30 April, 2019

On Discovering a Butterfly
Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov wrote the following:
Listen: I am ideally happy. My happiness is a kind of challenge. As I wander along the streets and the squares and the paths by the canal, absently sensing the lips of dampness through my worn soles, I carry proudly my ineffable happiness. The centuries will roll by, and schoolboys will yawn over the history of our upheavals; everything will pass, but my happiness, dear, my happiness will remain, in the moist reflection of a streetlamp, in the cautious bend of stone steps that descend into the canal’s black waters, in the smiles of a dancing couple, in everything with which God so generously surrounds human loneliness.” 
— an excerpt from A Letter That Never Reached Russia

And then below that a poem, which, according to the marginalia, is only a part of longer text:

'On Discovering a Butterfly
' by Vladimir Nabokov

I found it and I named it, being versed

in taxonomic Latin; thus became

godfather to an insect and its first

describer — and I want no other fame.
Wide open on its pin (though fast asleep),

and safe from creeping relatives and rust,

in the secluded stronghold where we keep

type specimens it will transcend its dust.
Dark pictures, thrones, the stones that pilgrims kiss,

poems that take a thousand years to die

but ape the immortality of this

red label on a little butterfly.

© Australian artist, Ashvin Harrison

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