The meaning of the fifth stanza of Percy Shelley’s Mont Blanc has always been up for debate. There are several parts of that stanza in the poem that makes little sense, including the rhyme scheme. When looking at the different possible ways a form of writing can be arranged there are pieces of insight that are sometimes uncovered. By changing the rhyme scheme into couplets, some interesting parallels can be made between the fifth stanza and a passage on pages 91-92 in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that might even answer the puzzling question at the end of the stanza. The paragraph that will be referenced starts with “The ascent is precipitous…” and concludes with “…may convey to us”.

The question posed at the end of the stanza is if silence and solitude are/were vacancy. The first mention of either silence or solitude in this passage is when Victor Frankenstein narrates, “…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” (Shelley 91). In this rearranged stanza, Percy Shelley’s first words about silence are, “..much of life and death silently there, and heap the snow with breath”. These two lines almost seem to intertwine. It is interesting however, that Frankenstein says anything but silence will cause a fatal avalanche and the poem states that life and death are both silently waiting and they heap the snow with breath. Victor Frankenstein seems to be answering the question of  whether silence is a vacancy. If silence is a vacancy, Frankenstein does not want that vacancy to be filled with death and in that sense, equates silence with life. Victor sees this peaceful silence on Mont Blanc as life, thereby filling the vacancy of silence with life.

What then about solitude? Can this rearranged stanza and the detailed scenery give us any information into what fills the vacancy of solitude? In the passage Victor states, “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,” A possible parallel to this in the reorganized stanza says, “In the lone glare of day, the snows descend or the star-beams dart through them. Winds contend rapid and strong, but silently! Its home which governs thought, and to the infinite dome the voiceless lightning in these solitudes keeps innocently, and like vapour broods over the snow”. Although there is no one on the mountain in the poem, there seems to be a lack of complete solitude. The thought of snows, star-beams and winds as plural entities make it seem as if there really is no solitude. This creates an odd issue however. How does Frankenstein fill in the vacancy that is in solitude?

In his narration Frankenstein states, “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”. Much like how Percy Shelley uses objects to fill the solitude that is present on Mont Blanc, so does Victor. He turns the the objects and by “receiving” an impression from the objects, he humanizes them. This is how the vacancy of solitude is filled by Frankenstein, through making the objects around him human, he is no longer in solitude. Victor Frankenstein, on Mont Blanc, fills solitude with the humanization of objects and fills silence with life itself and in this way, Mary Shelley answers her husband’s question of if silence and solitude are vacancy by filling those vacancies.

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