Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Ruins make us pause in wonder.


Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe 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 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.

This poem, which dates for 1818, was cited at the beginning of Jared Diamond’s Collapse : How societies choose to fail or succeed, a book examining the history and causes of past societal collapses and practical lessons for managing an environmentally and humanly sustainable future.

The photo is of Pueblo Indian (Anasazi) dwellings built around 1200 A.D., from the Mesa Verde National Park, a site I’m hoping to visit this summer during my road trip in the U.S. Southwest.