Ozymandian Melancholy

I didn’t think To Rome with Love was one of Woody’s best, but I kept ruminating about the syndrome–Ozymandian melancholy–  “suffered” by the Alec Baldwin and Ellen Page characters.  “Ozymandias” is a sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley that my father read to me over and over again when I was about 6 or 7.  It is basically the story of an enormous statue decaying in the desert that was built to last forever by an arrogant king to show his omnipotence and fame.  So  Ozymandian melancholy is all about the realization that nothing lasts forever, that all success is fleeting, that existence is temporary.


I met a traveler 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.

So, here are some things that make me experience the Ozymandian melancholy:

I remember who I was and where I was when I first saw this movie. Watching it today gives me that sweet/painful feeling because I no longer understand why I thought it was the greatest movie ever.

It made perfect sense to me at the time that Ben would snatch ____away from her marriage to a dull, ordinary jock. Now….not so sure.

Ruins of a once powerful civilization. “Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Lend me your ears…” I am at once bemused by the wreckage of time and amused at the memory of laughing over this line in English class  when we read “Julius Caesar.”

Old family portraits and dusty attic relics give that melancholy feeling. What was going through their minds as they stood there? Did they imagine they would live forever?  They must have had hope, and plans and dreams and now they don’t exist. Did they realize those plans?  So what.

More Ozymandian melancholy stuff: Old trophy cases with tarnished awards; old year books and reunions; pictures of aging child stars; old book stores with a whiff of dust and decay.   I’m sure you can come up with more.  You’re welcome to try!

Categories: wisdom

2 replies

  1. In tomorrow’s post I will nominate you for the Inspiring Blog Award. Congratulations.

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