The lone and level sands stretch far away

“Aeolian sand-ripples at Southbourne”, from Waves of Sand and Snow (1914)

I was looking for a public domain photo on to use in a post and I came across the sand photo that appears above.

I don’t know if I should attribute finding that photo to serendipity, synchronicity or artificial intelligence because I had just previously been looking at the poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley online. It’s a poem that could certainly be illustrated with a photo of sand.

Here’s the poem:

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”

You might have read this in some literature class as it is often anthologized because it’s a classic and because publishers like poems in the public domain (no fees to pay).

It was the early nineteenth century when Shelley wrote this poem. Most people didn’t know Ramesses II, “Ozymandias.” This obscure Egyptian king was a tyrant, a megalomaniac. The statue he had built of himself was of immense size – a colossus.

The Ozymandias Colossus – a fallen memorial temple of Pharaoh Ramesses II, West Bank, Luxor, Egypt.. via Flickr

The statue has fallen and Shelley’s view of it (probably in a photo) is of the legs remaining with the head and body fallen.

The inscription survives and tells us that Ozymandias had the statue erected to memorialize himself and his works. But not only has the state fallen but so has the empire he once ruled.

This sonnet is usually taught as a lesson on how power is temporary, Ozymandias’s works have crumbled and disappeared, his civilization is gone, man’s hubris, and about the insignificance of human beings to the passage of time.

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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