|by Percy Bysshe Shelley|
|First published in||11 January 1818|
|Meter||Loose iambic pentameter|
|Read online||"Ozymandias (Shelley)" at Wikisource|
"Ozymandias" (// oz-ee-MAN-dee-əs) is a sonnet written by the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822). It was first published in the 11 January 1818 issue of The Examiner of London. The poem was included the following year in Shelley's collection Rosalind and Helen, A Modern Eclogue; with Other Poems, and in a posthumous compilation of his poems published in 1826.
Shelley wrote the poem in friendly competition with his friend and fellow poet Horace Smith (1779–1849), who also wrote a sonnet on the same topic with the same title. The poem explores the fate of history and the ravages of time: even the greatest men and the empires they forge are impermanent, their legacies fated to decay into oblivion.
In antiquity, Ozymandias (Ὀσυμανδύας) was a Greek name for the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II.
Shelley began writing his poem in 1817, soon after the British Museum's announcement that they had acquired a large fragment of a statue of Ramesses II from the 13th century BCE; some scholars[who?] believe Shelley was inspired by the acquisition. The 7.25-short-ton (6.58 t; 6,580 kg) fragment of the statue's head and torso had been removed in 1816 from the mortuary temple of Ramesses (the Ramesseum) at Thebes by the Italian adventurer Giovanni Battista Belzoni. The statue's repute in Western Europe preceded its arrival: Napoleon had tried to acquire it for France after his 1798 expedition to Egypt.
The book Les Ruines, ou méditations sur les révolutions des empires (1791) by Constantin François de Chassebœuf, comte de Volney (1757-1820), first published in an English translation as The Ruins, or a Survey of the Revolutions of Empires (London: Joseph Johnson, 1792) by James Marshall, was an influence on Shelley. Shelley had explored similar themes in his 1813 work Queen Mab.
Shelley typically published his works anonymously or using a pseudonym. He published the poem under the name "Glirastes," created by combining the Latin glīs (genetive glīris), meaning "dormouse", with the Greek suffix ἐραστής (erastēs, "lover"). The name was a reference to his wife Mary, whose nickname was "do[o]rmouse".
Writing, publication and text
The banker and political writer Horace Smith spent the Christmas season of 1817–1818 with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley. At this time, members of the Shelleys' literary circle would sometimes challenge each other to write competing sonnets on a common subject: Shelley, John Keats and Leigh Hunt wrote competing sonnets about the Nile around the same time. Shelley and Smith both chose a passage from the writings of the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus in Bibliotheca historica, which described a massive Egyptian statue and quoted its inscription: "King of Kings Ozymandias am I. If any want to know how great I am and where I lie, let him outdo me in my work." In Shelley's poem, Diodorus becomes "a traveller from an antique land."
The poem was printed in The Examiner, a weekly paper published by Leigh's brother John Hunt in London. Hunt admired Shelley's poetry and many of his other works, such as The Revolt of Islam, were published in The Examiner.
Shelley's poem was published on 11 January 1818 under the pen name "Glirastes". It appeared on page 24 in the yearly collection, under Original Poetry. Shelley's poem was later republished under the title "Sonnet. Ozymandias" in his 1819 collection Rosalind and Helen, A Modern Eclogue; with Other Poems by Charles and James Ollier and in the 1826 Miscellaneous and Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley by William Benbow, both in London.
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."— Percy Shelley's "Ozymandias"
Analysis and interpretation
Shelley's "Ozymandias" is a sonnet, written in iambic pentameter, but with an atypical rhyme scheme (ABABACDC EDEFEF) which violates the rule that there should be no connection in rhyme between the octave and the sestet.
Two themes of the "Ozymandias" poems are the inevitable decline of rulers and their pretensions to greatness. The name "Ozymandias" is a rendering in Greek of part of Ramesses II's throne name, User-maat-re Step-en-re.
In pop culture
- In the AMC drama Breaking Bad, the 14th episode of season 5 is titled "Ozymandias." The episode's title alludes to the collapse of protagonist Walter White's drug empire. A reading of the poem by Bryan Cranston was used in promotional materials prior to the season five premier.
- In the graphic novel Watchmen, as well as in its film and television adaptations, "Ozymandias" is the superhero alias of Adrian Veidt. The name can be understood as a reference to Veidt's hubris, as well as to the fact that in the graphic novel, Veidt goes to great lengths to establish world peace, only for the ending to indicate that this peace is fleeting and will collapse in the end.
- The line: "look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" is quoted by a character in David Foster Wallace's posthumous 2011 novel, 'The Pale King'.
- The poem is the subject of xkcd comic number 1557. The poem is altered to be recursive, and opens with "I met a traveller from an antique land who said: "I met a traveller from an antique land who said: "I met a traveller from an antique land who said..."
- In the 2017 film Alien: Covenant, part of the poem is quoted by the antagonist, David. After rescuing the other characters and showing them his research towards creating xenomorphs he stands overlooking the destroyed city and says "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings; look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
- On the 2021 album She Walks in Beauty, Marianne Faithfull with Warren Ellis reads the poem with musical accompaniment.
- In the 2018 film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, an aging impresario and his artist Harrison, a young man with no arms or legs, travel from town to town in a wagon that converts into a small stage where Harrison theatrically recites classics such as Shelley's poem "Ozymandias"; the biblical story of Cain and Abel; works by Shakespeare, in particular Sonnet 29 and The Tempest; and Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
- In the 2005 video game Civilization IV , when research construction technology is researched the quote,"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." from Shelley's poem is displayed and voiced by Leonard Nimoy.
