Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Along the Way

A couple weeks ago I picked up a second-hand copy of Complete Poems of Robert Frost in beautiful condition. Ever since then I have meandered through its lanes, here and there selecting a bit of poetic fruit to taste. I may comment on some of his poems in the future. But here I would like to share with you a different poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, his justly famous "Ozymandias." I was reminded of it last week. While reading from Frost before bed, my wife and I began reminiscing on poems we had learned as children. She has learned many more than I, and even to this day a bit of Shakespeare will slip off of her tongue now and then. As we talked, she remembered Ozymandias. It is a poem whose simple power came home to us even as children, and whose lesson we should not easily forget.

OZYMANDIAS of EGYPT
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 shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd 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.

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