Frankenstein’s Husband: Insights on America’s Future If We Don’t Improve Our Act


Percy Bysshe Shelley.jpg
There is a great website out there, Poem of the Week, that is run anonymously by a good friend of mine.
This week’s poem is Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was born in 1792 and was “a renowned atheist and proponent of ‘free love’ when such things were decidedly unfashionable.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley is probably best known as husband of the brilliant author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley.
When I read this poem, the image that came to mind was a faltering America stranded in the eroding sands of the Middle East.
I can just imagine someone eventually pointing to a map of the world and then to the U.S. saying, “They used to be big. . .”

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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.

Poignant. . .
— Steve Clemons


13 comments on “Frankenstein’s Husband: Insights on America’s Future If We Don’t Improve Our Act

  1. Father Ted says:

    “All those years we spent jubilant,
    seeing the trifling, cowering world from the height of our shining saddles,
    brawling our might across the earth as we forged an empire,
    I never questioned . . .
    It seemed so clear–our fate was to rule. That’s what I thought at the time.
    But perhaps we were merely deafened for years
    by the din of our own empire-building,
    the shouts of battle, the clanging of swords, the cries of victory.”
    — Aeschylus, “The Persians”


  2. ariadne says:

    Having recently completed a novel on Mary Shelley and her brilliant poet of a husband, I find it refreshing to see him identified through her. She was one of his most dedicated editors, and spent much of her life after his untimely death collecting his works—which he had scrawled in an almost illegible hand. Without her, we might never have known Ozymandias.
    Mary Shelley was famous in her day as the author of Frankenstein. Shelley’s fame came slowly, over time, after his death. Of course he is one of the greatest English poet’s who ever lived and anyone who has studied English literature knows his worth, but I’d venture to say that he would enjoy hearing himself remembered as Mary Shelley’s husband.
    Read Valperga to see why. Though mostly unknown, it’s her best novel; a political history that explores the clash between Machiavellian despotism and democracy through the eyes of a woman who is ultimately killed by the man she once loved. She dies because she stands against tyranny and fights for democracy in a time when most women would never dare venture so much as an opinion on the matter. Written just before her husband drowned, Valperga’s set in Dante’s Italy—Shelley thought it her best work.


  3. Den Valdron says:

    “Shelley is best known as the husband of the woman who wrote Frankenstein….”
    I’m going to go somewhere and lie down now.


  4. cldsquared says:

    Yet Ozymandias remains.


  5. David says:

    I find myself taking “Ozymandias” to a much broader stage, namely the entire planet, because of having watched us consistently and at an ever accelerating pace, and relentlessly since we clearly knew better at least three decades ago, lose the battles to prevent, or even significantly ameliorate, global environmental devastation in all its terrible forms. Al Gore got it right in EARTH IN THE BALANCE when he identified the culprit as the logic of modern civilization, a logic which is myopic and utterly illogical in any larger sense. I wonder what would stand as Ozymandias, perhaps the stone quartet in South Dakota? And which one would most likely utter this sad commentary?


  6. Marcia says:

    PS: I find astonishing that Shelly be considered only as the husband of Mary Shelly, who most certainly was an exceptional woman, but who was not the poetic giant that he was.
    I fear Steve is experiencing the sudden knowledge that nothing lasts, that all fires burn out. That is why there are artists… who would all like for time to suspend its flight.


  7. Marcia says:

    “The lone and level sands” no longer strech far away from that sunken head. There is now a parking lot for tourists near by and and a plan to hoist the head back to the top of the statue.
    I had a copy of the poem when I visited the Ramesseum about ten years ago but the view has more than changed since the time of Shelly.


  8. Les says:

    Personally, I thought Hillary as Big Brother showed how far we’ve slipped.
    Shelley wrote the poem as a political commentary on events of his day long since forgotten. While most political literature has the half life of a Jay Leno monologue, some touch a truth that timeless and universal.
    And to call Mary Shelley’s acid commentary on the then new industrial age a potboiler is a bit unfair. Perhaps a better high school?


  9. Mike Gredell says:

    Sorry, but Percy Bysshe Shelly is one of the giants of English poetry of the romantic period, and Mary Shelly is the author of a potboiler.


  10. Steve Clemons says:

    Charlie — you went to a better high school than I did…but I get your point.
    Steve Clemons


  11. charlie says:

    citing poems from high school is a sign of how far we’ve slipped.


  12. Carroll says:

    Chilling how apt that is.
    Everytime I think of Appointment in Samara I get the same feeling, wondering if it is Iraq already or is going to be Iran.


  13. Matthew says:

    W’eve had two “Nixon Administrations” in the last 30 years. How many Nixon Administrations before we go Peronista…..?


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