or The Modern Prometheus

oder Der moderne Prometheus

Übersetzt von Ana Maria Brock, Lizenz der Aufbau Verlagsgruppe
Synchronisation und Ergänzungen © Doppeltext 2012

































The event on which this fic­tion is foun­ded has been sup­posed, by Dr. Dar­win, and some of the physiolo­gic­al writers of Ger­many, as not of im­possible oc­cur­rence.
I shall not be sup­posed as ac­cord­ing the re­motest de­gree of ser­i­ous faith to such an ima­gin­a­tion;
yet, in as­sum­ing it as the basis of a work of fancy, I have not con­sidered my­self as merely weav­ing a series of su­per­nat­ur­al ter­rors.
The event on which the in­terest of the story de­pends is ex­empt from the dis­ad­vant­ages of a mere tale of spectres or en­chant­ment.
It was re­com­men­ded by the nov­elty of the situ­ations which it de­vel­ops;
and, however im­possible as a phys­ic­al fact, af­fords a point of view to the ima­gin­a­tion for the de­lin­eat­ing of hu­man pas­sions
more com­pre­hens­ive and com­mand­ing than any which the or­din­ary re­la­tions of ex­ist­ing events can yield.
I have thus en­deav­oured to pre­serve the truth of the ele­ment­ary prin­ciples of hu­man nature,
while I have not scrupled to in­nov­ate upon their com­bin­a­tions.
The Ili­ad, the tra­gic po­etry of Greece,— Shakespeare, in the Tem­pest and Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream
and most es­pe­cially Milton, in Para­dise Lost, con­form to this rule;
and the most humble nov­el­ist, who seeks to con­fer or re­ceive amuse­ment from his la­bours,
may, without pre­sump­tion, ap­ply to prose fic­tion a li­cence, or rather a rule,
from the ad­op­tion of which so many ex­quis­ite com­bin­a­tions of hu­man feel­ing have res­ul­ted in the highest spe­ci­mens of po­etry.
The cir­cum­stance on which my story rests was sug­ges­ted in cas­u­al con­ver­sa­tion.
It was com­menced partly as a source of amuse­ment, and partly as an ex­pedi­ent for ex­er­cising any un­tried re­sources of mind.
Oth­er motives were mingled with these as the work pro­ceeded.
I am by no means in­dif­fer­ent to the man­ner in which whatever mor­al tend­en­cies ex­ist in the sen­ti­ments or char­ac­ters it con­tains shall af­fect the read­er;
yet my chief con­cern in this re­spect has been lim­ited to avoid­ing the en­er­vat­ing ef­fects of the nov­els of the present day
and to the ex­hib­i­tion of the ami­able­ness of do­mest­ic af­fec­tion, and the ex­cel­lence of uni­ver­sal vir­tue.
The opin­ions which nat­ur­ally spring from the and situ­ation of the hero are by no means to be con­ceived as ex­ist­ing al­ways in my own con­vic­tion;
nor is any in­fer­ence justly to be drawn from the fol­low­ing pages as pre­ju­dicing any philo­soph­ic­al doc­trine of whatever kind.
It is a sub­ject also of ad­di­tion­al in­terest to the au­thor that this story was be­gun in the majest­ic re­gion where the scene is prin­cip­ally laid,
and in so­ci­ety which can­not cease to be re­gret­ted.
I passed the sum­mer of 1816 in the en­virons of Geneva.
The sea­son was cold and rainy, and in the even­ings we crowded around a blaz­ing wood fire,
and oc­ca­sion­ally amused ourselves with some Ger­man stor­ies of ghosts, which happened to fall into our hands.
These tales ex­cited in us a play­ful de­sire of im­it­a­tion.
Two oth­er friends (a tale from the pen of one of whom would be far more ac­cept­able to the pub­lic than any­thing
I can ever hope to pro­duce) and my­self agreed to write each a story foun­ded on some su­per­nat­ur­al oc­cur­rence.
The weath­er, however, sud­denly be­came se­rene; and my two friends left me on a jour­ney among the Alps, and lost, in the mag­ni­fi­cent scenes
which they present, all memory of their ghostly vis­ions. The fol­low­ing tale is the only one which has been com­pleted.
Mar­low, Septem­ber, 1817


