My Dad introduced this poem to me. He remembered only a few lines of it from his childhood and didn’t know its author. I remember tracking it down on the internet for him and I think one of my sisters did the same and he was delighted. Later a trip to the book exchange found a collection of Shelley’s works which he was equally delighted with. Dad is 88 now and starting to get frail, and yes starting to get frail is accurate. There is a lot I have to be thankful to Dad for, but I am especially grateful for the gift of reading which he gave by example and for the introduction to Shelley through this poem.
My own socio-political outlook in non-violence, vegetarianism and social justice is no doubt an ongoing expression of Shelley’s legacy, though I have only drawn the connection much later, my inspirations coming indirectly through others including Dad. Thank-you Dad and thank-you Percy Bysshe Shelley.
I met a traveler 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