I am reading Nabokov's short story "Облако, озеро, башня" and I came across this sentence: "высилась прямо из дактиля в дактиль старинная черная башня"

What is a daktil in this case? I looked it up on wikipedia but there were no meanings of this word related to architecture. Someone can help me?

And also, what does прямо mean in this sentence?

1 Answer 1


It's got nothing to do with architecture, but — unsurprisingly, this being Nabokov — with words. Let me give a longer quote for context:

Это было чистое, синее озеро с необыкновенным выражением воды. Посередине отражалось полностью большое облако. На той стороне, на холме, густо облепленном древесной зеленью (которая тем поэтичнее, чем темнее), высилась прямо из дактиля в дактиль старинная черная башня.

«Облако, озеро, башня» is a dactylic line (one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed), and this passage describes the titular lake, cloud, and tower. As a bonus, вЫсилась прЯмо из дАктиля в дАктиль старИнная чЁрная бАшня is also a dactyl; basically, for that stretch of phrase, the narrator breaks into verse. Admittedly it's somewhat cryptic and by far not immediately clear, but Nabokov can be like that.

Now additionally, there's some ambiguity about прямо. Is it part of the verb phrase — высилась прямо, "stood tall and straight" — or part of прямо из дактиля в дактиль "straight from one dactyl to another"? I'd argue the former, seeing as removing прямо из дактиля в дактиль would break the verse, while only removing из дактиля в дактиль leaves высилась прямо старинная черная башня, which still scans. So one presumes it's "the tower stood tall and straight", with из дактиля в дактиль added as a self-referential afterthought.

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