Saturday, 20 July 2013

No, MY name is Ozymandias - Joan Lennon

In the (so far nameless) Victorian adventure book I'm writing, my characters have just stumbled across a ruined statue in the Egyptian desert and gone ever so slightly crazy, loudly declaiming the lines of Shelley's famous poem to the empty sands.  In order for them to do so, I had to look up the lines, as I only had snippets in my brain.  Wikipedia came up with the goods, and then some.  It gave me an interesting image of an early rough draft:

It gave me an image of a fair(ish) copy in Shelley's best penmanship:

 And THEN, it gave me ANOTHER poem called Ozymandias: *

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,—
      Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
    The site of this forgotten Babylon.

    We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
    Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
      Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
    He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
      What powerful but unrecorded race
      Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

This one was written by Shelley's friend, Horace Smith.  I didn't know this, but apparently they'd challenged each other to write a sonnet inspired by bits of old statues found lying about the place in Egypt (before being shipped to the British Museum).

And what is my point in transcribing Wikipedia articles about things you lot probably all learned at school any way?  Well, blame my characters.  Without their odd behaviour, brought on by incipient sunstroke, I might have been blogging about something altogether different.  Like Throwaway Lines, maybe, where writers are challenged to write about a bit of old rubbish found lying about the place ...

Be we Shelleys or Smiths, writers do love having a go!

*  He later changed the title to the less punchy "On  A Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below."  They may have paid by the word in those days.

Joan's website.
Joan's blog.
Joan's Throwaway Lines story.


Lynda Waterhouse said...

Joan your 'throwaway' story is great and what was Horace thinking of with that name change? Although I do notice there is currently a trend for long and obscure sounding titles.

Penny Dolan said...

It is a glorious pome to recite!

I do feel for poor Horace Smith - although maybe he didn't know that Shelley was to end up the posterity poet & poem. Shelley's work was brought into favour (if I am to believe a crime novel I'm reading) by the efforts of his widow.

But definitely under his own name. :-)

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks, Lynda and Penny - I also have a soft spot for poor old Horace - my dad's middle name was Horace, named after an uncle, named after ... actually it was such a large family I suspect they just ran out of good names.

madwippitt said...

Hmmm ... when I was small my Dad used to tell me to stop being an " 'orrible 'Orace" ...

Mrs. Shelley also won a competition to produce a scary story ... bit competitive, weren't they? Must have been a trial being a friend ...

(And I like the super long title!)

Lydia Syson said...

Horace Smith didn't do too badly in his day in fact - he and his brother were wildly successful parodists and their 'Rejected Addresses' went through 18 editions between 1812 and 1833. But being a good topical parodist is never going to bring you lasting glory, I suppose, is it? I love the title of your post, Joan.

Joan Lennon said...

Madwippit, I'm sure you were never 'orrible!

And Lydia - I'm so glad you told me that about Horace and his brother - it makes me feel so much better about him!

Joan Lennon said...

And, apropos of nothing, Horace's brother's name, I find, was James (wonders of Google) and my dad's full name was James Horace Lennon. It makes us practically related! Or something.