In Praise of Words
I can't say there was any one book or poem that made me love reading - my parents read to me from the time I was born, and I've been an avid self-reader since I was about four years old. Growing up, a lot of what I read was science fiction, and my imagination took flight with stories that took me into outer space, to new planets, inside the human body, or introduced me to aliens and species I had never before encountered. I still love the genre, and it is my preferred form for writing, as well.
There is one poem, though, that has haunted me ever since I encountered it; and perhaps it, more than any other work, made me aware of how beautiful words themselves could be and how, together, those words could create an unforgettable scene. That work was the sonnet “Ozymandias," written by the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and first published in the 11 January 1818 issue of The Examiner in London. Its words, though written 199 years ago, are as vivid and true today as they were then. In his hubris, Ozymandias feeds upon the hearts of his people while building such magnificent structures that he proclaims, "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Yet as the poem's traveller sees the wreck of the king's statue in the desert, he notes that "nothing beside remains." Whatever he was, whatever he built, Ozymandias has been forgotten by Time. It is a cautionary tale to those of us who would think we are like gods in our demeanor and endeavors. It would be a good poem for our current president to read and commit to memory. We are all but players on a stage, to quote Shakespeare, and we are all subject to the ravages of Time.