Friday, December 23, 2011

Horace Smith

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 was a prosperous stockbroker who not oversaw Percy Bysshe Shelley's finances, but also was a close friend of who collaborated with Shelley on a popular book of literary parodies.  

Smith is best-known today because he participated in a sonnet-writing contest with Shelley, the subject of which was the celebrated Egyptian pharaoh, Ramesses II.  Shelley's poem was titled "Ozymandias."  Smith's sonnet was titled "On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Sanding by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt."  (Catchy, huh?) 

Shelley's poem is far superior, but I like Smith's idea of having a hunter in the distant future stumble across the ruins of London.  Those ruins would be as puzzling to that hunter as the world of the Egyptian pharaohs is to us today. 

Ramesses II

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