Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Frankenstein Mythology Part I

There is actually a bit of mythological allusion we can pull from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  Many of know the story of the creation of this novel.  It was a dark and stormy night.  Mary (who is still Mary Wollstonecraft since she is just sleeping around with Percy at the time), Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, some other dude (a doctor friend of Byron named Polidori) are sitting in a cabin by the lake when someone has the idea to have a story writing contest.  The doctor wrote a vampire story ("The Vampyre" which is the first modern vampire story), Mary wrote Frankenstein,  Bryon started, but never finished a ghost story, and Percy just never got around to writing his.  Some people think that Mary may have been influenced by Bryon's poem "Prometheus."  This seems the case since she has as a secondary title to the book A Modern Prometheus.  Prometheus, of course, being the titan that gave man fire and was punished by Zeus by having an eagle (or vulture) rip his liver out every day while being chained to a rock.  Here is his poem:

Titan! to whose immortal eyes
The sufferings of mortality,
Seen in their sad reality,
Were not as things that gods despise;
What was thy pity's recompense?
A silent suffering, and intense;
The rock, the vulture, and the chain,
All that the proud can feel of pain,
The agony they do not show,
The suffocating sense of woe,
Which speaks but in its loneliness,
And then is jealous lest the sky
Should have a listener, nor will sigh
Until its voice is echoless.

Titan! to thee the strife was given
Between the suffering and the will,
Which torture where they cannot kill;
And the inexorable Heaven,
And the deaf tyranny of Fate,
The ruling principle of Hate,
Which for its pleasure doth create
The things it may annihilate,
Refus'd thee even the boon to die:
The wretched gift Eternity
Was thine--and thou hast borne it well.
All that the Thunderer wrung from thee
Was but the menace which flung back
On him the torments of thy rack;
The fate thou didst so well foresee,
But would not to appease him tell;
And in thy Silence was his Sentence,
And in his Soul a vain repentance,
And evil dread so ill dissembled,
That in his hand the lightnings trembled.

Thy Godlike crime was to be kind,
To render with thy precepts less
The sum of human wretchedness,
And strengthen Man with his own mind;
But baffled as thou wert from high,
Still in thy patient energy,
In the endurance, and repulse
Of thine impenetrable Spirit,
Which Earth and Heaven could not convulse,
A mighty lesson we inherit:
Thou art a symbol and a sign
To Mortals of their fate and force;
Like thee, Man is in part divine,
A troubled stream from a pure source;
And Man in portions can foresee
His own funereal destiny;
His wretchedness, and his resistance,
And his sad unallied existence:
To which his Spirit may oppose
Itself--and equal to all woes,
And a firm will, and a deep sense,
Which even in torture can descry
Its own concenter'd recompense,
Triumphant where it dares defy,
And making Death a Victory.

You got to admit, the man has a way with words.  Of course, if poetry isn't you thing, you may be more inspired by The Miserable World of Prometheus

Next time: either more Frankenstein or else... do I smell popcorn???

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