SNAPSHOT: Ozymandias 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”
(source: The Literature Network)
If ever there was a piece of poetry that perfectly captures the almost-vanquished Walter White (Bryan Cranston) rags-to-riches-to-rags journey through the violent world of the meth trade, it’s this 1818 sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
It’s a work of poetry by the highly celebrated English Romantic poet that is highly redolent of hubris and its empty promises of eternal glory and power, a spell that has bewitched a man who started out simply wanting to provide for his family once his recently-diagnosed cancer had claimed him.
Instead what claimed him was a lust for power and control, both far more deadly in their own ways than the cancer coursing through his veins, and poetntially far more ruinous.
Just how ruinous an end it might be – Bryan Cranston himself thinks his character’s death would be a fitting end to the show which commences the final eight episode of its final season on 11 August in USA on AMC – is vividly brought to life as Cranston sombrely intones Shelley’s highly evocative telling of Ozymandias (Ramses 2) whose unwavering sense of his own immortality was no match for the power of time itself.
His haunting reading of the sonnet accompanies time lapse images of the New Mexico, both rural and urban, including Walter’s own residence, all of them a fitting reminder of the impermanence of man’s achievements.
Yes, it reminds us, even Walter White, the great and cruel Walter White, will be brought low by time’s unsparing hand.
Just how low will be brought home on 11 August at 9pm.