E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Mountain (The) or Montagnards.
The extreme democratical party in the first French Revolution; so called because they seated themselves on the highest benches of the hall in which the National Convention met. Their leaders were Danton and Robespierre, but under them were Marat, Couthon, Thuriot, St. André, Legendre, Camille-Desmoulins, Carnot, St. Just, and Collot dHerbois, the men who introduced the Reign of Terror. Extreme Radicals are still called in France the Mountain Party, or Montagnards.
Old Man of the Mountain. Imaum Hassan ben Sabbah el Homairi. The Sheik Al Jebal was so called, because his residence was in the mountain fastnesses of Syria. He was the prince of a Mahometan sect called Assassins (q.v.), and founder of a dynasty in Syria, put an end to by the Moguls in the twelfth century. In Rymers Fædera (vol. i.) two letters of this sheik are inserted. It is not the province of this Book of Fables to dispute their genuineness.
If the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet must go to the mountain. If what I seek will not come to me without my stir, I must exert myself to obtain it; if we cannot do as we wish, we must do as we can. When Mahomet first announced his system, the Arabs demanded supernatural proofs of his commission. Moses and Jesus, said they, wrought miracles in testimony of their divine authority; and if thou art indeed the prophet of God, do so likewise. To this Mahomet replied, It would be tempting God to do so, and bring down His anger, as in the case of Pharaoh. Not satisfied with this answer, he commanded Mount Safa to come to him, and when it stirred not at his bidding, exclaimed, God is merciful. Had it obeyed my words, it would have fallen on us to our destruction. I will therefore go to the mountain, and thank God that He has had mercy on a stiffnecked generation.
The mountain in labour. A mighty effort made for a small effect. The allusion is to the celebrated line of Horace, Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus, which Creech translates, The travailing mountain yields a silly mouse; and Boileau, La montagne en travail enfante une souris.