To Mrs. Saville, England

St. Peters­burgh, Dec. 11th, 17—
You will re­joice to hear that no dis­aster has ac­com­pan­ied the com­mence­ment of an en­ter­prise which you have re­garded with such evil fore­bod­ings.
I ar­rived here yes­ter­day, and my first task is to as­sure my dear sis­ter of my wel­fare and in­creas­ing con­fid­ence in the suc­cess of my un­der­tak­ing.
I am already far north of Lon­don, and as I walk in the streets of Peters­burgh,
I feel a cold north­ern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves and fills me with de­light.
Do you un­der­stand this feel­ing? This breeze, which has trav­elled from the re­gions to­wards which I am ad­van­cing, gives me a fore­taste of those icy climes.
In­spir­ited by this wind of prom­ise, my day­dreams be­come more fer­vent and vivid.
I try in vain to be per­suaded that the pole is the seat of frost and des­ol­a­tion;
it ever presents it­self to my ima­gin­a­tion as the re­gion of beauty and de­light.
There, Mar­garet, the sun is forever vis­ible, its broad disk just skirt­ing the ho­ri­zon and dif­fus­ing a per­petu­al splend­our.
There — for with your leave, my sis­ter, I will put some trust in pre­ced­ing nav­ig­at­ors — there snow and frost are ban­ished;
and, sail­ing over a calm sea, we may be waf­ted to a land
sur­pass­ing in won­ders and in beauty every re­gion hitherto dis­covered on the hab­it­able globe.
Its pro­duc­tions and fea­tures may be without ex­ample,
as the phe­nom­ena of the heav­enly bod­ies un­doubtedly are in those un­dis­covered solitudes.
What may not be ex­pec­ted in a coun­try of etern­al light?
I may there dis­cov­er the won­drous power which at­tracts the needle and may reg­u­late a thou­sand ce­les­ti­al ob­ser­va­tions
that re­quire only this voy­age to render their seem­ing ec­cent­ri­cit­ies con­sist­ent forever.
I shall sa­ti­ate my ar­dent curi­os­ity with the sight of a part of the world nev­er be­fore vis­ited,
and may tread a land nev­er be­fore im­prin­ted by the foot of man.
These are my en­tice­ments, and they are suf­fi­cient to con­quer all fear of danger or death
and to in­duce me to com­mence this la­bor­i­ous voy­age with the joy a child feels
when he em­barks in a little boat, with his hol­i­day mates, on an ex­ped­i­tion of dis­cov­ery up his nat­ive river.
But sup­pos­ing all these con­jec­tures to be false, you can­not con­test the in­es­tim­able be­ne­fit
which I shall con­fer on all man­kind, to the last gen­er­a­tion,
by dis­cov­er­ing a pas­sage near the pole to those coun­tries, to reach which at present so many months are re­quis­ite;
or by as­cer­tain­ing the secret of the mag­net, which, if at all pos­sible, can only be ef­fected by an un­der­tak­ing such as mine.
These re­flec­tions have dis­pelled the agit­a­tion with which I began my let­ter,
and I feel my heart glow with an en­thu­si­asm which el­ev­ates me to heav­en,
for noth­ing con­trib­utes so much to tran­quil­lize the mind as a steady pur­pose — a point on which the soul may fix its in­tel­lec­tu­al eye.
This ex­ped­i­tion has been the fa­vour­ite dream of my early years.
I have read with ar­dour the ac­counts of the vari­ous voy­ages which have been made in the pro­spect of ar­riv­ing at the North Pa­cific Ocean through the seas which sur­round the pole.
You may re­mem­ber that a his­tory of all the voy­ages made for pur­poses of dis­cov­ery com­posed the whole of our good Uncle Thomas’ lib­rary.
My edu­ca­tion was neg­lected, yet I was pas­sion­ately fond of read­ing.
These volumes were my study day and night, and my fa­mili­ar­ity with them in­creased that re­gret
which I had felt, as a child, on learn­ing that my fath­er’s dy­ing in­junc­tion had for­bid­den my uncle to al­low me to em­bark in a sea­far­ing life.
