Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesdays with Memento Mori: Ozymandias

In honor of Watchmen, which is the most nostalgic film ever to score a $50m+ opening, you should read this poem, which you probably have not read.

Everybody knows Percy Bysshe Shelley's famous "Ozymandias" poem, which (not surprisingly) is one of my four or five favorite lyric poems.

Many people know he wrote the poem in competition with his friend, a fellow named Horace Smith. They both took Ozymandias as their subject and title. Shelley won, not least because his is better, but because it is remembered. His work and name endures in many minds; Horace Smith is a much farther cry from being a household name.

Horace Smith

In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
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 chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Always remember that, like Ozymandias (whether in Egypt or Watchmen), all things shall come to ruin, and the glory of the world shall pass.

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