Friday, December 29, 2006

Relics of Power


I met a traveller 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

OZYMANDIAS was the first poem a college English teacher assigned to my class. It somehow seemed appropriate to publish it today.

Let us apply it not only to him whose statue was overthrown, but also to the invaders who overthrew it.

Having written that, I was reminded that Shelley wrote OZYMANDIAS in a writing competition. The other competitor who wrote on the same theme described the broken statue in the desert and ended with a thought similar to mine above. I would substitute "Washington" for "London".

We wonder, – and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Horace Smith.

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