In the 11th grade, I had an impossibly old fashion English teacher, Miss Petersen. The strongest word she ever used was “Gosh!” This elderly lady loved literature, and most of all poetry. She lived for books, and desperately wanted all of us pampered Baby Boomers to love and appreciate Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, James, Eliot, and on and on as much as she did. Most of us were too stupid to appreciate the gem we had in Miss Petersen: a high school teacher who today easily could have been a professor of English literature at any university in the world–except, of course, for the political correctness angle, she, after all, was religious and conservative.
The also perfectly describes both English teachers I had at boarding school. In fact, most of what passes for English lit instruction at the college level today is a laughable mish-mash of politically correct but talentless and tawdry garbage, coupled with the deliberate avoidance of anything that does not fit into the progressive canon of works written by anybody other than white men – in other words, mostly crap.
Miss Petersen told us that the greatest poem ever written was Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “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 shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d 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.
She challenged us to memorize it: not an easy task, even though it is not long–I, for example, kept substituting “ancient” for “antique.”
Well, we could debate – and I’d be hard-pressed to pick any single work as best – but Shelley sure as hell could turn a phrase. And I learned this one early – well before being packed off to boarding school – probably in a 7th grade English class at my admittedly podunk little mid-western junion high, back when the public education system had not degenerated into the hopeless morass it is today.
It is tough to read or hear the poem without thinking about what has been happening in our country the last few days. I watched just a bit of His Mightiness’s press conference yesterday. Sickening is the kindest word I can use to label it. He had the Ozymandias “wrinkled lip and sneer.”
Yes, he does have that sneer, doesn’t he?
I just hope that one day Obama and his cohorts will come to appreciate that they, too, will suffer the fate of Ozymandias, “Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away.” Assuming, of course, that it is not our country that is covered by those “lone and level sands.”
What are you? Some kind of racist?
Anyway, Obama likes sand.