Monday, January 8, 2007

Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ozymandias"

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."



In honor of my impending trip to Egypt, this weeks theme is - Egypt! Here we have quite probably the most famous poem in the canon associated with Egypt, Shelley's timeless "Ozymandias". It provides a moral theme of the hubris of pride, symbolized by the literally ruined monument to the Ozymandias, generally considered to be the Greek transliteration of a title for the Pharoah Ramesses the Great (Ramesses II), who did indeed have many great monuments erected to himself. Though some vestige of these monuments may remain, the man himself is long gone - likewise the power which he used to create awe and on which the poem takes his pride to be based. This moral theme - of the impermanence of all power and glory, and the inevitability of decay and dissipation - is made to seem all the more objective by being displaced as the wisdom of the anonymous traveler, rather than the opinion of the speaker himself.

(Read more about Percy Bysshe Shelley here:

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