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| Home | Reading Room Frankenstein


or, the Modern Prometheus
by Mary Shelley

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Chapter 10

I spent the following day roaming through the valley. I stood

beside the sources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier,

that with slow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills

to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains

were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me;

a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence

of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial nature was broken

only by the brawling waves or the fall of some vast fragment,

the thunder sound of the avalanche or the cracking, reverberated

along the mountains, of the accumulated ice, which,

through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon

rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands.

These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation

that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness

of feeling, and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued

and tranquillized it. In some degree, also, they diverted my mind

from the thoughts over which it had brooded for the last month.

I retired to rest at night; my slumbers, as it were, waited on

and ministered to by the assemblance of grand shapes

which I had contemplated during the day. They congregated round me;

the unstained snowy mountaintop, the glittering pinnacle, the pine woods,

and ragged bare ravine, the eagle, soaring amidst the clouds--

they all gathered round me and bade me be at peace.

Where had they fled when the next morning I awoke? All of soul-

inspiriting fled with sleep, and dark melancholy clouded

every thought. The rain was pouring in torrents, and thick mists

hid the summits of the mountains, so that I even saw not the faces

of those mighty friends. Still I would penetrate their misty veil

and seek them in their cloudy retreats. What were rain and storm to me?

My mule was brought to the door, and I resolved to ascend to the summit

of Montanvert. I remembered the effect that the view of the tremendous

and ever-moving glacier had produced upon my mind when I first saw it.

It had then filled me with a sublime ecstasy that gave wings to the soul

and allowed it to soar from the obscure world to light and joy.

The sight of the awful and majestic in nature had indeed always

the effect of solemnizing my mind and causing me to forget

the passing cares of life. I determined to go without a guide,

for I was well acquainted with the path, and the presence of another

would destroy the solitary grandeur of the scene.

The ascent is precipitous, but the path is cut into continual

and short windings, which enable you to surmount the perpendicularity

of the mountain. It is a scene terrifically desolate.

In a thousand spots the traces of the winter avalanche

may be perceived, where trees lie broken and strewed on the ground,

some entirely destroyed, others bent, leaning upon the jutting rocks

of the mountain or transversely upon other trees. The path,

as you ascend nigher, is intersected by ravines of snow,

down which stones continually roll from above; one of them

is particularly dangerous, as the slightest sound,

such as even speaking in a loud voice, produces a concussion of air

sufficient to draw destruction upon the head of the speaker.

The pines are not tall or luxuriant, but they are sombre and add

an air of severity to the scene. I looked on the valley beneath;

vast mists were rising from the rivers which ran through it

and curling in thick wreaths around the opposite mountains,

whose summits were hid in the uniform clouds, while rain poured

from the dark sky and added to the melancholy impression I received

from the objects around me. Alas! Why does man boast of sensibilities

superior to those apparent in the brute; it only renders them

more necessary beings. If our impulses were confined to hunger,

thirst, and desire, we might be nearly free; but now we are moved

by every wind that blows and a chance word or scene that that word may

convey to us.

We rest; a dream has power to poison sleep.

We rise; one wand'ring thought pollutes the day.

We feel, conceive, or reason; laugh or weep,

Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away;

It is the same: for, be it joy or sorrow,

The path of its departure still is free.

Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;

Nought may endure but mutability!

It was nearly noon when I arrived at the top of the ascent.

For some time I sat upon the rock that overlooks the sea of ice.

A mist covered both that and the surrounding mountains.

Presently a breeze dissipated the cloud, and I descended upon the glacier.

The surface is very uneven, rising like the waves of a troubled sea,

descending low, and interspersed by rifts that sink deep.

The field of ice is almost a league in width, but I spent nearly two hours

in crossing it. The opposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock.

From the side where I now stood Montanvert was exactly opposite,

at the distance of a league; and above it rose Mont Blanc,

in awful majesty. I remained in a recess of the rock,

gazing on this wonderful and stupendous scene. The sea, or rather

the vast river of ice, wound among its dependent mountains,

whose aerial summits hung over its recesses. Their icy

and glittering peaks shone in the sunlight over the clouds.

My heart, which was before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy;

I exclaimed, "Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest

in your narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me,

as your companion, away from the joys of life."

As I said this I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance,

advancing towards me with superhuman speed. He bounded

over the crevices in the ice, among which I had walked with caution;

his stature, also, as he approached, seemed to exceed that of man.

I was troubled; a mist came over my eyes, and I felt a faintness seize me,

but I was quickly restored by the cold gale of the mountains.

