26 May 2007

Ozymandias' Baptists

I spent the day in Kentucky with family. A wedding being the cause. More interesting was our journey to the ancestral stomping grounds of my wonderful monther-in-law, my wife, and her sisters. Family cemetaries perched precariously high on hills looking down on the one time family farms.

Within walking distances of two Baptist churches that shared a cemetary but little else in terms of their view of scripture. Each heathen to the other. But the cemetary told a piquent tale of life, death and the hubris we humans bring to the process.

Many, many new tombstones were beautifully done and kept up with flowers and windchimes, some were older and the seasons had taken their toll on the stones, but someone was still visiting and still placing flowers. But others still, the majority had wasted away, and looked like nothing so much as a gnarled teeth fallen from a dead giant's mouth. Impossible to read the acid rain ruined ciphers their inscriptions had become. This is the hubris that tags along with all our tom foolish efforts to pretend death doesn't happen, that what we own right down to big costly pretty tombstones is somehow important. The graves stones wear away, tilt and fall to earth. Just like the empires and luminaries of past and future. There is no way to express the sadness I felt in that graveyard. I could only think of Shelley's immortal poem: Ozymandias

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.


No comments: