The problem with being young is that you haven’t enough experience or knowledge to appreciate things. They also don’t tell you the really juicy stuff that heightens your appreciation.
So I never liked Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias.” Some dead bugger with a silly name using fancy language to talk about some old broken statue. Big ol’ yawn.
But since then, I’ve learned a lot about the Romantics. I found out that Shelley was a really interesting guy who even wrote a tract called “The Necessity of Atheism,” and to hell with the consequences. I’ve learned a lot about lost civilizations, developed a passion for the ancient world, and perhaps most importantly, come to appreciate the fact that all things must die.
I read the poem again after learning all that. And now I can see its power.
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.