By the Light of the Glow-Worm Lamp: Three Centuries of Reflections on Nature

By Alberto Manguel | Go to book overview

BUTTERFLIES

VLADIMIR NABOKOV


1

On a summer morning, in the legendary Russia of my boyhood, my first glance upon awakening was for the chink between the white inner shutters. If it disclosed a watery pallor, one had better not open them at all, and so be spared the sight of a sullen day sitting for its picture in a puddle. How resentfully one would deduce, from a line of dull light, the leaden sky, the sodden sand, the gruel-like mess of broken brown blossoms under the lilacs -- and that flat, fallow leaf (the first casualty of the season) pasted upon a wet garden bench!

But if the chink was a long glint of dewy brilliancy, then I made haste to have the window yield its treasure. With one blow, the room would be cleft into light and shade. The foliage of birches moving in the sun had the translucent green tone of grapes, and in contrast to this there was the dark velvet of fir trees against a blue of extraordinary intensity, the like of which I rediscovered only many years later, in the montane zone of Colorado.

From the age of seven, everything I felt in connexion with a rectangle of framed sunlight was dominated by a single passion. If my first glance of the morning was for the sun, my first thought was for the butterflies it would engender. The original event had been banal enough. On the honeysuckle, overhanging the carved back of a bench just opposite the main entrance, my guiding angel (whose wings, except for the absence of a

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By the Light of the Glow-Worm Lamp: Three Centuries of Reflections on Nature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Landscape 9
  • The Falkland Islands 11
  • La Pampa 25
  • The Atlantic Forest 31
  • The Falls of Niagara 43
  • Fauna and Flora of Nevada 47
  • Shooting the Rapids in a Batteau 53
  • Heavenly Place 61
  • Three Natural Disasters 67
  • Hoyle's Mouth 77
  • Prophetic Autumn 81
  • A Ramble in May 87
  • An October Diary 97
  • The Encantadas 105
  • Nightwatch 111
  • Crusoe's Island 123
  • Journal 1866 127
  • Flowery Tuscany 137
  • The Marginal World 151
  • Birds 157
  • Into the Amazon 159
  • Birds of Siberia 181
  • The Wild Geese of Wyndy Goul 189
  • The Crows 195
  • Why Birds Sing 203
  • Bird Lists 213
  • Bird Watching 217
  • The Temples of the Hills 229
  • King Penguins 241
  • Beasts 247
  • The Cat 249
  • Real Life of the Beaver 255
  • The Bonte-Quagga 263
  • The Narwhal 271
  • Monkeys 293
  • Insects and Fish 299
  • Three Strokes of a Dagger 301
  • The Secret of the Formicary 307
  • Butterflies 313
  • 12,000,000 Cod 329
  • Common Fish of an Indian Garden 337
  • Stars of the Earth 343
  • Sources 355
  • Author Biographies 357
  • Index 365
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