NIGHT OF THE SCORPION - Nissim Ezekiel
OZYMANDIAS - Percy Bysshe Shelley
I remember the night my mother
was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours
I met a traveller from an antique land
of steady rain had driven him
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
to crawl beneath a sack of rice.
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
Parting with his poison - flash
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
of diabolic tail in the dark room -
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
he risked the rain again.
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
The peasants came like swarms of flies
And on the pedestal these words appear --
and buzzed the name of God a hundred times
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
to paralyse the Evil One.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
With candles and with lanterns
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
throwing giant scorpion shadows
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'
on the mud-baked walls
they searched for him: he was not found.
THE UNKNOWN CITIZEN They clicked their tongues.
With every movement that the scorpion made his poison moved in
W. H. Auden
Mother's blood, they said.
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint, May he sit still, they said
And all the reports on his conduct agree May the sins of your previous birth
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint, be burned away tonight, they said.
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community. May your suffering decrease
Except for the War till the day he retired the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
He worked in a factory and never got fired, May the sum of all evil
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc. balanced in this unreal world
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views, against the sum of good
For his Union reports that he paid his dues, become diminished by your pain.
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound) May the poison purify your flesh
And our Social Psychology workers found of desire, and your spirit of ambition,
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink. they said, and they sat around
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day on the floor with my mother in the centre,
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way. the peace of understanding on each face.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured, More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured. more insects, and the endless rain.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare My mother twisted through and through,
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan groaning on a mat.
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man, My father, sceptic, rationalist,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire. trying every curse and blessing,
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year; He even poured a little paraffin
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went. upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
He was married and added five children to the population, I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation. I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame the poison with an incantation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education. After twenty hours
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: it lost its sting.
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.
My mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.