem by Blok is of masculine gender. I pray, 1 rejoice, and need nothing, when I sense the universe in the depth of my soul. Now I converse with the waves, Now with the wind, with a bird 1 fly away, and with the sacred heavens I share my pure dreams. And, finally, the flight anticipated in the concluding lines of the Blok poem stanza could have reminded Nabokov of his leaving Russia.

Given Nabokov's strong belief that life often imitates art, it is also tempting to see in it a foreboding of Nabokov's future 'flights,' both literal and liter- ary—from country to country and from language to language. Or are the heavenly Sirins Singing in the leaves? Or is time standing still? Or did May apple trees shed Their snowy blossoms? Or is it an Angel flying? The writer then goes on to comment: "a pretty example of life finding itself obliged to imitate the very art it condemns.

This semantic array exemplifies the abundance of subtexts characteristic of Nabokov's oeuvre in general. Here, in connection with "the Blokian era," as Nabokov called it in his interview, we may add yet another consider- ation, namely that of fatidic dates, which were of great significance to him. Nabokov relished the fact that he was born in , precisely a century after Pushkin.

Bollingen, ; rev. Vintage Books, , 1. Nabokov came across this date in the Hypatian Chronicle, whose entry reads: "The year of At that time Igor Sviatoslavovich, the grandson of Oleg, left Novgorod in the 23rd day of the month of April, on Tuesday. Ronald Vroon and John E. Malmstad Moscow: Nauka, , Shcherbina Moscow: Nauka, , 1: and On Nabokov's Pen Name Sirin 25 of his shared birthday with Shakespeare, a fact he liked to point out, and its possible significance for his role in the English letters. Blok commonly disseminated his poems in manuscript form among his relatives and friends, scrupulously marking the dates of their composition.

Thus, on one such occasion, he sent his early unpublished works, including "Sirin and Alkonost," to his Moscow aunt, Sofia Andreevna Kublitskii-Piottukh. It appeared as no. As Vasnetsov's Sirin and Alkonost painting led to Blok's eponymous poem , so the acquaintance, courtship, and marriage of Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov to Elena Ivanovna Rukavishnikov led to Nabokov's birth in The Sirin stanza of the published poem concludes with this mythical bird taking flight, which corresponds to Nabokov's own departure from Russia a week prior to his twentieth birthday April 15, And, finally, Blok's poem "An Artist," in which the Sirin is among the images associated with creativity, was included in the almanac Sirin in , the year of Nabokov's literary debut, when, similarly to young Blok, he distributed among his friends and relatives bound copies of the poem "about the first of the moonlit gardens, with a motto from Romeo and Juliet"55 The importance of Sirin for Nabokov is manifest in his routinely encoding this pen name throughout his oeuvre, even after abandoning it in his "American years.