radiant form

Category: Writing & Reading | Type: Discussion | Title: Frankenstein (in Context) | Author: Mary Shelley | Ch: Chapter 11

Mary Shelley has a footnote here, "The moon." 

That the monster flees the harsh light of the sun and responds instead with "wonder" and "pleasure" to the moon invokes an immemorial contrast and a favorite Romantic dichotomy, which is also one central to Frankenstein's tutelary poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." In Blake and the other Romantics the sun is often affiliated with the material world, the moon with the imagined and incorporeal. 

Apollo was the god of the sun and also the patron god of the arts (he was often depicted carrying a lyre that linked him with music and poetry). His bright light is affiliated also with reason. Selene (in Roman mythology Luna), the goddess of the moon, is ancient, being like Prometheus a Titan rather than one of the next generation of Olympians, among whom are Zeus and Apollo, who has displaced Helios, a Titan and the god of the sun. Selene or Luna is associated as well with fantasy, finally with the imagination, and of course with lunacy. For the Romantics the moon is sometimes affiliated with transcendent visions and reveries, with passions and with visionary states of mind that produce poetry. Wordsworth writes the eerie poem "Strange fits of passion have I known," which associates the moon with a possibly prophetic or lunatic vision. 

As Mary Shelley was writing Frankenstein, Keats was writing his first long poem, Endymion, which opens with the line, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." That thing of beauty is the human Endymion, a young man of such physical appeal that Selene, who has fallen in love with him, asks Zeus, Endymion's father, to grant him immortal youth. The wish is granted, though Endymion will be condemned to sleep his entire immortality, ageless and immortal, an object of Selene's adoration every night. Selene's sister is Eos, the goddess of the dawn, in Latin Aurora. Aurora, too, falls in love with a beautiful mortal, Tithonus, or in Greek Cephalus. 

Blake identifies the Judeo-Christian God with Urizen (a homophone involving "horizon" and possibly "your reason") in a poem of that name. One of his most powerful illuminated drawings (attached) is of the blind Urizen, the Judeo-Christian God, with his compasses bounding and measuring the about-to-be-created cosmos and so exercising a despotic control over the limits of human desires and prospects.


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