Sunday, July 14, 2013

Goethe - The Sufferings of Young Werther & the Magnetic Mountain

Magic the Gathering's Magnetic Mountain Card from its Arabian Nights set

Our hero Werther, of Goethe's great The Sufferings of Young Werther, has a Nights-esque moment, referencing the Magnet Mountain -

Book One - Entry July 26

"More than once I have made the resolve not to see her so often.  If one could only keep such a resolution!  Every day I succumb to temptation and made a sacred promise to myself:  tomorrow you will just stay away; and when tomorrow comes I find another irresistible reason for going, and before I realize it I'm with her.  Either she said the evening before:  'You will come tomorrow, won't you?' - who could stay away after that? - or she gives me an errand to do and I find it appropriate to bring her the answer myself, or the day is altogether too beautiful, so I walk to Wahlheim and when I have got that far, it's only another half hour to her!  I am too near her atmosphere - zoom, I'm there.  My grandmother used to tell a tale about the magnetic mountain. Ships that came too close to it suddenly lost all their iron; the nails flew to the mountain and the poor wretched crew perished amid the collapsing planks."

From page 29 of Harry Steinhauer's Norton translation (paperback 1970)

And from Arabian Nights Entertainments  - The History of the third Calendar, a King's Son (edition here -

Having spoke thus, he fell a crying like a man who foresaw unavoidable ruin; his despair put the whole ship’s crew in a terror.  I asked him what reason he had thus to despair?  He told me, the tempest, which we had out-liv’d, had brought us so far our of our course, that to-morrow about noon we shall come near to that black place, which is nothing else but the black mountain, that is a mine of adamant, which at this very moment draws all your fleet towards it, by virtue of your iron and nails that are in your ships; and when we come to-morrow at a certain distance, the strength of the adamant will have such a force, that all the nails will be drawn out of the sides and bottoms of the ships, and fasten to the mountain, so that your vessels will fall to pieces, and sink to the bottom.  And as the adamant has a virtue to draw all iron to it, whereby its attraction becomes stronger, this mountain on the side of the sea is all covered over with nails, drawn out of an infinite number of vessels that have perished by it; and this preserves and augments its virtue at the same time


From Burton's translation (The Third Kalandar's Tale) -

"O my Prince," answered he, "know that we lost our course on the night of the storm, which was followed on the morrow by a two days' calm during which we made no way, and we have gone astray eleven days' reckoning from that night, with ne'er a wind to bring us back to our true course. Tomorrow by the end of the day we shall come to a mountain of black stone hight the Magnet Mountain, for thither the currents carry us willy-nilly. As soon as we are under its lea, the ship's sides will open and every nail in plank will fly out and cleave fast to the mountain, for that Almighty Allah hath gifted the loadstone with a mysterious virtue and a love for iron, by reason whereof all which is iron traveleth toward it. And on this mountain is much iron, how much none knoweth save the Most High, from the many vessels which have been lost there since the days of yore. The bright spot upon its summit is a dome of yellow laton from Andalusia, vaulted upon ten columns. And on its crown is a horseman who rideth a horse of brass and holdeth in hand a lance of laton, and there hangeth on his bosom a tablet of lead graven with names and talismans." And he presently added, "And, O King, none destroyeth folk save the rider on that steed, nor will the egromancy be dispelled till he fall from his horse."

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