frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel...

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  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    " frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course and wrecked it "

    The storm which destroyed the sailing ship (during its trip) was frightful.
     

    vkhu

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    " frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course and wrecked it "

    The storm which destroyed the sailing ship (during its trip) was frightful.
    I understand the meaning of the phrase in isolation, but how does that relate to the one preceding it? There's been no storm in the story thus far, and the ship the narrator is riding on is still in tip-top condition. And what of the "thus"? What is it doing there? How does it relate to the other 2 parts of the sentence?
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    You do know when this was written? This is very old-fashioned English. In any case the storm comes later on in the story and there's nothing which suggests that his story coincided with the storm: the storm is simply part of his story.
     

    vkhu

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    I'm still confused. If the storm isn't happening at the moment, then why is it being mentioned here? To me, the whole sentence read like a jumble of disconnected parts. It's like saying "The burger I had last night was great. Big Ben is in London. It is so!"

    And yes, I know the story's written about 2 centuries ago. But I'm not sure how knowing that would make this sentence more understandable. I could similarly understand that modern Greek and ancient Greek are almost entirely different, but at the end of the day, it's still all Greek to me.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I have refreshed my memory of the story. Frankenstein arrived there by sledge, not by ship, so he has not been in a literal storm. The 'gallant vessel' is himself, the frightful storm which embraced him is his 'great and unparalleled misfortunes'. Then 'thus' introduces Frankenstein's narration, which follows as Chapter 1.

    Early in The Last Man, Mary Shelley starts telling another story inside hers, saying this story was found written on some 'leaves' in a cave. As the story went on, I started thinking these must be some mighty big leaves, and how would you keep them in order? About half way through I realized she had meant pages but thought leaves sounded better. I could have killed her.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Is that a joke? 'It's all Greek to me' in English means it's incomprehensible. :) And no, there are differences which are not readily understandable to a modern reader and need to be interpreted.

    In any case for some reason the Gutenburg website is inaccessible at the moment so I looked up in the quote in context in Cliffs Notes. It comes from a letter to a friend, Mrs Saville, at the beginning of the book and tells of the moment when a stranger she has encountered promises to tell her his story the next day (I have edited the quote). She is now preparing to 'commence the task' (of writing his story, so the reference to the shipwreck is obviously something that happened to him and which will be related later in the author's account or it is simply a metaphor for the terrible tragedy that unfolds.


    He then told me that he would commence his narrative the next day when I should be at leisure. ----- I have resolved every night, when I am not imperatively occupied by my duties, to record, as nearly as possible in his own words, what he has related during the day. -----Even now, as I commence my task, his full-toned voice swells in my ears; -----

    Strange and harrowing must be his story, frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course and wrecked it — thus!


    Edit. The only thing I remember about a ship is at the end of a book when Victor chases the creature to the North Pole and the creature's ship gets stuck in ice, so I think the above is more of a metaphor rather than an actual storm and shipwreck.
     
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    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I have no idea what's going on with this sentence, especially the part in bold.
    The grammatical construction of the sentence is straightforward. There is of course inversion in the first part, which reads
    Strange and harrowing must be his story
    instead of the more usual
    His story must be strange and harrowing


    The part after the comma has no verb (other than inside the which-clause), and needs therefore to be understood as inheriting the verb from the first part, hence:
    Strange and harrowing must be his story, and frightful must be the storm which...
    Translated: His story must be strange and harrowing and the storm which... must be frightful.
    We can see that the long relative clause would separate "the storm" from "must be frightful" by too much, and this is no doubt at least part of the reason for using this inverted form.
     

    vkhu

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    Is that a joke? 'It's all Greek to me' in English means it's incomprehensible. :)
    Yes, I stole that one from Sherlock Holmes :D.

    the reference to the shipwreck is obviously something that happened to him and which will be related later in the author's account or it is simply a metaphor for the terrible tragedy that unfolds.
    I think it's the latter. @entangledbank made an excellent explanation in his post, which makes a lot more sense than the narrator randomly picked a later event and just threw it in there.
     
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