I perceived, as the shape came nearer (sight tremendous and abhorred!)

that it was the wretch whom I had created. I trembled with rage

and horror, resolving to wait his approach and then close with him

in mortal combat. He approached; his countenance bespoke bitter anguish,

combined with disdain and malignity, while its unearthly ugliness

rendered it almost too horrible for human eyes. But I scarcely

observed this; rage and hatred had at first deprived me of utterance,

and I recovered only to overwhelm him with words expressive

of furious detestation and contempt.

"Devil," I exclaimed, "do you dare approach me? And do not you

fear the fierce vengeance of my arm wreaked on your miserable head?

Begone, vile insect! Or rather, stay, that I may trample you to dust!

And, oh! That I could, with the extinction of your miserable existence,

restore those victims whom you have so diabolically murdered!"

"I expected this reception," said the daemon. "All men hate the wretched;

how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things!

Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom

thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us.

You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life?

Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you

and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions,

I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse,

I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood

of your remaining friends."

"Abhorred monster! Fiend that thou art! The tortures of hell

are too mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil!

You reproach me with your creation, come on, then, that I may extinguish

the spark which I so negligently bestowed."

My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all the feelings

which can arm one being against the existence of another.

He easily eluded me and said--

"Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred

on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek

to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation

of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember,

thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior

to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted

to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature,

and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king

if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me.

Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample

upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection,

is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam,

but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy

for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone

am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery

made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous."

"Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between

you and me; we are enemies. Begone, or let us try our strength

in a fight, in which one must fall."

"How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee

to turn a favourable eye upon thy creature, who implores

thy goodness and compassion? Believe me, Frankenstein,

I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity;

but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me;

what hope can I gather from your fellow creatures, who owe me nothing?

They spurn and hate me. The desert mountains and dreary glaciers

are my refuge. I have wandered here many days; the caves of ice,

which I only do not fear, are a dwelling to me, and the only one

which man does not grudge. These bleak skies I hail,

for they are kinder to me than your fellow beings. If the multitude

of mankind knew of my existence, they would do as you do,

and arm themselves for my destruction. Shall I not then hate them

who abhor me? I will keep no terms with my enemies. I am miserable,

and they shall share my wretchedness. Yet it is in your power

to recompense me, and deliver them from an evil which it only remains

for you to make so great, that not only you and your family,

but thousands of others, shall be swallowed up in the whirlwinds

of its rage. Let your compassion be moved, and do not disdain me.

Listen to my tale; when you have heard that, abandon or commiserate me,

as you shall judge that I deserve. But hear me. The guilty are allowed,

by human laws, bloody as they are, to speak in their own defence

before they are condemned. Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me

of murder, and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience,

destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man!

Yet I ask you not to spare me; listen to me, and then, if you can,

and if you will, destroy the work of your hands."

"Why do you call to my remembrance," I rejoined, "circumstances

of which I shudder to reflect, that I have been the miserable origin

and author? Cursed be the day, abhorred devil, in which

you first saw light! Cursed (although I curse myself) be the hands

that formed you! You have made me wretched beyond expression.

You have left me no power to consider whether I am just to you or not.

Begone! Relieve me from the sight of your detested form."

"Thus I relieve thee, my creator," he said, and placed his hated

hands before my eyes, which I flung from me with violence; "thus

I take from thee a sight which you abhor. Still thou canst listen to me

and grant me thy compassion. By the virtues that I once possessed,

I demand this from you. Hear my tale; it is long and strange,

and the temperature of this place is not fitting to your fine sensations;

come to the hut upon the mountain. The sun is yet high in the heavens;

before it descends to hide itself behind your snowy precipices

and illuminate another world, you will have heard my story and can decide.

On you it rests, whether I quit forever the neighbourhood of man

and lead a harmless life, or become the scourge of your fellow creatures

and the author of your own speedy ruin."

As he said this he led the way across the ice; I followed.

My heart was full, and I did not answer him, but as I proceeded,

I weighed the various arguments that he had used and determined

at least to listen to his tale. I was partly urged by curiosity,

and compassion confirmed my resolution. I had hitherto supposed him

to be the murderer of my brother, and I eagerly sought a confirmation

or denial of this opinion. For the first time, also, I felt

what the duties of a creator towards his creature were,

and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness.

These motives urged me to comply with his demand. We crossed the ice,

therefore, and ascended the opposite rock. The air was cold, and the rain

again began to descend; we entered the hut, the fiend with an air

of exultation, I with a heavy heart and depressed spirits. But I consented

to listen, and seating myself by the fire which my odious companion

had lighted, he thus began his tale.



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