- A sculpture by Lightnin' McDuff in Amarillo, Texas depicting two, giant, trunkless legs, is based on the poem, sponsored by Stanley Marsh 3.
- The Sisters of Mercy use the words 'lone and level' twice on their album Floodland, on the songs Dominion/Mother Russia and This Corrosion. Like Shelley's sonnet, Dominion/Mother Russia is a reflection on hubris. The B-side to the single was a backwards version of the song, titled 'Ozymandias'.
- "Eighteen Hundred and Eleven", a poem by Anna Laetitia Barbauld which also imagines future tourists visiting a ruined London
- Wells, John C. (1990). "s.v. Ozymandias". Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harrow: Longman. p. 508. ISBN 0-582-05383-8. The four-syllable pronunciation is used by Shelley to fit the poem's meter.
- Glirastes (1818), "Original Poetry. Ozymandias", The Examiner, A Sunday Paper, on politics, domestic economy and theatricals for the year 1818, London: John Hunt, p. 24
- Reprinted in Shelley, Percy Bysshe (1876). Rosalind and Helen - Edited, with notes by H. Buxton Forman, and printed for private distribution. London: Hollinger. p. 72.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ozymandias" in Miscellaneous and Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley (London: W. Benbow, 1826), 100.
- Ancient Egypt. Statue of Ramesses II, the 'younger Memnon'. The British Museum. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
- British Museum. Colossal bust of Ramesses II, 'The Younger Memnon'. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
- Chaney, Edward (2006). "Egypt in England and America: The Cultural Memorials of Religion, Royalty and Revolution". In Ascari, Maurizio; Corrado, Adriana (eds.). Sites of Exchange: European Crossroads and Faultlines. Internationale Forschungen zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi. pp. 39–74. ISBN 9042020156.
- "Ruins of Empire". knarf.english.upenn.edu.
- Carter, Charles. "Romantic Interests: 'Ozymandias' and a Runaway Dormouse." July 6, 2018. New York Public Library. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
- Everest, Kelvin; Matthews, Geoffrey (23 June 2014). The Poems of Shelley: Volume Two: 1817 - 1819. Routledge. ISBN 9781317901075 – via Google Books.
- Siculus, Diodorus. Bibliotheca Historica. 1.47.4.CS1 maint: location (link)
- See footnote 10 at the following source, for reference to the Loeb Classical Library translation of this inscription, by C.H. Oldfather: http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poems/ozymandias, accessed 12 April 2014.
- See section/verse 1.47.4 at the following presentation of the 1933 version of the Loeb Classics translation, which also matches the translation appearing here: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Diodorus_Siculus/1C*.html, accessed 12 April 2014.
- For the original Greek, see: Diodorus Siculus. "1.47.4". Bibliotheca Historica (in Greek). 1–2. Immanel Bekker. Ludwig Dindorf. Friedrich Vogel. In aedibus B. G. Teubneri. At the Perseus Project.
- Graham, Walter (1925), "Shelley's Debt to Leigh Hunt and the Examiner", PMLA, 40 (1): 185–192, doi:10.2307/457275, JSTOR 457275
- "Romantic Interests: "Ozymandias" and a Runaway Dormouse". The New York Public Library. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
- "MacEachen, Dougald B. CliffsNotes on Shelley's Poems. 18 July 2011". Cliffsnotes.com. Archived from the original on 5 March 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
- The Pale King : an unfinished novel. David Foster Wallace. London: Penguin Books. 2012. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-241-96211-4.CS1 maint: others (link)
- "Ozymandias". xkcd.
- Molina, Eva Lorraine. "Ozymandias: A King, a Poem and a Concrete Statue in a Cow Pasture". Reporting Texas, December 12, 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
- Rodenbeck, John (2004). "Travelers from an Antique Land: Shelley's Inspiration for 'Ozymandias'". Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, no. 24 ("Archeology of Literature: Tracing the Old in the New"), 2004, pp. 121–148.
- Johnstone Parr (1957). "Shelley's 'Ozymandias'". Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. VI (1957).
- Waith, Eugene M. (1995). "Ozymandias: Shelley, Horace Smith, and Denon". Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 44, (1995), pp. 22–28.
- Richmond, H. M. (1962). "Ozymandias and the Travelers". Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 11, (Winter, 1962), pp. 65–71.
- Bequette, M. K. (1977). "Shelley and Smith: Two Sonnets on Ozymandias". Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 26, (1977), pp. 29–31.
- Freedman, William (1986). "Postponement and Perspectives in Shelley's 'Ozymandias'". Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 25, No. 1 (Spring, 1986), pp. 63–73.
- Edgecombe, R. S. (2000). "Displaced Christian Images in Shelley's 'Ozymandias'". Keats Shelley Review, 14 (2000), 95–99.
- Sng, Zachary (1998). "The Construction of Lyric Subjectivity in Shelley's 'Ozymandias'". Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Summer, 1998), pp. 217–233.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Audiorecording of "Ozymandias" by the BBC.
- Ozymandias Summary, Themes, and Analysis
- Ozymandias - Annotated text + analyses aligned to Common Core Standards
- Ozymandias public domain audiobook at LibriVox
- "Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), "Ozymandias"". Representative Poetry Online. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
(text of poem with notes)