Percy Bysshe Shelley

Nothing Beside Remains

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)


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 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.”

The Most Important Thing

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, February 2, 2013

Excerpt from "This Whole World Is a Poem," by Michael Sowder, Shambhala Sun, March 2013:

At the beginning of every semester, as cottonwoods wave their yellow prayer flags or wait with buds encased in snow, I tell my aspiring poets that the thing I most want them to get out of my class isn't how to create a powerful poetic voice, or how to use metaphors and rhyme, or how to get published and become famous. I tell them that the most important thing I hope they'll take away from my class is how to pay attention to their lives. 

I tell them that the nineteenth-century English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley said poetry's purpose is "to remove the scales of familiarity from our eyes." Shelley saw how we become habituated to people, landscapes, and things. He observed how we walk around lost in our thinking minds, on automatic pilot, and no longer experience what's around usthe shadows of ash-tree leaves on my desk, a crow cawing in the distance, the voices of children rising from the street. Emerson knew this, too. He said, "To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again." I want my students to see that poems are all around them, that we find our originality in the uniqueness of the present moment. 

Which Those Who Live Call Life

Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread,--behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it--he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.