I met a traveller from an antique land


Half sunk a shattered visage lies.

Having got going in the poetry vein in my last few blogs, coincidentally a friend sent me a link to a reading of the poem Ozymandias by Bryan Cranston, who plays the  anti-hero Walter White in the cult US TV drama Breaking Bad.

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem is the basis for a trailer comprising shots of the stark, atmospheric landscape of the New Mexico desert, where Breaking Bad is set, for the latest–and final–season of the show.

I’ve heard great things about the show but never managed to watch it. Of more interest to me is simply the contemporary use of a poem that has always been one of my favorites since I discovered it in a poetry anthology at my desk in an English Literature class as a young school boy at Gilling Castle.

According to a BBC article about the use of the poem in the trailer, Ozymandias was apparently inspired by the discovery in Luxor of a statue of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II (known in Greek as Ozymandias).

At the poem’s core is an assault on the hubris of empires and their rulers, and an exposition on the futility of human existence that rails against the “lone and level sands” that stretch far away. It’s sobering stuff but worth a read–or a listen.