Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair…

Disgraced boss Ken Lay dies at luxury ski chalet

· Former chairman collapses at Aspen holiday home
· Family friend says cause was massive heart attack

Andrew Clark in New York
Thursday July 6, 2006
The Guardian

The former Enron chairman whose name became a byword for boardroom deceit and corruption, Ken Lay, died in an exclusive ski resort yesterday while awaiting sentence for his involvement in America’s biggest ever corporate fraud.

Police were called to Lay’s holiday home near Aspen, Colorado, in the early hours of the morning. The 64-year-old was rushed to the casualty department of a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead by doctors.

There was no official confirmation of the cause of his death but a family friend, pastor Steve Wende of Houston’s First United Methodist Church, said Lay had suffered a massive coronary: “His death was totally unexpected. Apparently, his heart simply gave out.”

I met a traveler 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 upon 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.


Comments: 31


Yes, he deserved to die, and I hope he burns in hell!


Gavin, I stand in awe. Ozy fuckin mandias. Perfect, appropriate, and just obscure enough. Mrs. Shelly’s husband. You nailed it–the tone, the sense of loss, the feeling that it was all a story, and never a business. That it was all for show. Every time I start thinking I might make my living with the english language, somebody like you comes along and shows me how far I have to go. Thanks…



It’s the lonely-desert picture, Mikey — just a lucky find.


When I heard about this earlier today, my first, joking reaction was “Hmm… I bet he just faked his death to avoid going to jail.”

Then I read this, and now I’m not so sure it’s just a joke.

By the way, phleabo, much as I disdained Ken Lay, I would much rather have seen him in prison and in poverty — even if only relative poverty — than dead.


Oh, but Gavin, I second Mikey’s mad propz to you for finding the perfect literary tone. (I’ve always loved “Ozymandias.”)


No one “deserves to die” and no one should hope hell for anyone. That said…
“Ozymandias” is nearly a perfect epitaph, yet Shelley, were he here, might point to the words inscribed by the sculptor and say:
Look on the works of Ken Lay and despair.


My only regret is that Kenny Boy never had to put on the orange jumpsuit and get treated like the common criminal he was. He was a piece of human filth. Dying in his luxury fucking mansion in Aspen was too good for him.


Perfect. Absolutely perfect.


I fell in love with this poem back in high school – back in the day when falling in love with poetry seemed to be the thing to do.

And what a wonderfully appropriate verse it is!


Don’t mean nothin’, Jillian. I fell in love with, well, the entire “A Shropsire Lad” but “Terrence” has always been my fave–my heart is true…



Bush just read that poem and said, ‘Well, that sounds about right. I know *I* never heard of the guy.’


Well cited. Here’s another of Shelley’s on life under a ruler named George. It’s apt.

Sonnet: England in 1819

An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king,–
Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who
Through public scorn,–mud from a muddy spring,–
Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know,
But leech-like to their fainting country cling,
Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow,–
A people starved and stabbed in the untilled field,–
An army, which liberticide and prey
Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield,–
Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
Religion Christless, Godless–a book sealed;
A Senate, Time’s worst statute unrepealed,–
Are graves, from which a glorious Phantom may
Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.


Never liked Shelley, though this particular piece has always broken through my lack of enthusiasm rather well.
An apt enough epitaph, as well– good show, Gav.


Ode on a Greedy Turd

Thou still unconvict’d thief of pensions,
Thou bastard-child of deregulation,
Plund’rer, rustler, base thy intentions
In thy wake a Sea of tribulation:
What turd-stain’d legend haunts ’bout thy door
Of palms cross’d with gold, influence sought,
From Houston’s muck, no book uncooked?
What demon spawn are these? What brownouts wrought?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to steal more?
What scams and hedges? What angles crooked?

Earned capital is sweet, but that unearned
Is sweeter; so speak the Enron Boys;
Granny has no winter heat, still, she’s burn’d,
‘Tis the market, see, and they need more toys:
Brand new Porsches, cash for the ho’s
Who can blame them can fuck who fuck it?
‘Tis cruel, this world of Feast or Famine!
To be sure, though the Old Girl froze;
‘Twas no one’s fault, save that of Mammon,
The Invisible Hand was what kicked her bucket!


