Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging: Shelley Edition

Ever feel like you're working towards a meaningless goal? Take comfort in the fact that we ALL are. At least Percy thought so. As one of those crazy humanities people, I take great comfort in this poem. Especially when the "What exactly do you DO? No, really, what's the POINT of studying literature?" thing comes up. It's just easier sometimes to think "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" than it is to explain that building blocks of knowledge are as important and as real as building blocks in a building, you know?

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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."


Just Another Traveler said...

Thanks for the help with the German. We are only two weeks into the class and I'm regretting that I suggested we translate that poem (which I've always *loved* being sort of an Orpheus/Ovid nut) so early in the class. Oh well. What would summer be without daily fret over the dative case? I'm hoping the German will be a nice sidedish to my Old English class next fall. Thanks for reading!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Oh, I love this poem! Thanks for posting it.

Dr. Virago said...

I love this poem, too, and I'm generally NOT a fan of the Romantics (the poets or the big-haired '80s pop band, hee).

But I love this poem not only for its own sake, but also for two funny appropriations of it. The first was in a New Yorker cartoon (a rare funny one). The picture showed a New York road construction worker popping his head out of a manhole in Midtown Manhattan, surrounded by road closure signs. The caption said simply: "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

The other funny appropriate of it is my own. Ever hear of the "Star Wars Pants Game"? Apparently, you can take just about any line from Star Wars, replace a main noun with "pants" and make it hilariously funny. For instance: "May the Pants be with you" or "But Uncle Own, I was going to go to Tashi Station and pick up some power pants!" or "These are not the pants you're looking for" and so on. *ANYWAY* it also works wonderfully with Romantic poetry. To wit:

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my PANTS, ye Mighty, and despair!


Summer said...

I often quote the "Look on my works" line after tackling a particularly difficult bit of household grime.

It helps take the edge off the drudgery.