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The Lyrics

Before Paul Muldoon wrote his new poem, we asked him how he might draw inspiration from some aspect of Shelley's Ozymandias. He said he wanted to write a very personal poem about "a moment of heartbreak in his life" and a mood of utter desolation.

The Stoic by Paul Muldoon
Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The Stoic by Paul Muldoon
 Hear the poem |  Biography
This was more like it, looking up to find a burlapped fawn
half-way across the iced-over canal, an Irish navvy who'd stood there for an age
with his long-tailed shovel or broad griffawn,
whichever foot he dug with showing the bandage

that saved some wear and tear, though not so much that there wasn't a leak
of blood through the linen rag, a red picked up nicely by the turban
he sported, those reds lending a little brilliance to the bleak
scene of suburban or - let's face it - urban

sprawl, a very little brilliance. This was more like the afternoon last March
when I got your call in St. Louis and, rather than rave
as one might rant and rave at the thought of the yew
from Deirdre's not quite connecting with the yew from Naoise's grave,

rather than shudder like a bow of yew or the matchless Osage orange
at the thought of our child already lost from view
before it had quite come into range,
I steadied myself under the Gateway Arch

and squinted back, first of all, through an eyelet of bone
to a point where the Souris
had not as yet hooked up with the Assiniboine,
back to where the Missouri

had not as yet been swollen by the Osage,
then ahead to where - let's face it - there are now two fawns
on the iced-over canal, two Irish navvies who've stood there for a veritable age
with their long-tailed shovels or broad griffawns.

Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
 Paul Muldoon talks about the feelings of desolation that Shelley's poem inspires

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.

Paul Muldoon

Poets on the Lyrics

 Andrew Motion

 Jackie Kay

 Paul Muldoon

 Fleur Adcock

Further Links

 Biography of Paul Muldoon

 The Ancestor By Paul

 Selected Poetry and Prose
    of Percy Bysshe Shelley

 Biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley

 Percy Bysshe Shelley on the
    BBC site

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