O is for Ozymandias

“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, / Look on my Works ye Mighty, and despair!”

Now as it happens, I am mighty, and I was hanging around one Thursday morning on the boundless and bare lone and level sands, and I took the opportunity to look on the works of the King of Kings, and I did not despair. What I did was guffaw. Well, first I belched, for I had just finished eating a big pie, two dozen blackbirds baked in puff pastry, with a side helping of spring onions and marmalade. I belched, and then I guffawed. Not everyone is able to emit a full-throated guffaw, in all its glory, but I can. I used to be a chuckler, but that was before I embraced my mightiness, and developed a guffaw to go with it. I was taught it by a mountebank, on a seaside pier, far away from the sands on which I was prancing on that Thursday morning.

I had been sent to inspect the works of Ozymandias by one mightier than myself, if you can imagine such a personage. This unbelievably mighty wight was so mighty he would have flicked Ozymandias from his mighty presence as if the King of Kings were a mere fly, or a bluebottle. He, my mighty employer, had not had a moment to spare to go and see the works of Ozymandias, but he had heard reports, and was aware of the accepted wisdom that looking on them could plunge him into despair. Such a prospect confounded his mighty brain, so he took me on as a sort of surveyor-emissary, at a handsome salary.

“Go thou and look upon the works of Ozymandias, King of Kings!” he boomed in his mighty baritone at the conclusion of my interview, “And make haste to return to my mighty office on the top floor of this mighty skyscraper, and tell me of your findings. Though you are a mere speck of weediness in comparison to me, you are yet sufficiently mighty to be in a position to test the authenticity of Ozymandias’ claim.”

Before leaving the skyscraper, I called in to the PX to collect a wadge of pie-coupons. As I was counting them, and calculating how many blackbird pies I would be able to devour during my survey, it so happened that the mountebank who had taught me to guffaw popped in.

“I hear you are going to look on the works of Ozymandias, King of Kings,” he said.

“Gosh, news travels mightily fast in this skyscraper,” I replied.

“That it does, that it does,” said the mountebank, “But remember, this skyscraper, mighty as it is, will one day topple, or be toppled, and be nought but dust and ashes. In fact, I have it on good authority that such topplement may well occur before you have time to return from the boundless and bare lone and level sands for which you are headed.”

“Really?” I asked.

The mountebank tapped a finger on the side of his nose in the universal gesture of conspiratorial scalliwaggery, and then he swept away, his cape billowing behind him with controlled urgency and stylish élan.

And that is why, on that Thursday morning some weeks later, I guffawed as I looked on the works of Ozymandias, King of Kings. For the mighty skyscraper had toppled, and in its topplement my mighty employer had perished. I had my fat salary, and half my wadge of pie-coupons, and a belly full of blackbird pie and spring onions and marmalade, and I need never return from the boundless and bare lone and level sands. Here I could build my own mighty works, and guffaw at the universe! Now there was none mightier than me!

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