In the face of the ancient.

Sep 04 2008 Published by under Misc Science, Picture Posts, Science

Ozymandias was a piker.

He left us his legs, most of his face, and a clear statement of what he wanted to achieve. When you get right down to it, he's not much of an enigma.


The people who built this left an enigma. Stonehenge was constructed to stand proudly forever, a monument to the greater glory of something, but we don't know what. Their engineering withstood the test of time. They - and their cultures - did not.

Stonehenge stands today, on a plane covered with the barrows of the unknown lords of long forgotten peoples. It reminds us, far more than Shelley's statue ever could, of just how fragile all of our hopes and dreams really are.

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 shatter'd visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,

The hand that mock'd 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.

7 responses so far

  • Anon says:

    "Stood the test of time" with a lot of help; what is in your picture is not just their work (which is incredibly impressive, I agree) but also the work of restoration crews, replacing and/or re-aligning stones which had fallen or were in danger of falling.

  • MikeB says:

    Unfortunately, its also a mystery as to why the site has been so ill-served by those who are meant to protect it. Having two main roads thundering past it and a visitors centre so awful that that its practically beyond belief, makes me embarrassed to be British sometimes, especially when I was trying to summon up the magic of the place to 20 American students in a drizzle while 30 lorries thundered past. Horrible.

  • John Marley says:

    I took leave in England, back when I was in the service (has it really been 15 years?). It was almost depressing when almost everyone who heard (before and during my leave) that I intended to visit Stonehenge, replied with: "Why? it's just a bunch of rocks in a field."
    I spent 2 days at Salisbury, out of 3 weeks in England and Scotland. In those two days I used more film than during the entire rest of my leave.
    "just a bunch of rock in a field" I know for certain that some of those people would consider a vaguely face-like image on a grilled-cheese sandwich to be a miracle. As I said, almost depressing.

  • KeithB says:

    Two thoughts:
    The poem contrasts the boasts of Ozymandias with the ravages that time has brought in a very ironic way. There is no such irony at Stonehenge, just silent mystery.
    Also, I just realized that this poem would have made a good prelude for Diamond's "Collapse" - that the reason that Ozymandias' realm collapsed was environmental mismanagement that caused it to become a desert.

  • Bob Brashear says:

    Visited the Great Pyramids in 1984. Once I got past the tourist garbage and into the main burial chamber in the largest pyramid, I remember the "feeling of OLD" washing over me.
    You read about this stuff, see the pictures in a book and say, "yup, that's old!". Being there is a whole nuther thing! Also hit the Valley of the Kings further south. Same thing. Wow!

  • Jeanette Garcia says:

    I was fortunate to see and experience Stonehenge in the early sixties. It was on a darkly, overcast, windy day. There were no people around, no barriers, no traffic on the road leading up to it. I was able wander about and touch the ancient stones at will. It was awe inspiring.

  • eddie says:

    Presently watcing a Timewatch documentary on the 'blue stones' of stonehenge.
    A mix of archaeology and CSI but seems to be pushing the idea that blue stones 'healing power' is real.
    Maybe its excusable for neolithic folk to be so delusional but not in 21st century.
    Science used to support delusion is nauseating.