Ozymandias …. two versions II

I was telling you about a set of poems about Ozymandias, which unmistakably portray the transience of fame or for that matter any human endeavour. Before I come to them, I must clarify the name – Ozymandias is  Ramesses II (also known as Ramesses the Great and alternatively transcribed as Ramses and Rameses, *Riʕmīsisu) the third Egyptian pharaoh of the Nineteenth dynasty, who is often regarded as Egypt’s greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh. His successors and later Egyptians called him the “Great Ancestor”. Ozymandias is his mention in Greek sources due to a transliteration of part of his throne name – User-maat-re Setep-en-re.

Lets start with Shelley’s version:

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.

And then Smith’s:

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,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten
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 fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

 Now if you compare the both, Shelley’s version seems much better that Smith’s, which like Ozymandias, has failed to keep its tryst with immortality. Smith’s effort is not bad, despite a slight awkward beginning – the image of a gigantic leg – whether in the desert or elsewhere seems slight ribald, not to mention unintendently humorous. In comparison with it, Shelley’s effort is more measured and rhythmic… or so I feel. That is why whenever some refers to Ozymandias, the verse that comes commonly in mind is Shelley’s. But that is the inexorable truth of the world – not every thing can survive the ravages of the demanding ages and trump the vicissitudes of fate to gain immortality. Like Ozymandias himself……..


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