These vis­ions faded when I per­used, for the first time, those po­ets whose ef­fu­sions en­tranced my soul and lif­ted it to heav­en.
I also be­came a poet and for one year lived in a para­dise of my own cre­ation;
I ima­gined that I also might ob­tain a niche in the temple where the names of Homer and Shakespeare are con­sec­rated.
You are well ac­quain­ted with my fail­ure and how heav­ily I bore the dis­ap­point­ment.
But just at that time I in­her­ited the for­tune of my cous­in, and my thoughts were turned into the chan­nel of their earli­er bent.
Six years have passed since I re­solved on my present un­der­tak­ing.
I can, even now, re­mem­ber the hour from which I ded­ic­ated my­self to this great en­ter­prise. I com­menced by in­ur­ing my body to hard­ship.
I ac­com­pan­ied the whale-fish­ers on sev­er­al ex­ped­i­tions to the North Sea; I vol­un­tar­ily en­dured cold, fam­ine, thirst, and want of sleep;
I of­ten worked harder than the com­mon sail­ors dur­ing the day and de­voted my nights to the study of math­em­at­ics,
the the­ory of medi­cine, and those branches of phys­ic­al sci­ence
from which a nav­al ad­ven­turer might de­rive the greatest prac­tic­al ad­vant­age.
Twice I ac­tu­ally hired my­self as an un­der-mate in a Green­land whaler, and ac­quit­ted my­self to ad­mir­a­tion.
I must own I felt a little proud when my cap­tain offered me the second dig­nity in the ves­sel
and en­treated me to re­main with the greatest earn­est­ness, so valu­able did he con­sider my ser­vices.
And now, dear Mar­garet, do I not de­serve to ac­com­plish some great pur­pose?
My life might have been passed in ease and lux­ury, but I pre­ferred glory to every en­tice­ment that wealth placed in my path.
Oh, that some en­cour­aging voice would an­swer in the af­firm­at­ive! My cour­age and my res­ol­u­tion is firm;
but my hopes fluc­tu­ate, and my spir­its are of­ten de­pressed.
I am about to pro­ceed on a long and dif­fi­cult voy­age, the emer­gen­cies of which will de­mand all my forti­tude:
I am re­quired not only to raise the spir­its of oth­ers, but some­times to sus­tain my own, when theirs are fail­ing.
This is the most fa­vour­able peri­od for trav­el­ling in Rus­sia. They fly quickly over the snow in their sledges;
the mo­tion is pleas­ant, and, in my opin­ion, far more agree­able than that of an Eng­lish stage­coach.
The cold is not ex­cess­ive, if you are wrapped in furs — a dress which I have already ad­op­ted,
for there is a great dif­fer­ence between walk­ing the deck and re­main­ing seated mo­tion­less for hours,
when no ex­er­cise pre­vents the blood from ac­tu­ally freez­ing in your veins.
I have no am­bi­tion to lose my life on the post-road between St. Peters­burgh and Archangel.
I shall de­part for the lat­ter town in a fort­night or three weeks;
and my in­ten­tion is to hire a ship there, which can eas­ily be done by pay­ing the in­sur­ance for the own­er,
and to en­gage as many sail­ors as I think ne­ces­sary among those who are ac­cus­tomed to the whale-fish­ing.
I do not in­tend to sail un­til the month of June; and when shall I re­turn? Ah, dear sis­ter, how can I an­swer this ques­tion?
If I suc­ceed, many, many months, per­haps years, will pass be­fore you and I may meet.
If I fail, you will see me again soon, or nev­er. Farewell, my dear, ex­cel­lent Mar­garet.
Heav­en shower down bless­ings on you, and save me, that I may again and again testi­fy my grat­it­ude for all your love and kind­ness.
Your af­fec­tion­ate broth­er,
R. Walton

Mary Shelley
Zweisprachige Ausgabe
Übersetzt von Ana Maria Brock

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