Recent years have seen a huge uptick in my appreciate for the Romantic poets, which possibly explains how today’s poem snuck into my top five, kicking out William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet XCI.” It isn’t my favorite poem of all-time, but I do genuinely think that it might be the best poem ever written in the English language. It’s concise, but still gives a full image; it’s musical, with a highly inventive rhyme scheme; it’s compact, with a real economy of movement, but there’s a wonderfully sharp guiding theme to the poem; it says something specific, but in a way that straddles that line between subtlety and directness. Basically, I think this poem is absolutely beautiful. Enough of what I think, though; let’s get to the poem!

Say hi to Mary for me.

What a name, Bysshe.

Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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.”


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