In 1817, Percy Bysshe Shelley
and a friend of his named Horace Smith
had a poetry-writing session in which both wrote sonnet
s on the same subject: the ruins of a statue of Ramses II
. Shelley, of course, wrote Ozymandias
, which is read in high-school English classes to this day. Smith's effort, published in the Examiner
on 1 Feb 1818
, lies below. Its full title is "On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below," which prompted Guy Davenport
to comment "Genius may also be knowing how to title a poem."
IN Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desart 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 fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.