Picture Shelley, who couldn’t swim, going against the current to pull a family’s boat to shore, handing out money, and giving medical advice when he could while wearing a straw hat decorated with flowers. Now picture him taking impoverished children into his home to educate and play with. It’s nonfiction lads. What an icon.
Image: A quartzite
colossus, possibly of Ramses II, has been discovered at the ancient Heliopolis
archaeological site in Cairo. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Archaeologists in Cairo have discovered an ancient statue, believed
to depict Ramses II, submerged in mud.
What’s bookish about this story? Well, blogger
Camila Domonoske couldn’t
help but note, “The discovery of a forgotten, submerged statue of Ramses II
brings to mind one of the most famous poems in English literature – albeit
substituting muck for desert sands.”
Yup, Ramses II was also known as Ozymandias, a name you may
know from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous sonnet:
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.
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.
Although barely out of adolescence…[Shelley] was, in 1813, an ardent radical and anti-monarchist. Physically, he was rather odd, tall and slim to the point of limpness, with a high-pitched effete voice; but what he lacked in physical bulk he more than made up for in charismatic intensity. Among the earliest witnesses to this intensity were his school fellows at Eton, where he was sent by his landowning father when he was twelve. Initially he was bullied for his refusal to ‘fag’ for older boys, but the bullies soon discovered that in spite of his feeble frame, Shelley was not a boy to succumb quietly to taunts. On the contrary, he could be terrifying when roused, and was quite capable of reciprocal acts of violence. He stabbed one tormentor’s hand with a fork, and others remembered him as an almost unearthly creature, with flashing eyes, wild hair, and deathly white cheeks.
Detail from The Funeral of Shelley,
Louis Édouard Fournier, 1889.
The painting depicts
Edward John Trelawney, Leigh Hunt and Lord Byron present at the cremation, when in reality, according to Trelawney, Leigh Hunt never got out of the carriage and Byron was so shocked by the circumstances and the high temperatures that he retreated and went swimming instead.
Shelley: “stormed” up stairs, “burst” into rooms, regularly dropped things, always ran into things, typically always “loudly” entering discussions, got into fights with people who didn’t even speak English, had a “high pitched, fiendish” laughter which erupted in sudden bursts and at entirely inappropriate times.
Modern day poetry lovers: I love little meek Shelley always so shy and quiet!!!
I sang of the dancing stars,
I sang of the daedal Earth,
And of Heaven, and the giant wars,
And Love, and Death, and Birth—
And then I chang’d my pipings,
Singing how down the vale of Maenalus
I pursu’d a maiden and clasp’d a reed.
Gods and men, we are all deluded thus!
It breaks in our bosom and then we bleed.
All wept, as I think both ye now would,
If envy or age had not frozen your blood,
At the sorrow of my sweet pipings.