Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Up the Harrods Escalator

I SPOTTED THESE LINES from a poem while taking the up escalator in Harrods this morning. Ozymandias. Not the whole tale of the traveller, not the whole glory and despair of the King (said to be Ramses II) but a snippet of its most vainglorious.

"My name is Ozymandias
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

That's all I could read. Even the reproduction of the Traveller's tale on Mohamad Fayed's wall is not available for viewing now. No entry. Wall under repair.

The impermanence of things, the short life of glory, the proneness of egos to self destruct. Stones crumble, walls needing repair, even glory has to be retouched. In that distant land the Traveller saw two trunkless legs of stone, and half sunk in the sand, a shattered visage. The land is far away and lonely and level sands stretch far away.

So haunting and enough to send a cold chill up the spine and a mystery wrapped in distance and time. Flatness, loneliness and decay of grandeur undone, ego falling flat on its face in the sand. How befitting, in the ostentation of Harrods that was once Mr Mohamad Al Fayed's flagship company (now the property of sand-filled Qatar). This is the territory of Arab opulence, princes of the desert drive up in their booming expensive cars just to park them by the roadside for the deprived to see. The princes, probably plebs with newly found wealth, strutting Ozymandias-like, look at my works and despair.

This is one of the most famous sonnets in the English language, in iambic pentameter. Some say this is the greatest in the language yet it was written in no more than a quarter of an hour when Percy Bysshe Shelley engaged in a playful contest with his friend Horace Smith, a poetry-scribbling stockbroker.

"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


  1. "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

    guess nothing beside remains this time too...

    it's true then what they say about the harrods' throughfare
    that there's no telling who, or what, you will meet there.
    even shelley's Ozy, literally decimated and quite wordbare,
    but familiar enough to yank your [i'm guessing] inward stare.
    while you didn't see fit to tell us what you're doing there,
    i'm glad the encounter birthed this for the reblogging fair. :-)

  2. Thank you Mekyam. It is a great honour to have you as the first commenter here. I'm sorry I can't reply in verse as yours will suffice and besides, I can't remember why I was at Harrods today. Oh yes, I know, some Malaysians wanted to see the Egyptian escalator.

  3. Don't know why this stuck in my mind...
    In the vigour of his age he married Gargamelle, daughter to the King of the Parpaillons, a jolly pug, and well-mouthed wench. These two did oftentimes do the two-backed beast together, joyfully rubbing and frotting their bacon 'gainst one another.

  4. Now where on earth did you get that you Tommy Yewfigure, you well-mouthed cad?

  5. Guess I'm losing it......sigh :(

    1. But I just love that frotting bit though. Frotting, ranks with cottaging, a peculiar English ritualistic work.

    2. trust Tommy's mind to trap something like that!

      and AG, i won't even ask what cottaging involves in English ritualistic work, but i have to say that that frotting bit give me the willies, pun totally not intended. makes me think of those nasty frotteurs on the subway... ugh!

    3. AG, was that what the careless whisper bloke George Michael did in the 90s? ;)

    4. Yep, cottaging did he, in a public amenity.

  6. Salam,
    Oh! here you are!!!!
    In the words of my 4 year old fifteen years ago "I find and find and find but I cannot find".
    Carry on writing, AG! :)