It’s almost spring, and the almost part is killing me. So…how about a poem, instead?
In 1814, young Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin ran off with Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Romantic lyricist known as much for his personal excesses as his poems. Two years later, she composed Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, while living with Shelley near Lord Byron’s compound at the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva. She later described that summer as the time “when I first stepped out from childhood into life.” She was eighteen years old.
First we met in drawing rooms, then graves—
He loved me for my mother, I suppose.
I wore my tartan then, its plaid a sign
Of all I was despite my father’s care.
But once I saw him there, my focus switched.
Now we were mouths and tongues and choking sighs,
A bit of poplar pressed into my back.
His buttons bruised my all too willing hands.
And when we made the journey overseas
I almost could forget our other selves.
Sealed up in the fine carriage like a clam
We wondered we had ever lived apart.
But by the time we reached fair Lake Genève
A certain pall was cast upon our group.
The rain submerged my carelessness for once,
Brought colic to the baby and myself.
I’d drowned myself in fairy tales so long
I couldn’t see my own face in the glass.
They wagered that I couldn’t chill their blood;
Submerged, I felt it time to tell my tale.
Now all was ice, explorers setting out—
The giddiness and sway of well-laid plans—
The certainty that one way was the best.
It wasn’t. For the certainty was naught
But hubris dressed in scientific clothes.
So eager to cast doubt on smaller folk,
It rumbled past the grand and unexplained.
Full speed to glory! Never mind the cost.
And never mind the weight of that small seed
Of human kindness, buried deep in fear.
I paused before I brought the book to him.
My mourning dress was tight and shabby now—
Unnecessary ugliness to him
Who liked to look on pretty things and laugh.
It pained me now to give my creature up.
I knew that it must bear his swift, deft pen,
That those choked words were not my own to keep.
But boldly I gave Percy my new book
And wondered if he’d notice that my rage
Roiled red beneath the ice of that drear dream.