Percy Bysshe Shelley
The copy-text is the first published version, The Examiner, 11 January 1818, under the pseudonym “Glirastes.”
|I met a Traveller from an antique land,
|Who said, “two vast and trunkless legs of stone
|Stand in the desart. 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!
|No thing beside remains. Round the decay
|Of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
|The lone and level sands stretch far away.
- Pronounced with the accent on the first syllable.
- The Greek name for Rameses II of Egypt. The actual Rameses apparently had a statue in Egypt with a similar inscription: “King of Kings am I, Osymandias. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works.” When Shelley was writing the poem, the British Museum had just acquired part of a statue of Rameses.
- King of Kings
- King of kings was a title used by many rulers in the ancient Middle East. In Judaism king of kings was sometimes used to refer to God; in Christianity, Jesus is several times identified as “king of kings and lord of lords.”
- Look on my works
- The copy-text for this edition, the first magazine publication of Shelley's poem, has confusing punctuation: an open quotation in line 2, then another open quotation before “My name,” with a single closing quotation mark after “King of Kings.” Most editors either put the next line — “Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!” — inside the quotations, or remove quotation marks from this section of the poem altogether.
- The word colossal (“vast in size, amount, extent, or scope; gigantic, huge” — OED) comes from the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, a huge bronze statue of the sun god near the harbor in Rhodes. It is said to have been destroyed in an earthquake in the third century BCE.