Words of Interest

Number 6.



OZYMANDIAS, often cited as Shelley's finest sonnet, was written in 1817 and was inspired by the massive figure of Ramses II, which had recently been brought from Egypt to the British Museum. Ramses II, usually called the Great, was an Egyptian ruler who was conspicuous for the length of his reign, his military campaigns and his legacy of great buildings. He instigated a vigorous foreign policy against the Hittites, the chief opponents of the Egyptian Empire in the East. His first campaigns against them were unsuccessful and the Egyptians were forced to retreat after a violent battle in Syria in which Ramses narrowly escaped capture. In 1294BC, he defeated them. Ramses II had more than 100 children and had outlived 11 of his sons when he died in 1237BC. His mummified body was found in 1881.


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunk-less 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, bound-less and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

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