Shelley’s Ozymandias is dug up in Cairo


At the weekly on-line poetry event that I host every Thursday, I thought, after seeing those amazing photographs from Egypt,  that I had to read the great and resounding sonnet  Ozymandias by the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822). The poem is about the impermanence of power and the legacy of monarchs and leaders. Shelley pictures the ruined statue of the great Egyptian Pharoah Ramesses II, also known as Ozymandias. Weirdly, this week, just such a statue has been excavated outside Cairo. If ever poetry and truth came together it was in Shelley’s words when looking at this photograph.


Here is Ozymandias by 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.”

It is a lesson for us all but, maybe, especially to our three would-be modern Ozymandiases:

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