Posted in Reading

Trumpymandias – Two Poems to Console and Inspire Us in the Age of President Trump

A post inspired by the reading event I attended at Westonbirt School last week

Last Thursday I spent a very pleasant evening at Westonbirt School judging the Inter-House Reading Competition, a pleasant and friendly contest between the pupils of this private boarding and day school for girls, just down the road from where I live. Cosy in the elegant bubble that is the beautiful library of this Grade I listed former stately home, I was glad to escape for a little while from the frightening madness that is our current political scene.

Twenty competitors, representing their houses, had to choose and prepare a text for reading, and there was a pleasing mix of old favourites such as Roald Dahl’s Matilda and JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit nestling among many novels that were entirely new to me.

Just two of them preferred to read a poem, and it was only this afternoon, back in the rainy, real world, that I realised I’d missed a trick. Although I thought to point out to them the value of books and reading as comfort blankets in times of stress, I should have congratulated those two girls for choosing poems that are particularly fortifying and reassuring in our present political climate:

  • Rudyard Kipling’s If, first published in 1895, always a powerful reminder to stand up for what you believe
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias, first published 1818, on the transient nature of power

They are in any case two of my favourite poems in any case, but I think it’s especially pertinent now to reread and digest them.

I would particularly like Donald Trump to read Ozymandias, but:

  • (a) he has stated that he never reads books, so the likelihood of him plunging into poetry seems unlikely
  • (b) the title alone has more syllables than he is comfortable with in a single word (a fact not unrelated to point (a) above)

There can’t be many people unfamiliar with If, but you can read it here on the Poetry Foundation site.

I think Ozymandias is probably less well-known, so I make no apology for reproducing it below, as well as sharing the excellent reading of it that I found on YouTube at the top of this post.

Ozymandias
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.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley
I only hope that we see the wreck of our modern day Ozymandias without the reduction of the world as we know it to “lone and level sands”.

Author:

Optimistic author, blogger, journalist, book reviewer and public speaker whose life revolves around books. Her first love is writing fiction, including the new Sophie Sayers Village Mystery novels (out 2017), short stories and essays inspired by her life in an English village. She also writes how-to books for authors and books about living with Type 1 diabetes. She is Author Advice Centre Editor and and UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) Advice Centre blog, an ambassador for the children's reading charity Readathon, and an official speaker for the diabetes research charity JDRF.

6 thoughts on “Trumpymandias – Two Poems to Console and Inspire Us in the Age of President Trump

    1. I’m not usually particularly interested in politics, so I know things are extreme when I get absorbed by them. Last night I woke up at 5am not worrying about my tax return, which I now have less than 48 hours to complete, but about the impact of Trump.

  1. A consoling post – consoling in the sense that there are so many of us out here feeling fear, sadness and trepidation for what lies ahead. How do we explain to our children that, after all the history of 20th century, we have in power such reactionary, dangerous and divisive figures? They deserve better.

    1. They surely do. Not usually a political animal, I find myself unable to sit still and say nothing, because as we all know, all that it takes for evil is to prevail is for good men to do nothing.

Join the conversation - leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s