“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 lips, 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.” —”—
More P. B. Shelley for you poetry lovers. “Ozymandias,” first published January 11, 1918, is here in its entirety. See our exhibition Shelley’s Ghost for more, including an original manuscript of this poem, which has never been exhibited in the United States before.
The greatest offense is usually simply that of reading the poem as though it were a poem, in a boomingly uniform incantation that obscures nuance and texture. Fortunately, there were few such performances on display on Tuesday night at the Cooper Union’s Great Hall, where the Poetry Society of America had organized a tribute to Philip Larkin, England’s greatest post-Second World War poet, to coincide with the publication of “Complete Poems,” a clear improvement on the earlier editions, which includes each of Larkin’s collections in their original order, along with a section of uncollected and previously unpublished work, and a staggeringly thorough commentary. Like the clientele of a hyper-exclusive café, the evening’s readers—James Fenton, Saskia Hamilton, Mary Karr, Nick Laird, Katha Pollitt, Paul Simon, and Zadie Smith among them—sat in threes around small tables up on stage and took turns approaching the lectern to read a Larkin poem of choice.
- Giles Harvey writes about the Philip Larkin tribute Tuesday night at Cooper Union. Above, listen to Andrew Sullivan’s reading of “The Whitsun Weddings”: http://nyr.kr/Ibzb5y