“Poem for Mary Shelley” by Joel Allegretti

Poem For Mary Shelley

(Victor Frankenstein assembled his creature from pieces of corpses. This poem is made up of pieces of works written before 1818, the year Mary Shelley published Frankenstein. The cento is meant to reflect her title character’s point of view.)

Speak, hands, for me!
The awful shadow of some unseen Power
Floats though unseen among us.
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
Man is all symmetry,
Full of proportions, one limb to another,
A brain of feathers, and a heart of lead.

O misery of hell!
A little learning is a dangerous thing.
Fire answers fire.
No man chooses evil because it is evil,
He only mistakes it for happiness.
Science without conscience is
But the ruin of the soul.


Lines taken from:

William Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar,” Act III, Scene 1
Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”
George Gordon, Lord Byron, “Darkness”
George Herbert, “Man”
Alexander Pope, “The Dunciad,” Book II
John Keats, “Endymion”
Alexander Pope, “A Little Learning Is a Dangerous Thing”
William Shakespeare, “Henry V,” Act IV, Prologue
Mary Wollstonecraft, “A Vindication of the Rights of Men”
François Rabelais, “Gargantua and Pantagruel,” translated into English 1653-1694 by Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty and Peter Anthony Motteux

Joel Allegretti is the author of four collections, most recently, Europa/Nippon/New York: Poems/Not-Poems (Poets Wear Prada, 2012). His second book, Father Silicon (The Poet’s Press), was selected by The Kansas City Star as one of 100 Noteworthy Books of 2006. Allegretti’s poetry has appeared in many national journals, including Smartish Pace, The New York Quarterly, Fulcrum and PANK. He wrote the texts for three song cycles by Frank Ezra Levy, whose work is released on Naxos American Classics. Allegretti is a member of the Academy of American Poets and ASCAP.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s