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On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below -- Horace Smith

 From the so-bad-that-they're-good department...
(Poem #285) On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below
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!
Naught but the leg remaining to disclose
The sight of that forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when through the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the wolf in chase,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What wonderful, but unrecorded, race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
-- Horace Smith
"It appears that in 1817 Shelley held a sonnet-writing session with his friend,
the poet Horace Smith. Both wrote a sonnet on the same subject, but while
Shelley came up with Ozymandias, Mr Smith produced something so delightfully
horrendous I simply have to indulge [myself] even further, and include it here
as well.

The poem was cited by Guy Davenport of the University of Kentucky in a New York
Times article a few years ago, which concluded: "Genius may also be knowing how
to title a poem." "

    -- Leo Breebaart, in the Annotated Pratchett File v7a.0, which you can read
in its entirety at



Shelley's famous sonnet can be found at poem #22

Surprisingly enough, Ozymandias is the only poem of his to have featured on the
Minstrels - I guess neither Martin nor myself are fans enough. Readers are
invited to rectify the situation with guest submissions.

A web search for a biography of Horace Smith, Poet  failed to turn up anything
of interest. I wonder why.

44 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Tumbled Marble said...

Granite worktops make an excellent surface for rolling out dough, chopping and other kitchen work. The polished surface of granite does not wear off easily and is resistant to heat, stains and other external forces.

Home Remodeling in Walnut Creek said...

it's great how a common material such as granite can be used in a poem.

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I don't know why, but this poem evoke the ancient memories in my mind, is like my own being has lived in that time, in the ancient sands of time I can find the answer, a old history, a forgotten memory.

Ishmael said...

This poem was actually originally titled Ozymandias. Same as Shelley's poem, but when Shelley's version became famous Smith graciously changed the name so they wouldn't get mixed up. As the poems were actually minor works to the two of them, Smith didn't bother to give this a proper name. He just gave it the title it now has.

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