Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Ozymandias Exercise

From I pretty much just Google-searched "Ozymandias" and picked the best picture off the top row.
Once upon a time, two friends decided it would be fun to write two different poems on the same subject and publish them both in competition. This happened:

Shelley's Ozymandias

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.
Smith's 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.

About a century later, I decided it would be fun to write my own two versions of Ozymandias--one in French, one as an English paraphrase of the French one. Without further ado, I present:

The (2nd) OZYMANDIAS Exercise

French Translation
J'ai rencontré une vielle femme étrangère
Qui m'a parlé des ruins du désert.
“Les pierres cassés sont partout, ma cherie;
Ils chuchotent des histoires des autres vies.
Le sable dans l'air souffle en rafales
Et on peut voir, à peine, un piedestal.
Y a des mots gravé au marbre gris,
Un message d'autrefois. L'inscription dit:
C'est Ozymandias, le roi des rois!
Aies peur! Personne n'est plus puissant que moi!
Mais Ozymandias comprenait pas—
Personne n'a peur parce que personne n'est là—
Un roi avec l'humilié remplis,
Comme nous serons un de ces jours, cherie.”

English Paraphrase
I met an old woman from overseas
who spoke to me of the ruins of the desert:
"Broken stones are everywhere, my dear.
They whisper histories, stories of other lives.
The sand in the air blows in great gusts,
and you can barely see one pedestal:
there are words carved in the gray marble,
a message from a time gone by. The inscription says:
This is Ozymandias, The King of Kings!
Have fear! No one is more powerful than me!
But Ozymandias didn't understand—
no one is afraid because no one is there—
A king, with humility filled up
like we will be one of these days, my dear."

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