Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Poetic wanderings

I woke up this morning with a poem by Shelley in my head, and then I started wandering on the Web and one thing led to another. Turned into a poetry morning.

First, by Shelley:


I met a traveler 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 upon 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.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

(Here it is with some literary criticism and other factoids.)

This poem always leaves me with a sense of victory—not for Ozy, but for subsequent civilizations. Clearly the guy was a jerk. And his ultimate irrelevance makes all his posturing hollow in retrospect.

So today I'm looking at the claims of evil the same way. They are fleeting, without real substance, and can't make good their boasts. They are a hollow sound, and even now as they're making their claims, I can see ahead to their ultimate demise. I need not fear that which struts and brags and tries to keep my attention—I can instead turn to Spirit for comfort.

Then I found Macbeth's comment along similar veins:

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I wouldn't say "life" though, rather mortality. Mortality—that which keeps us in chains—is nothingness. Only Spirit is reality, only Love, Truth. Mortality has "his hour" but in the end signifies nothing. We are and always have been spiritual, and God is revealing this to us. Yay!

And then this is just a bit of serendipity, so thought I'd include it. I wandered to this epitaph for Longfellow (be sure to check out the actual image from his gravesite):

There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portal we call Death.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Resignation" (1886-1991)

On a gravestone in Mt. Auburn Cemetery

! This looped me right around to Mary Baker Eddy, who is also buried there. Her tomb is one of the most inspiring and peaceful spots on earth. Here's some photos of Mt. Auburn, with Eddy's tomb in a distance shot as the last one in the gallery. There's a closer shot on this page, but the page itself is not nearly so uplifting. :)

I visited her tomb must be about 16 years ago now, my daughter was a toddler. You can walk right up to it, right into it in fact. And the effect is totally upward. You look up at the blue sky through the open circle above her grave, and the words from one of her poems come to mind.

Thou Love that guards the nestling's faltering flight!
Keep Thou my child on upward wing tonight.

So here's a closing poem by Eddy that I love.

Upward, by Mary Baker Eddy

From her book Poems

I've watched in the azure the eagle's proud wing,
His soaring majestic, and feathersome fling—
Careening in liberty higher and higher—
Like genius unfolding a quenchless desire.

Would a tear dim his eye, or pinion lose power
To gaze on the lark in her emerald bower?
When higher he soareth to compass his rest,
What vision so bright as the dream in his breast!

God's eye is upon him. He penciled his path
Whose omniscient notice the frail fledgling hath.
Though lightnings be lurid and earthquakes may shock,
He rides on the whirlwind or rests on the rock.

My course, like the eagle's, oh, still be it high,
Celestial the breezes that waft o'er its sky!
God's eye is upon me—I am not alone
When onward and upward and heavenward borne.

"What vision so bright as the dream in his breast!" My favorite line, so far from the ruin of Ozymandias and so full of uplift and hope. Today, we are the eagle.

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At 11/02/2005 11:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ozymandias is a great poem, one of my favorites. Yet, it tends to be a bit depressing too. This great civilization, that built these amazing statues.... and now, just sand and rubble.


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