History As Told By The Poet

2874 Words12 Pages
Dennis Dorrell
ENGL 308
Prof. Harrington
11 December 2014
History as Told by the Poet In attempts to immortalize his existence, man has formed civilization after civilization in order to stave off the inevitable decay of time. The earth is littered with the ruins of antiquity that serve as nothing more than remnants of once powerful tyrants who sought in vain to immortalize their existence. In his sonnet "Ozymandias", Percy Bysshe Shelley depicts this struggle with a condemnatory eye. When all things come to an end, Shelley argues that art and culture are what truly represent civilization, not the legacy of those who commissioned the work. While the tyrannous reign of man is finite, the unknown artist 's craft survives as a means to honestly depict the past. Shelley, as a poet, commiserates with the unknown artist, and argues that their endeavors of creation are alike. Thus, Shelley asserts that poetry not only stands the test of time, but also uses it to reveal truths of mankind. It 's a common misconception that Shelley was inspired by the head of a statue of Rameses II (the Egyptian king known, at the time, as either Ozymandias or Young Memnon). Shelley was supposed to have seen this statue in the British Museum, where it is currently located. His sonnet, written in the winter of 1818, was Shelley 's submission to a friendly contest with fellow writer Horace Smith. The challenge "was to produce a sonnet on the subject of 'Ozymandias, King of Kings '" (Rodenback, 123).
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