I was twelve when I asked my father who Nabokov was. The Police had rhymed “Nabokov” with “cough” in “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” and I wanted to know. My father replied tersely, “Some guy who fell in love with a young girl.” For whatever reason, I concluded that Nabokov was a figure in Greek mythology. The Greek pantheon, I understood, was a den of scandal.
It wasn’t until the 1997 release of the motion picture that I learned that Nabokov was a 20th-century novelist. Lolita was published in 1955. Even more scandalous!
Researching the Spectra movement, a literary hoax of the 1910s that was itself art, I came upon this gem:
Lolita Is Now Old
by Marjorie Allen Seiffert, as Elijah Hay
Lolita now is old,
She sits in the park, watching the young men pass
And huddles her shawl against the cold.
One night last summer when the moon was red,
Lolita, hearing an old song sung
And amorous laughter down the street
Left her bed–
Lolita thought she was young.
With ancient finery on her back,
A lace mantilla hiding her grey head,
She crept into the warm and alien night.
Her trembling knees remembered the languid pace
Of beauty on adventure bent–her fan
Waved challenges with unforgotten grace.
Cunningly she played her part
For to her peering age
Love was a well-remembered art.
Footsteps followed her–footsteps drew near!
She dropped a rose–hush, he is here!
There came hard arms and a panting kiss–
He felt the fraud of those withered lips,
He cursed and spat–“Was it for this,
You came, old woman, to the park?”
Lolita gathered skirts and fled
Through the dim dark.
Lolita huddles her shawl against the cold,
She sits and mumbles by the fire. In truth
Lolita knows she is old
Published in 1919
© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.