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 shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd 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.
I suppose it’s sort of interesting that, like The Second Coming, this one also references the ancient desert. This poem reminds me of the thoughts I’ve had when I look at my driveway, the cement chipped and cracked from frost and snow, grass pushing up through the cracks in the summertime. It reminds me of the tall weeds that I could see through the floor boards of my grandmother’s back porch, or the tree roots and shrubs that creep underground and try to pry their way into pipes and through foundation walls. It makes me think back to the old houses on the gulf coast in Biloxi, Spanish moss dripping from giant trees, paint peeling, siding rotting and vegetation surrounding the houses and claiming them in the languid heat. For every construction site I see, I imagine the battle waged against nature and how quickly anything we build or make succumbs once we give up the fight to keep it.
I wonder when a person officially disappears. People I knew who have been gone for many years become less real and more fictionalized with each year that passes and with each person who dies and one day, no one living will remember them anymore. They will become a short description of whose mother they were or that they had polio, what war they fought in or that they were allergic to bees.
I wonder about our newly obsessive urge to catalogue and document every event in our lives. When my friend’s baby is grown, will all those digital pictures and scrapbooks still exist? Will they mean anything? How will it change a person to have photographs and video to cement reality, instead of the sketchy photos, old blue ribbons and random report cards my generation has, which allow us, with or without intent to morph and recreate the past?