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.