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.