Ozymandias and the shaky throne - Shelley
The fourth poem in the sonnet series was written a little more than 200 years ago. I believe it is a poem that speaks to our times. This juggernaut of broken futures that we call a country is being driven by a man who seems to be a self absorbed prick. We should be ashamed and embarrassed that we have given him the keys to our "development".
Today as Modi is asking other power-drunk "leaders" to see his "work" in Kashmir, it is apt, I think, to be reminded that power is short lived. Dynasties and civilsations perish and make way for the new. Carl Sagan talks of how we are but a pale blue dot in the larger scheme of things - the ever expanding universe.
Few things last. In fact, good art, or poetry outlasts tyrannous kingdoms and fascist regimes. Words live on. This dream of a Hindu rashtra has an expiry date. Shelley knew this, he was writing about an Egyptian Pharaoh much before his time (close to 5 hundred years). Even Ramses II's work has turned into dust, much like our dear prime minister's "ache din".
Shelley's poem reminds me of another poet- an urdu poet - Habib Jalib who comments
on the irony of megalomania...
तुम से पहले वो जो एक शख़्श यहां तख़्त-नशीं था उसको भी अपने खुदा होने पे इतना ही यकीं था
Percy Shelley's "Ozymandias"
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