08 January 2011

Oxymandias Meme, Conclusion

As I said yesterday, Graves returns to this theme -- the boast of immortality for one's achievements juxtaposed with posterities actual ignorance thereof.

Certainly his best use of it is in a poem straightforwardly titled, "To Evoke Posterity." You can find it for yourself here.

The first stanza states the theme:

"To evoke posterity
Is to weep on your own grave,
Ventriloquizing for the unborn...."

Subsequent stanzas get increasingly derisive toward those who think they will receive some posthumous reverence. How great will it be, exactly, "To be cast in bronze for a city square,/ To dribble green in times of rain/ And stain the pedestal"?

If you are written up in the history books, what then, the narrative voice asks. You will just be "two more dates of life and birth" for the study of boys and girls. But they won't study you anyway, because all the ones "of mettle" will play truant, "and worn excuses try."

Altogether a very lively poem.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.