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mardi 17 avril 2012

O is for...


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. 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

I don't know why I've always liked this poem, but I have. I know I must have learned a whole slew of poems at school, but this is one of only two I can actually quote from (the other being "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester" by Rupert Brooke), more than just a phrase or two I mean.

Maybe it's because my mother could quote the entire thing, making it stick more clearly in my mind.

Anyway. I like this poem, like it very much in fact. The name "Ozymandias" sounds delightfully exotic and ancient, mysterious and mystical. The story the poem tells is one of power and abuse of power... and decadence and the passage of time.

It's kind of depressing, really, if you think about it, but there's something about the way it's written that prevents it from being maudlin. It's a strong, proud poem, arrogant and supercilious (like Ozymandias, of course).

Those Romantics lived wild and unconventional lives, and they really knew how to write (OK, I'm going to be honest here: I usually pretty much hate the Romantics, but Byron and Shelley are cool. And I don't mind some of Coleridge's work. Not such a big fan of Wordsworth, though. And the French Romantics? GAH.).

OK, Literary Tuesday is over, guys. As you were.

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