When I first became interested in books and writing, poetry never spoke to me. Frankly, I appreciate them though they aren’t necessarily my cup of tea. That being said there have been poems that have remained with me; poems such as Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost and I rather enjoyed Jim Morrison’s book of poetry The American Night. It is however Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Ozymandias that shaped the present fate of Armistice in my novel.
The themes of power, vanity and the decay of civilization to the forces of nature have always painted a haunted reality in mind. I imagine a desert world where the remnants of achievements inspire nostalgia and not hope. It’s a bleak and heartless sort of poem, a film noir poem if you will. The subject is a tyrant and the message of the poem riddled with cold irony. I mean, Ramses being immortalized for his arrogance instead of his achievements, does it get any more noir than that?
Recently, the poem reappeared in pop culture with Bryan Cranston’s soul crushing recital of the poem for Breaking Bad. Throw in some amazing cinematography and you have something quite amazing and terrifying. The eerie and parallel lives of two tyrants one named Walter and the other, Ramses. Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it:
In Ozymandias and the Colossus, readers will be introduced to the world of armistice and a get glimpse of the events that have turned it into a wasteland. It’s a chapter that in many ways a preview of what is to come in the story, and it is also an introduction to the duality of the planet’s identity. Like Ozymandias, the so called “king of kings”, Armistice was a once a place of ambition, vanity, innovation and a community of the zeitgeist of the universe.
Remnants of cities hint of technology advancing to the point that they can be interacted with the mind. Old stores still display shiny images of AI modules and in the sky gene replacement ads blare on fading billboards still advertising the chance to become an entirely different person within twenty-four hours. In the present, only irradiated sands and gutted earth surround the broken and ruined keepsakes from the gilded age of Armistice.
Something else has however survived from that age: a fiery determination, and the desire to once again rise above cruelties of life in Armistice. Old movies and music has preserved the old time beliefs of fighting against injustice, overcoming the odds, and following dreams. In many ways, the survivors combat the horrific destruction with the relentless determination and optimism that these movies used to prortray. Though I am a classic movies fan, the inspiration for this other half of the planet’s psyche was inspired by an even more famous poem.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These are words that are written on the Statue of Liberty by Emma Lazarus. The poem is called: The New Colossus. They are powerful and appropriate words for the place that it calls home. America after all was built by immigrants from every corner of the world. It’s still today a melting pot of cultures and ideas. A similar phenomena is running rampant on Armistice as new traditions, religions and symbols of ideas emerge in the psyche of a people determined to achieve a great destiny.
A destiny that has never been promised by fate, or hinted at by the past or present. It is a delicate belief that is guarded fiercely by a people who have to fight to have anything at all. The opening chapter of Ozymandias and the Colossus is really a study of how these two very different realities conflict but are forced to coexist out of necessity.
So there you have it. I didn’t want to get into too many details, because there are going to be changes when I begin to edit, but I hope I have been able to explain the cornerstones of the chapter.