Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Read & Write - Favourite Poem

I've always loved poetry. As a teenager I used to write pretentious, surrealistic poetry. Thankfully none of that exists anymore but it started a lifelong love with rhythm and rhyme.

As a student and later a teacher of English Literature I have read many poems over the years - and yes, I've analysed the heck out of most of them! This is sad in a way as poetry should speak to your soul, it should sing to you and touch your emotions, it shouldn't be subjected to endless analysis. But hey, that's what us literature students and teachers do!

I have many favourite poems, some long like Under Milk Wood, and some short. I enjoy the writing of many different poets such as Yeats, Keats, Wendy Cope, Roger McGough, Christina Rossetti. So choosing just one poem as my favourite was really hard. Depending on my mood I turn to different poems; if I'm feeling romantic I turn to He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven; if I'm feeling sad then Ode On Melancholy is the poem of choice. But if I had to choose one poem to read again and again then there is only one choice.

Ozymandias - 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 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.  

Don't ask me why I love this poem so much. Maybe it's because it's written by Shelley, my favourite Romantic and idol. Yes I know he was a deeply flawed human being and the way he treated women was appalling but I can't help but love him. He was a truly free spirit and lived according to his beliefs. This sonnet isn't typical Shelley but it's the poem of his that I turn to again and again. I love the image it conjures up of the ancient relic in an endless desert, I love the message about the transient nature of human power.

So there it is, my favourite poem. What's yours?

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