Glimmers of Shelley in John Shade’s Verse

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2009


Percy Shelley’s name appears twice in Pale Fire. In the first instance, Kinbote relates Shade’s pet peeves regarding his students’ analysis of literature. The two examples given are“Shelley’s style is always very simple and good” and “Yeats is always sincere” (New York: Vintage, 1989, 156). Shelley also appears in “The Nature of Electricity,” where Shadeimagines “the gentle dead” abiding in various forms of light: “And Shelley’s incandescent soul / Lures the pale moths of starless nights” (192). That the nights are “starless” implies that on a star-filled night, the moths would be lured by the stars, a fanciful image drawn directly from the concluding lines of Shelley’s “One Word is Too Often Profaned”: The desire of the moth for the star Of the night for the morrow, The devotion to something afar From the realm of our sorrow. ( The Major Works, Oxford UP, 2003, 590)


Originally published as:

“Glimmers of Shelley in John Shade’s Verse.” The Nabokovian 60 (Spring 2009)