This is the family at Memphis, with the statue of Ramses II
This afternoon I watched a short clip of an interview of the current Indian sports sensation Neeraj Chopra. When asked about the recent celebrity status acquired by him after the Olympic win, he asserted that he would like to place all star-ratings at a distance, for they are dangerous proposals for sports and sportspersons. This profound humility by an achiever takes me back to a two-hundred-year-old sonnet that is a metaphor for the pride and hubris of all humanity.
I first read ‘Ozymandias’ by Shelley back in school. I was no more than fourteen. What did I know of pride and political power except for that which appeared in glazed history books! With my limited understanding of vanity, I still found the poem discerning. As a little backstory, we were told that the genesis of the sonnet was a discussion between Percy Bysshe Shelley (the poet) and his friend Horace Smith about the annihilation of the once great empire of Egypt. The reference, was particularly to Rameses II and his dismantled statue as also to his excessive pride.
However, I intend to give neither an explanation nor a summary of the poem here. (If it interests you, a detailed analysis can be found here). I only wish to speak of the influence of one of Shelley’s most powerful pieces on my own writing. For that, we must first read the poem here.
I would like to quote a few lines from the poem that I always go back to.
‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains.’
That the greatest of all must finally turn to dust is a lesson I learnt long ago. The theme of the poem formed the basis of my amateur piece titled ‘Agony of War’, written in 1995. Here are a few lines which I penned as a young teen.
‘I weep silent tears
and count the wrinkles of vanity
on this vain human visage.
yet basking in the glory of
Reading your more than two-decade old writing is a little weird. And although I know that my words were anything but neat, I do feel proud of them.
I read Ozymadias once again during graduation (1999) and it led to the writing of ‘Through the Years…’ Sharing an excerpt,
‘Rosy hues don’t live that long.
Life comes home
to self and me,
when begins an annihilation.
The anarchist “I” must destroy
all the bonds and the ties.’
In 2018 I got a chance to visit Egypt and to see for myself the statue of Ramses II. It brought back memories of Ozymandias and gave rise to a Hindi poem titled, ‘Kyu Dambh Hun Main’ which I wrote keeping the same theme in mind. Here is an excerpt,
मैं तो एक कण हूँ
विशाल समय का एक क्षण हूँ,
धरातल पर बहता सा
एक भ्रम हूँ,
शायद मैं छल हूँ,
बस आज हूँ
नही कल हूँ मैं।
मैं अथाह सागर
एक बूंद हूँ,
रत्ती भर हूँ
पर्वत की चट्टान नही
ज़र्रे सी लुप्त हूँ,
ब्रह्माण्ड मे उल्का सी
फिर भी क्यों दंभ हूँ मैं,
पर घमंड हूँ मैं।
Ozymandias has thus been a huge inspiration.
This post is part of # Blogchatter Half Marathon and I am introducing myself through some of the poems, prose pieces, monologues that shaped the writer in me.