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 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.
Whew. Shelley just does it for me.
Sometimes I forget that my first love growing up was poetry.
Though I had dual majors in college, I was an English Lit major at heart.
Politics was fun, and stimulating, and, well, practical. But I reveled in the
literature coursework. Who wouldn’t – homework consisted of reading. Poetry,
the classics – my battered, dog-earned, written upon Norton’s Anthology of
English Literature was my most prized possession. It still is.
It all started with Tennyson. Alfred Lord, to be exact. Who
wouldn’t love the imagery, the absolute desolation of his powerful words?
When I was a little girl, I used to sneak into my parent’s
bookshelf and read. One of the first things I discovered was my mom’s book of
poetry. I sat on the floor on the other side of their bed, the door to the hall
half closed, blocking me from sight. I was a sneak thief, stealing little
moments of influence.
It was early on when I discovered it. The work so
compelling, so overwhelming that I snuck in the bedroom as often as I could to
read it again and again.
A fragment of a poem, bristling with promise, the glory its
very succinctness. The Eagle.
He clasps the crags with crooked hands;
the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls:
He watches from
his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt, he falls.
Sigh. What is it about this piece that devastates me so?
I’ve never really been able to put my finger on the why. But it opened the door
to who I am today. As a little girl, something in my very core shifted the day
I read this poem. I wanted to do that. I wanted to find a way to devastate a
reader. I wanted to create the words that would blow some other little girl
away. It was an epiphany. I started writing.
My parents, of course, knew I was rooting around in their
world. They never dissuaded me, only encouraged me. I think it tickled them,
their towheaded tomboy in love with words. I read everything I could, tried my
hand at writing. Found a vocation. An all-consuming vacuum to get lost in,
over, and over, and over. Words.
Quick fast forward through college. I tried my hand at the
B-school, but did horribly. The only class I succeeded in that year was
English. So I, ahem, transferred schools. But I had to take a semester off, so
I worked on a political campaign. Got bit by another bug. When I enrolled at Randolph-Macon
Woman’s College, I declared two majors, Politics and English Lit. The politics
was fun for a long time, but my romantic soul got too disillusioned to continue
in the field. Where did that leave me? Well, Norton’s Anthology was on the
Not to give anything away, but ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS has some
of my favorite poems on the pages. Just not the way you’d imagine.
Where did all this come from, you ask? Today’s Writer’s
Almanac had the poem Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Good
old Percy. Loved him. Loved Ozymandias. It made me remember the moment
in college when I read it and felt that same tingle of devastation that I’d had
so many years before when I read The Eagle. Sometimes, a short piece of
art is just as good as an ode, you know?
I read Oz today, and my heart filled up with that
indescribable love again. I forget my roots too often. I labor over my words
when I should read the Romantics – learn how to write, how to reach, how to
influence all over again.
Thanks for indulging my trip down memory lane. I think
Norton and I have a date.
So tell me, what was your inspiration? Can you trace it to a moment in time?
Wine of the Week — For all you romantics out there —
Just saying it is sexy, the wine itself is outstanding. Decant and let it breathe for at least 30 minutes.
I’ve been hopelessly discriminatory when it comes to you
white wine lovers. I’m sorry about that – white wine gives me migraines, so I
avoid it outside of baking. So, in an attempt to be fair, I will be adding a
White Wine of the Week – just realize that it’s not MY taste buds guiding the
selection, rather the taste buds and tasting menu of someone I trust.
White Wine of the Week —
LATE BREAKING NEWS — SPINETINGLER IS LIVE
Click on the link to see this great new issue, including my short story KILLING CAROL ANN.