Ozymandias by Percy Shelly.
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 (4 August 1792 – 8 July 1822), the radical romantic/political English poet, exposes the emptiness of power and the futility of the pursuit of a pedestal to one’s name.
Born in Sussex, England, an ‘illegitimate’ child of a politician, he went to Eton College and Oxford University, where he famously attended only one lecture. Oxford University expelled him for publishing an essay he wrote titled: ‘The Necessity of Atheism.’
He refused to withdraw his views and his anti-war poem so Oxford University said they could not reinstate him despite pressure from his influential family. Shelly created another storm. Aged 19, he ran away to Scotland with his 16-year-old lover. His experiences of Eros and authority shaped many of his poems. He died in Italy aged 29.
The likes of Trump, Assad, Putin, Theresa May and North Korean President, Kim Jong-un ought to sit down together and slowly read through Shelly’s poem about Ozymandias.
Our political masters and others need to reflect, to look into themselves and develop humility about their primary role instead of harbouring a pointless desire for immortality.
Ozymandias regarded himself as King of Kings while Shelly points out that all that remains of him is a lifeless, broken statue with only the legs being still in the sand. The head of the sculpture lies elsewhere with a sneer and frown carved into the face.
The mocking hand of the sculpture portrays the face of Ozymandias face in death as it was in life.
We see the same face regularly on our leaders as they deliver their ghost writers pre-written one-liners and their own distorted perceptions as they project their negativities upon other leaders and nations.
Leaders want to leave a legacy and lock the world into eternal appreciation. They believe they are mighty and the rest of the world despairs of their greatness. This is naivety and foolishness beyond belief. Nothing is reliable, except decay.
Like Ozymandias, our leaders offer only a ‘colossal wreck.’
Such leaders belong to the undead. They share the same company of the undead in horror films as they heap horror on citizens with their bombs, big and small, missiles, chemical attacks, assassinations and destruction of families and cities.
The nature of things gradually swallows up our leaders, their works and their epithets. The sands stretch far, far beyond our leaders.
We have a very short stay on this Earth. So, do they.