Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chase,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.–
Thanks to Mary Ann Sullivan for this photo of the Temple of Ramesses
If, expecting another poem, you are doubting your memory…fear not. This poem by Horace Smith was called Ozymandias in the beginning and later had a name change to “On A Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below” I discovered this on wonderful Wikipedia. Countless people, myself included, have been inspired by the poem Ozymandias, and I am talking about the one written by Shelley. Why? For me it’s the rhythm of the lines. But it’s also the arrangement of the words.
‘My name is Ozymandias King of Kings’ ….
It’s quite a statement that…mostly nouns too, which make it more powerful. And that name…Ozymandias. If it was Bill that line would have a lot less impact. But note the corresponding line (below) in the poem by Horace Smith.
‘”I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings;
It doesn’t have the same dramatic impact does it? Have a look at Shelley’s poem below and see what you think. Is it a better poem or just more memorable?
OZYMANDIAS by Percy Bysshe Shelley
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.
Shelley and Smith were friends and wrote the above sonnets in competition. Their inspiration was the forthcoming arrival to the British museum of the head of Ramsses 11 from Egypt. The name Ozymandias comes from a Greek transliteration of the throne name of Ramesses 11.
If you want to know more about Rameses 11 and the amazing events which inspired the above, I recommend this excellent link from the BBC.
Please return to the Tuesday Poem Hub here and enjoy this week’s offerings. The topic of my next post will be Flamenco poetry. Until then I’m off to Auckland. Have a great week!