from PALE FIRE
~ by Vladimir Nabokov
I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the window pane,
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.
Pale Fire is a novel based on the exegesis of a poem by a scholar writing annotations to the text. The excerpt above is the first lines of that poem, which had been written by one of the characters in the novel. He is derailed by events before he can add the 1,000th line, so we are left with 999. Please also see Nabokov’s poem, “An Evening Of Russian Poetry.”