composed this sonnet on 27 December 1817, during an evening
session with P.B. Shelley:
On a Stupendous
Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts
of Egypt, with the
Inscription Inserted Below.
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!
Naught but the leg remaining to disclose
The sight of that forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when through the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the wolf in chase,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What wonderful, but unrecorded, race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
Cited by Guy Davenport (of the Univ. of Kentucky) in his
article "Ozymandias" (on the New York Times op-ed page a
few years back). Davenport concludes his article:
"Genius may also be knowing how to title a poem.