On a lighter (kind of) note:

There once was a huckster named Kenny
Who’d rob an orphan of her very last penny
He was bound for the Pokey
When his ticker went broke-y
Now Kenny’s in a place you sweat plenty


Ah, from the sublime to the giggle-worthy in fifteen comments.

Perhaps nobody deserves to die, but everybody does eventually. The ones Lay and his buddies robbed have died of suicides, alcoholism, homelessness, and all the various handmaidens of poverty. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few had heart attacks themselves on hearing their dreams were crushed.

Lay died in relative luxury.

I’m a bleeding heart liberal, but my heart doesn’t bleed for Lay. Prison would have been better, his assets sold to make a dent in restitution better still, and I sure wouldn’t have minded seeing him working the prison laundry at eighty, sending his dollar an hour to the should-be retirees still greeting the folks at Wal*Mart to keep from starving.

We all die, good and bad. An awful lot of people do an awful lot of suffering they don’t deserve before that. If there’s any justice, he’ll get more than just that. I’d say he can rot in hell, but I don’t believe in it. I’m a pagan.

An eternity of nothing but contemplating his life? Probably worse. And I suspect all of us will get that, sooner or later.


Shouldn’t that read “…at his wife’s holiday home in Aspen”? Wasn’t it rather famously transfered to her name to escape seizure?


He took it with him.


Well said Gavin.


As an accountant, I have to smile. This guy’s legal defense amounted to, “Boo-hoo, the accountants didn’t tell me what they were doing, and I was making too much money to pay attention.” I don’t buy it, the jury didn’t buy it, and he died with that guilty verdict hanging around his neck. It’s a cold satisfaction, but I’ll take it.


A merchant in Houston sent his servant to the market.
The servant returned, trembling and frightened. The
servant told the merchant, “I was jostled in the market,
turned around, and saw Death.

“Death made a threatening gesture, and I fled in terror.
May I please borrow your horse? I can leave Houston
and ride to Aspen, where Death will not find me.”

The master lent his horse to the servant, who rode away,
to Aspen.

Later the merchant went to the market, and saw Death in
the crowd. “Why did you threaten my servant?” He asked.

Death replied,”I did not threaten your servant. It was
merely that I was surprised to see him here in Houston,
for I have an appointment with him tonight in Aspen.”

— Old Texan Parable


What I found amazing is that, after ripping off California for billions of dollars, they STILL managed to bankrupt Enron. I mean, Jeezus.

And, this is definitely the case where death was too easy for him. The man needed to live longer to provide some kind of restitution for his crimes.


I don’t see anything particularly bad, or, on the other hand, satisfying about wishing death on people. We all “deserve” to die, because that’s life, so it’s not like advocating some cruel and unusual punishment on someone. It’s all about the timing, I guess. If the person you hate is living the life of Riley, then saying he deserves to die is sure spiteful and, I suppose, tantamount to murdering someone in your heart, so it’s wrong in that sense. But it’s not like wishing someone dead makes any difference. In the case of Lay, I’m disappointed that he checked out now. It’s not fair that he doesn’t have to either pay monetarily or live with the consequences of his filthy-greedy actions. I would have wished long life and justice on him.



Thanks, Gavin.


I came over here from Protected Static’s blog. That was brilliant! Thank you.

Interesting that it happened just mere months before his sentencing hearing…


glad to see I am not the only one who loves that poem.

Nice work Gavin.

By the way, this might help you fix the internets: http://tinyurl.com/lqa3d


He should be buried in that orange jumpsuit….


The way I would like to have seen it all play out: Kenny-boy is sentenced to a good, long prison term. Shrub does *not* pardon him, ‘cos why should *he* care? The day before Lay is to be released, he gets too excited at the prospect and drops dead of heart failure. The end,

Herr Doktor Bimler

How does that joke go?
When it’s time to die, I’d like to go quietly, in my sleep, like my uncle Jim. Not screaming, and carrying on, and making a fuss, like his passengers.


Stanley Goodspeed:
Why didn’t you just tell them were the microfilm was and create a solution?

John Mason:
The moment they knew where the microfilm was, they’d suicide me. Some solution.


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