Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Modern Ozymandias

“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.”

Good old Percy Shelley. Those Romantics, love ‘em or hate ‘em, knew how to seize their readers’ imaginations. Well, not all of them, but they sure have mine. This poem is a striking metaphor for the futility of pride. In post-modern English, I’m saying the poem disses on people who are trying to look more important than they actually are, and the way it does that is really cool. I love the grandeur of the imagery, and what happens to it. The “vast and trunkless legs of stone”, the “sneer of cold command”, and the “King of Kings” make my vision soar, and then plunge to the ground on reading those cold, cold words: “Nothing beside remains.”

If I ever put on airs, please shove that poem down my throat.

Not to be a hypocrite, but there are others who might benefit from such a treatment. Where are the modern Ozymandias’ in our world? You know they’re out there. Think for a moment. Where, in American society, or anywhere in the world, can we find a fellow human being who has crafted an image that makes him or her look greater than who he or she actually is?

I’m going to answer with my own poem. A parody, actually. Sorry if this seems a roundabout way to say what I think, but it’s too much fun for this English major to resist…

I met a man from a land of trouble
Who said, “Two great, broad and unlit billboards
Stand in the ruins. Near them, in the rubble,
Half-sunk, a filthy poster lies, whose pose
And wild clothes, and cleavage double
Tell that her picture well was planned and shot
And still it lives, erotic, bright and dead
The face that drew them and the songs they bought
And on that poster these words I read:
“My name is Lady GaGa, Queen of Queens,
Love me, little monsters, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the billboards
Lie fallen stadiums, once tall and fair
Dashed against the age of frenzies and whores


  1. "Who, in American society, or anywhere in the world, can we find a fellow human being who has crafted an image that makes him or her look greater than who he or she actually is?"

    Where do I start?, Madonna (the original remake queenby whome Lady Gaga pales in comparison), Obama, Oprah, most of Hollywood. & that is only contemporary.

    Every generation has their share of Ozymandias & every generation of them ends the same way.

    PS Can tell you are an English major at a good college. Where I work, I doubt many of the English majors would even have heard of Shelley.

  2. Thanks a million for reading, gentlemen!

    @Al I'm in strong agreement with you. A friend of mine remarked on the universal reach this poem has; "Where do I start?" is a fitting response.

    I'm glad you like it so much. On another note, I received a Facebook request from someone with your name and picture. Was that you?

  3. Yes. Be assured my substance is behind the accidence of the Facebook request.

  4. Thank you, Patrick. And thank you, Marc.