Sunday, December 30, 2012


The arrival of the statue of Ramesses II, in England in 1818 is believed to have inspired Shelley's poem Ozymandias, reproduced below:

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". 

Shelley's ghost, seems to have reached across the seas, to touch the anonymous writer of the plaque below, although something seems to have been lost in translation.

Perhaps it is not just Shelley, but Macaulay as well? I am but a dilettante, the more serious students of literature may be better able to divine the sources, although the lines below seem to leave the faintest of echoes.

But the Consul’s brow was sad,
    And the Consul’s speech was low,
And darkly looked he at the wall,
    And darkly at the foe.
‘Their van will be upon us
    Before the bridge goes down;
And if they once may win the bridge,
    What hope to save the town?’

Then out spake brave Horatius,
    The Captain of the gate:
‘To every man upon this earth
    Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
    Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
    And the temples of his Gods,

Taken from Macaulay's Horatius.

Post Script:  The statue of Ramses II stands near the entrance to the Egyptian section of the British Museum, the link above has further details and I would urge anyone visiting London to have a look, it is indeed impressive.
Macaulay was better known as a politician who played a role in the abolishing of the slave trade and for influence on education in India. 

No comments: