Saturday, 6 March 2021


Copyright DC COMICS

In 1942, Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov (then living in America) wrote a poem about DC's Superman which he submitted to The New Yorker magazine, only to have it rejected.  However, he delivered a public reading of his poem where it was apparently well-received, before it vanished into the limbo of his personal files and was forgotten for nearly 80 years until being rediscovered by Andrei Babikov in a Manuscript Library at Yale University.  Thanks to my old school buddy 'Peter Pedant' for alerting me to this piece, and you can read the full details of its history at the following link.  The poem is presented below for your personal perusal.


                            The Man of To-morrow’s Lament

                            I have to wear these glasses – otherwise,
                            when I caress her with my super-eyes,
                            her lungs and liver are too plainly seen
                            throbbing, like deep-sea creatures, in between
                            dim bones. Oh, I am sick of loitering here,
                            a banished trunk (like my namesake in “Lear”),
                            but when I switch to tights, still less I prize
                            my splendid torso, my tremendous thighs,
                            the dark-blue forelock on my narrow brow,
                            the heavy jaw; for I shall tell you now
                            my fatal limitation … not the pact
                            between the worlds of Fantasy and Fact
                            which makes me shun such an attractive spot
                            as Berchtesgaden, say; and also not
                            that little business of my draft; but worse:
                            a tragic misadjustment and a curse.

                            I’m young and bursting with prodigious sap,
                            and I’m in love like any healthy chap –
                            and I must throttle my dynamic heart
                            for marriage would be murder on my part,
                            an earthquake, wrecking on the night of nights
                            a woman’s life, some palmtrees, all the lights,
                            the big hotel, a smaller one next door
                            and half a dozen army trucks – or more.

                            But even if that blast of love should spare
                            her fragile frame – what children would she bear?
                            What monstrous babe, knocking the surgeon down,
                            would waddle out into the awestruck town?
                            When two years old he’d break the strongest chairs,
                            fall through the floor and terrorize the stairs;
                            at four, he’d dive into a well; at five,
                            explore a roaring furnace – and survive;
                            at eight, he’d ruin the longest railway line
                            by playing trains with real ones; and at nine,
                            release all my old enemies from jail,
                            and then I’d try to break his head – and fail.

                            So this is why, no matter where I fly,
                            red-cloaked, blue-hosed, across the yellow sky,
                            I feel no thrill in chasing thugs and thieves –
                            and gloomily broad-shouldered Kent retrieves
                            his coat and trousers from the garbage can
                            and tucks away the cloak of Superman;
                            and when she sighs – somewhere in Central Park
                            where my immense bronze statue looms – “Oh, Clark …
                            Isn’t he wonderful!?!”, I stare ahead
                            and long to be a normal guy instead.

                            Vladimir Nabokov
                            June 1942

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...