#23

The Romantic era of poetry has never been one that calls to me. It is impossible to deny the genius of so many writers from that time, the style simply isn’t in sync with my own. That being said, occasionally there is a piece that transcends my inhibitions and forces me to appreciate the grandiosity of the Romantic period.

“Ozymandias” by Percy Shelley is such a work. From the first time I read that poem, it has never left me. Shelley weaves a swift but substantive tale, laced with intrigue, awe, and contemplation. It is a masterclass in efficiency and reader engagement. I’m not sure if a poem exists that leaves its reader wanting more than this one does. As someone who has always loved archeology, Egyptology, and history, it is impossible for me not to be enamored by this poem. “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair” ranks with some of the greatest written lines in the English language.

Tantalizing mystery, adventure, and a clear sense of perspective, join to create the perfect amalgam of verse. This poem has everything one could want: from the rise of an empire, to its mysterious fall, and an ending that always delivers goosebumps.

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Ozymandias

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.”

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