OldNewTabletsThe One Page Poetry Circle will gather to discuss Poetry and Antiquity and Modernity on December 10.

Charles Baudelaire is said to have coined the term “modernity” (modernité) to signify the impermanence of our urban life, and the responsibility of art to represent it. Every generation receives inspiration from the classics. And what’s old is new again! Heroes are re-imagined by subsequent time periods so that many poetic depictions exist of Achilles, Odysseus, Medea, and others, while the Kennedy years are likened to Camelot and T. S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock states, “I am not Prince Hamlet.”

In his beautiful sonnet, “Ozymandias,” (Greek for Ramses), Percy Bysshe Shelley tells the story of finding a monolith of the great Pharaoh of ancient Egypt:

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.”

For an even more contemporary take, the poet Morris Bishop replaces the last three lines with this playful twist:

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!’
Also the names of Emory P. Gray,
Mr. and Mrs. Dukes, and Oscar Baer
of 17 West 4th Street, Oyster Bay.”

What do you have to say about Poetry and Modernity, or anything else about poetry?

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