Listen to Shelley’s famous poem, Ozymandias, and enjoy a plunge into the deep meanings of this poem.
Spotlights | Ozymandias
Ozymandias 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.”
What is so special about you and me that makes us believe we are never going to die? What is it that makes you certain that the world cannot go without you, and by leaving this world, you will puncture life’s heart and leave an unhealable wound that will keep oozing through eternity? What makes you and I think we are so much more important than anybody else who died today, especially the ones we haven’t heard of as they were not newsworthy? What makes us think we are great?
What is greatness? Is greatness in how many people we kill? There are many unsung murderers whose cases were never solved. Yet, there are always those who massacred millions and we celebrate them just because they won a major war and triumphed on top of numerous innocent bones both the enemy’s and their own.
What is greatness? Is greatness in how many people we command? There are many great commanders from the greatest empires that walked the face of the earth of whom we have never heard, for their greatness threatened the puny well-stuck to their seats of power, and with their own demise, they made sure to take the memory of those great leaders with them into oblivion, and they did.
What is greatness? Is greatness in how brave we can be? Which bravery would we want to be remembered by? The foolish bravery of those poor soldiers in the Charge of the Light Brigade, the arrogant bravery of Custer’s last stand, or the wasteful bravery of those who stood their ground and won the day at Verdun? These and many other forms of bravery are present in history books, but were any of those necessary? Were any of those braver than any man thrust into combat on a front line, and died without having the chance to take a single shot, then is lost to history books as he might not even belong to the winning side? Are Custer and Petain braver than this man? Are you, am I?
What is greatness? Is greatness in how much we are worth? There are now many benefiting from the calamities of the world and making billions they can never spend, and they never put to good use, for if all people have as much, where is the greatness in that? Kings and emperors died with fortunes left to be fought over, with fortunes that brought back the tale of Cain and Abel, but never enough to sweeten the rotting of their flesh or to buy them a second longer in life.
Most people measure greatness in different amounts, measures, scales, criteria, standards of how much they take from this world, and usually the more the better. Only a few and usually unknown know to balance how much they take and how much they give. Do you, do I want to be Ozymandias, king of kings, with half a face left to breathe and the other is buried beneath the sand? Do you, do I want to be great at what we do and do what we can to give and create for this world much more than we take? Can you? Can I? I believe we can.