Posted by: ritagone | August 24, 2016

Memorials That Last and That Don’t

When we were in London last month, we visited the amazing Victoria & Albert Museum, and as we wandered the halls of that illustrious place, we came upon a marble statue, a monument in memory of Emily Georgiana Finch-Hatton, countess of Winchilsea (nee Bagot), second wife of George Finch-Hatton, 10th Earl of Winchilsea and 5th Earl of Nottingham. The countess wrote this eulogy herself to give to her husband to comfort him once she was dead. It is one of the central pieces of the sculpture hall of the V&A Museum. Not much else is left of either the Earl or his second wife but this beautifully intact memorial.

 

When the knell rung for the dying

         Soundeth for me

And my corse coldly is lying

Neath the green tree

When the turf strangers are heaping

         Covers my breast

Come not to gaze on me weeping

         I am at rest.

All my life coldly and sadly

         The days have gone by

I who dreamed wildly and madly

Am happy to die.

Long since my heart has been breaking

         Its pain is past

A time has been set to its aching

Peace comes at last.

Sacred to the memory of Emily Georgiana

The Beloved Wife

Of George William

Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham

Who

Died July the 10th 1848

Aged 39 and was

Buried in the chancel of Ewerby Church

Lincolnshire

 

 

 

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.”

 

Then there’s “Ozymandias,” a sonnet written in the early 19th century by Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a beautiful reminder to us all that our vanity often tells us we are greater than we think we are. Ozymandias, thinking he was indeed “king of kings,” is now no more than two legs of stone and a shattered head buried in the sand, powerless and puny.

I love this poem, because it puts us all in our place. When I was staring at the beautiful Carrara marble work in the museum, I couldn’t help but compare Ozymandias with Emily Georgiana, whose legacy of love and comfort to her husband lives on in this piece that has outlasted her, her husband, their estate and probably a great deal more connected to their lives. There it sits, as people walk by and stop to read her poem, as I did many many years after she wrote it. She wasn’t bragging about how great and mighty she was; she was merely trying to bring some solace to her husband because she knew he would mourn her passing, and she wanted him to understand that she would be at peace.

Two statues, two points of view, two legacies.

What’s your legacy to those around you? What kind of statue would you want to leave those you love? Maybe this is a good time to ask yourself that very important but difficult question, before it’s too late.

Are you going to be an Ozymandias or an Emily Georgiana?

 

ozymandias-ppt-8-7282016-07-20 10.53.382016-07-20 10.53.57

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