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 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.
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus