Fame and power in human beings is a relative thing. I knew a man who was quite famous in one country. His picture was on billboards and posters. He was on tv. People would wait for hours to great him. Yet in his home country, he was unknown. A lovely pleasant interesting man, but not the least famous.
Power too is all in perception. A king is only a king because others think him so.
Time is distance too. When time makes a king unknown; the king’s power is all in the people who visit – and in this case it is those who died nearby. The king is now a lamppost, a sign or marker. He is nothing himself.
ROME AT THE PYRAMID OF CESTIUS NEAR THE GRAVES OF SHELLEY AND KEATS (1887)
Who, then, was Cestius,
And what is he to me?
-Amid thick thoughts and memories multitudinous
One thought alone brings he.
I can recall no word
Of anything he did;
For me he is a man who died and was interred
To leave a pyramid
Whose purpose was exprest
Not with its first design,
Nor till, far down in Time, beside it found their rest
Two countrymen of mine.
Cestius in life, maybe,
Slew, breathed out threatening;
I know not. This I know: in death all silently
He does a kindlier thing,
In beckoning pilgrim feet
With marble finger high
To where, by shadowy wall and history-haunted street,
Those matchless singers lie . . .
—Say, then, he lived and died
That stones which bear his name
Should mark, through Time, where two immortal
It is an ample fame.