A traveller has told the poet of a broken statue of a great pharaoh which lies half-buried in the desert
sands of Egypt. It reminded the traveller of how the mighty have fallen, how a great pharaoh -- who
believed himself invincible -- has become but a distant memory whose statue even has fallen into decay
A NOTE ON THE POET
Percy Bysshe Shelley was born in Sussex in August 1792. He was from an aristocratic family, his father
being a squire and a member of Parliament.
The young Shelley was educated at Eton College and then proceeded to Oxford University but was soon
expelled for publishing an article promoting atheism.
Within a couple of years, the poet eloped with Harriet Westbrook, a working-class teenager. The
marriage, however, was a failure.
He then hitched up with Mary Godwin, daughter of a philosopher and anarchist. She was of a more
Harriet in the meantime drowned herself which cleared the way for the poet to marry his new love. As
Mary Shelley, she herself would become famous for her novel Frankenstein.
Shelley wrote "Ozymandias" in 1817 when interest in Egyptology was growing. The poet had just
visited the British Museum where he had seen the recently acquired Rosetta Stone, as well as a statue
of Pharaoh Rameses II.
The boast "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings" comes from Diodorus Siculus's description of
the several monuments to Rameses II. The quote had then appeared in several travel books of the time.
Shelley drowned in 1822 when his small schooner struck a rock and sank. He was only thirty years
of age. His body washed ashore at Viareggio where it was burned on the beach. His ashes were later
buried in Rome.
He is remembered as one of the most successful of the Romantic poets.
Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?