06 August 2015

Poetry Thursday - Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Collosal work by Igor Mitoraj at British Museum (via)


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 lips, 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.”

- Percy Bysshe Shelley (via)

Written in 1817, anthologised in 1861 and forever afterward, the poem is - through its famous line, "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings", probably Shelley's best known work. Shelley (1792-1822) might have been miffed, or surprised; no doubt he would have preferred to be remembered by one of his book-length poems, which are largely unread today. Read about its origin at economist.com/news/christmas-specials, and about contemporary travel literature luring visitors to find giant statues in the Egyptian desert, which may have inspired Shelley's image of the "vast and trunkless legs". That article offers thoughts on ruins in general, and on the contemporary Ozymandias - Napoleon - who had met his Waterloo not long before.
"heavy with historical echoes of hubris and its end" (via)
As for Ozymandias himself - the name is an alternative for Ramesses II, the Younger Memnon, ruler of Upper Egypt for 67 years in the 13th century BC, whose statue arrived at the British Museum in 1818, sparking an interest in all things Egyptian. But Shelley never saw the statue.
aka Ozymandias? (via)

No comments: