Arguably the most haunting words of poetry ever written.

Authored in 1818 by Percy Bysshe Shelley in Ozymandias, these eight words are as thought-provoking now as they were when penned 200 years ago.

This short sentence, dripping with delicious irony, speaks volumes about enormous issues ranging from big business, dictators' lust for power, the hubris of powerful civilations (like our own), to the human condition itself. Within the context of the poem, the line is actually a quotation, the inscription from the base of a broken statue in the desert. A wanderer discovers the statue and reads the inscription, stopping for a moment to ponder its dual meaning.

When the statue, newly built, first stood in all its awesome glory, surrounded by all the trappings of its creator's kingdom, it must truly have inspired a sense of despair in the ruler's enemies. But now, as a short inscription on a shattered fragment, surrounded only by sand and dust, a different kind of despair comes to mind. Perhaps all of our own grand aspirations, our enormous efforts to subjugate and control our environment, ultimately come to nothing and pass away. Perhaps all that will be left of our own grand civilization will be a naught but a broken statue, lost and forgotten in the desert.

I Am Ozymandias, King of Kings!

Once upon a time I was strolling through the museum grounds, looking at the various pieces of art. I was inexplicably drawn to a particular work, a majestic statue carved of stone.
It was a lion, seemingly frozen in mid-pounce, front claws extended, lips pulled back in a vicious snarl. It was amazing to look at; it was so skillfully and meticulously cut. The mane looked almost real, like I could reach out and actually touch the silken hairs of its thick fur. He seemed in motion, so dynamic that one would be afraid to stand directly before it, lest they should become the fearsome beast's next meal.
As I stood there admiring this masterpiece, a cricket suddenly landed atop the creature's massive head. I stared at it and it glared defiantly back at me with its gleaming bug eyes.
"I AM OZYMANDIAS, KING OF KINGS! LOOK UPON MY WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND DEPAIR!" it suddenly shrieked. With that, it reared back on its larger back legs and beat its little insect chest, emitting a loud Tarzan roar.
At that very moment, a bird flying overhead spotted the little black bug screaming on the head of a lion, swooped down, plucked that crazy little cricket right up, and flew away.
I was left standing there, staring at the spot from which he disappeared; there was not a single trace left of the strange event that had just occurred. Looking up, I watched the bird fly off into the distance, finally becoming only a black dot against the blue sky, then disappearing completely from view.
That was all.
I turned my attention back to the statue before me, and without warning, a pigeon flew directly above us, dropping a little present on us as it passed. Luckily, it missed me completely, but my companion wasn't so lucky. Looking back, I saw the big white splotch that now decorated the animal's snout.
I blinked.
"Stupid lion," I muttered under my breath, and walked away, resolving to spend the rest of the day indoors.

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