Tag Archives: Ozymandias

Doug’s Raft

25 Jun

A counterpoint to the recent FridayFictioneers picture of the blue damselfly perched on a rock, mellon, or, more forebodingly, a skull as envisioned in Kathy McClure’s story, Sobibor.

This image is of a fossilized dragonfly that is around 350 million years  old.

That’s a lot of water under the bridge, but only a couple of days in eternity. We are here for a short while and in a blink of an eye we are gone; smoke through a keyhole.

Lord Dunsany captured the futility of writing in the following work and his words are ever on my mind as I struggle in the rising water.

THE RAFT-BUILDERS

All we who write put me in mind of sailors hastily making rafts upon doomed ships.

When we break up under the heavy years and go down into eternity with all that is ours our thoughts like small lost rafts float on awhile upon Oblivion’s sea. They will not carry much over those tides, our names and a phrase or two and little else.

They that write as a trade to please the whim of the day, they are like sailors that work at the rafts only to warm their hands and to distract their thoughts from their certain doom; their rafts go all to pieces before the ship breaks up.

See now Oblivion shimmering all around us, its very tranquility deadlier than tempest. How little all our keels have troubled it. Time in its deeps swims like a monstrous whale; and, like a whale, feeds on the littlest things—small tunes and little unskilled songs of the olden, golden evenings—and anon turneth whale-like to overthrow whole ships.

See now the wreckage of Babylon floating idly, and something there that once was Nineveh; already their kings and queens are in the deeps among the weedy masses of old centuries that hide the sodden bulk of sunken Tyre and make a darkness round Persepolis.

For the rest I dimly see the forms of foundered ships on the sea-floor strewn with crowns.

Our ships were all unseaworthy from the first.

There goes the raft that Homer made for Helen.

Percy Bysshe Shelly expressed much the same sentiment in his famous sonnet.

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”.

 (The picture above is Shelley’s original first draft of Ozymandias.)

Knowing that I will “break up under the heavy years and go down into eternity…” is a daunting prospect. It makes me want to focus, to see better and more clearly, to experience fully, and to write what I can for those who follow. It also makes me want to just stop writing and start walking; to begin the journey of a thousand miles and let the world and everyone on it chart their own course absent my input.

I don’t know who’s going to win that contest, but in the meantime I try to build the very best rafts that I can.

Oblivion can wait for a bit. It’s got time.

The Ghost of a Machine

9 Oct

 

Can you see it? What it is? What it once was?

Look closely. A lump of disparate parts welded together by rust and years of the sea’s patient work. Out of this mass of corroded parts a hint of structure emerges. Tap the knowledge of men who have forged metal into objects that carve and shape our world and you will see. Order and structure will become apparent and the image will change. The work of time and tide will give way to a vision of many years past.

In an engine room of a vessel of unknown origin a brightly painted engine thrums with power and purpose, valves rising and falling in a blur to the cadence of three pistons connected to a stout crank assembly. Shaft line components angle down slightly and a spinning shaft disappears aft through a seal and into the water to turn a three bladed bronze prop. Fuel is atomized and ignited and the confined explosions are harnessed to drive the vessel against wind and waves. A robust framework of timber and iron supports the engine and keeps the sea at bay.

On its last journey this vessel carried cargo and people, hopes, dreams, and most of all, intent.

Can you see it now? What was? And the time in which it existed?

What combination of events conspired to cast ashore the craft whose beating heart was this engine? Weather? Pilot error? Was it a broken fuel line in a fierce southern storm? And what of the passengers and crew? How many survived the tumult and tumbling surf to reach shore safely, gather on the beach and decide what to do? Did they all walk along a dry and waterless coast to the nearest town or did just one or two intrepid souls make the journey and then return with help? What happened here so long ago?

Can you see it?

The engine sits in the break zone and slowly gives up its form to the years.

Do machines have ghosts?

 

This one does.