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Poetry > Ozymandias

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message 17: by Henry (new)

Henry You're welcome Julia.

I've just been yesterday at the British Museum again where the now installed a picture showing that their Ramesses is actually just one of the smaller ones at the Ramesseum. Amazing!
I envy you for having been there.

I haven't finished Breaking Bad yet, but will in a few weeks (or days?) and then I will watch your video.

message 16: by Julia (last edited Nov 30, 2013 09:31AM) (new)

Julia (JuliaStrimer) Thanks, Alana--and to think that this poem was chosen to end the TV show "Breaking Bad" shows that Shelley's sonnet is really in the public consciousness.

In fact, I like this youtube of Bryan Cranston reading the poem; his voice carries that sense of time passing.

message 15: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 714 comments Again, that missing "like" button :)

message 14: by Julia (new)

Julia (JuliaStrimer) I know I'm resurrecting an old thread, but just have to thank you, Henry, for the British Museum link. When my brother and I went to Egypt, we sat by the broken granite statue of Ramses II at the Ramesseum (Mortuary Temple of Ramses II)--and read Ozymandias together.

message 13: by Henry (new)

Henry @Alana:

Shelley was inspired to this poem by the colossal bust of Ramesses II. which arrived in London in 1818.

You can read more about it here:

message 12: by Ken (new)

Ken Brimhall (kenbrimhall) All power will corrode and die. If you're a victim of torture today, it's irrelevant.

message 11: by Jacob (new)

Jacob Loving the Larkin poem. Fantastic poet. I need to read this one a couple more times before commenting on it.

message 10: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 714 comments Isn't Ozymandius supposed to have a connection with Rameses II? I thought I remembered studying that somewhere, that this statue exists in one of his former strongholds. (I started The Rise And Fall Of Ancient Egypt earlier this year, arguably the nerdiest thing I have ever done, and the amount of information in it is incredible, got me really thinking about Egypt and its effects on modern culture and government). Regardless, the imagery conveyed is remarkable and powerful.

message 9: by Phil (last edited Jul 16, 2012 04:05PM) (new)

Phil (Lanark) I love the irony of "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" - meant as a warning by Ozymandias to his enemies that they can never beat him, but ultimately read by posterity as a sign that time will defeat everyone and everything.

This ironic misalignment between original intention and later generations' interpretation is also taken up by Philip Larkin in his poem, "An Arundel Tomb":


Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd -
The little dogs under their feet.

Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.

They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends would see:
A sculptor's sweet commissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.

They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
The air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the grass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-littered ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,

Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:

Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

message 8: by Denise (new)

Denise (Dulcinea3) | 132 comments Great poem. There was a reference to this in a recent episode of Inspector Lewis. Trying to find the identity of a crossword-puzzle creator known as "Oz", Lewis (or was it Hathaway) realized who it was when he noticed a sculpture of the broken legs in a professor's office. Being familiar with the poem, I realized it at the same time, before it was explained. It's nice to have a series set at Oxford that includes such cultural references!

message 7: by Susan (new)

Susan Oleksiw | 137 comments I always loved that poem. It stayed with me for years and I still think of it when tempted to think something material is more important than the spiritual or personal.

message 6: by Jon (new)

Jon Sindell | 35 comments Tia wrote: "For me, this poem acknowledges the insignificance of our greatest accomplishments as humans. Nothing we build is indestructible and neither are we. Over time, everything about our society will disa..."

Yup. "Sic transit gloria mundi." A fact kings and beggars alike must face.

message 5: by Jon (new)

Jon Sindell | 35 comments Superb poem, thank you for posting it!

All poems should be read aloud, and this poem especially. Read the last line aloud. There is no way to rush it. The structure and diction force the reader to go slowly, which enhances the feeling of desolation surrounding the fallen and fractured statue of the once-mighty king. "The lone and level sands stretch far away." Haunting!

I am sure you will enjoy hearing the actor M. Scott Momaday reciting this poem. Just click this link and scroll down to "Poetry Out Loud." You'll find many other fine readings of great poetry on the same page.

message 4: by Tia (new)

Tia Beach | 8 comments For me, this poem acknowledges the insignificance of our greatest accomplishments as humans. Nothing we build is indestructible and neither are we. Over time, everything about our society will disappear into nothing but history.

message 3: by VickiLee (new)

VickiLee This was a formative poem for me. It was this poem that helped me recognize that no matter how powerful or distinct we are in our own time, eventually we will all, the mighty and the small, will become one with the sands.

message 2: by Rick (last edited Jul 15, 2012 07:39PM) (new)

Rick (parepidemos) | 59 comments I like this poem by Shelley for the weight of meaning he was able to convey with such brevity.

message 1: by Rick (last edited Jul 15, 2012 07:32PM) (new)

Rick (parepidemos) | 59 comments


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 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.

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Books mentioned in this topic

The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt (other topics)
Ozymandias (other topics)