Monday, April 12, 2010

National Poetry Month - One of my favorite poems

I mentioned at the beginning of the month that I would celebrate National Poetry Month by posting a few of my favorite poems. Today's poem is one that I read in an Introduction to Literature course in my freshman year of college. It is a poem that affected me enough that I still remember the feeling I got from reading it for the first time 13 years ago.


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 (1818)

This is probably a poem that many people have read before, since Wikipedia says that it "is frequently anthologized and is probably Shelley's most famous short poem". True, in my case--it was in our literature textbook. Anyway, it makes me think of the futility of trying to make a name for ourselves so we'll be remembered after we're gone, while at the same time it almost speaks to the lasting power of art (the sculpture is a wreck, but yet it still remains when everything else is long gone).* I like it. When I think of poetry, this is one of the first poems that comes to mind.

*Please don't be too hard on my amateur analysis. It has been years since I seriously read and analyzed poetry. This analysis is based almost purely on my own feelings about the work, not on any sort of expertise or analytical ability.


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