Ozymandias

This is not a condom

Nothing beside remains

Ozymandias

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert … Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works ye mighty and despair!”

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

–Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

 

Yeah, I know, I know. “Tom, we came here looking for hot chastity porn. WTF are you doing with that shriveled up old prune?”

Ignoring the old vaudeville joke straight line, I’m responding to a tag from Nigel who asked me to post one of my favorite poems.

I’m not sure that I’d call this my favorite, but since Suzy grabbed “The Road Less Traveled” I had to use the Wayback Machine to pick something else from English Lit 102.

But really, this is one of the first poems that comes to mind when I think of poetry. It’s not a classic, but back when I was 19 and read it for the first time, I was suddenly struck with the concept of impermanence, and how we are all Ozymandias (Ramses II) in some respect. We’re all going to leave a job and several years later, nobody will remember that we worked there. We’ve all left school a number of years ago, but unless we’ve left that school a particularly large endowment – or a particularly large hole in a wall – would any student today even know you had lived in their dorm, eaten at their table, scrawled those limericks in the desktop?

We all would like to believe that we will leave something of ourselves behind when we die, and indeed, we often think about our children or grand children as having a bit of us in them. But how many of us can really come to terms with the idea that almost all of us will literally be forgotten not long after we have passed by?

So, after the Edge of Vanilla, there’s nothing but a chasm. It’s a sobering thought to me.

 

About Tom Allen

The Grey Geezer Dauntless defender of, um, something that needed dauntless defending. Dammit, I can't read this script without my glasses. Hey, you kids, get off my damn lawn!
This entry was posted in Blogging, Blogthing, meme, tao and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Ozymandias

  1. paisleyandplaid says:

    Shelley speaks not only of individual transience, but also of political impermanence. The great Pharoah demonstrates irony in that his inscription says, “Look on me, ye Mighty, and despair” while being a broken-down piece of rubble in the desert as opposed to some seat of government.

    Good choice. My favorite is Diciknson’s “After Great Pain” or “Nothing Gold Can Stay” or Byron’s “Stanzas” or . . .

  2. Tom Allen says:

    Well, the political aspect is obvious; it’s a type of hubris to believe that one’s works will live on. I didn’t touch on that aspect because it’s been done to death by college sophomores.

    But I’ve never heard a discussion of how it relates to the relatively transient nature of our own lives, and of what we, as individuals, will leave behind – or not.

  3. nigel says:

    I love Shelley too, I find it amazing that his wife Mary wrote Frankenstein! I hope Percy was not a monster in real life, or was Mary expressing her dominance by trying to create a man?

  4. Kate says:

    Ah…and here I was excited seeing the lovely egyptian artifacts…and you are dis-cussing poetry. AND they aren’t even limericks…sigh…
    *off to rummage up MY favorite poem*

  5. darklily says:

    A favorite of mine too, Tom. Thanks for sharing. I suppose thoughts of impermanence aren’t too far from me right now (thanks for your condolences the other day). I asked my mom once to write about her childhood. She escaped from East Germany in 1949. She told me, “Why would anyone want to read about unhappy times.”

  6. Tom Allen says:

    “Why would anyone want to read about unhappy times.”

    *snort*
    Parents! What can you do, eh?

  7. Tom Allen says:

    There was a young lady named Kate
    Who necked in the dark with her date.
    When asked how she fared,
    She said she was scared,
    But otherwise doing first-rate.

  8. Kate says:

    Three! Ha, ha, ha! (sorry…all that Seasame Street stuff going around)

  9. Kate says:

    Cunning Piratical Kate
    Conspired with glee as of late
    To convince darling Tom to post
    More of the peppered hair he did boast
    But that of his chest, not of his pate.

  10. havingmycake says:

    We spent yesterday clearing out my Grandma’s room. There wasnt much to show really for 104 years. Several bags of old clothes for jumble or textile recycling, a few trinkets and lots of bits of paper – memories of events in her life. And that was about it really.

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