Apr. 6, 2003


by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Poem: "Ozymandias of Egypt," by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Ozymandias of Egypt

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.


Literary Notes:

On this day in 1917, the United States formally declared war against Germany and entered World War I. They joined the Allied war effort with Britain, France, and Russia who had been fighting since 1914. During these three years, President Woodrow Wilson strove to maintain American neutrality. American participation in the World War permanently transformed the nation. In order to meet increased demands for goods, the federal government expanded dramatically, taking an unprecedented role in guiding the economy. Women made a step towards political equality when the Nineteenth Amendment enfranchised them shortly after the war. And military service and wartime jobs beckoned African Americans northward, in what is known as the Great Migration.

It's the birthday of the Italian painter and architect Raphael, born Rafaello Sanzio in Urbino, Italy (1483). From 1504 to 1508 he spent most of his time in Florence where he eventually met Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Fra Bartolommeo. His works were greatly influenced by Leonardo da Vinci, in particular Leonardo's Madonna and Child with St. Anne paintings. He adopted Leonardo's use of chiaroscuro and sfumato, but went beyond Leonardo by creating figures with round, gentle faces that seemed uncomplicated and that were raised to sublime perfection and serenity. His works from this period focused mainly on the Madonna, and in his lifetime he produced more than 300 paintings based on the Madonna theme, including his famous The Sistine Madonna, figuring the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus. In 1508 Pope Julius II invited the little known artist Raphael to Rome. After Julius II's death, Leo X invited Raphael to work with Bramante to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica.

It's the birthday of country songwriter and singer Merle Haggard, born in Bakersfield, California (1937). He is known as one of the most popular country music performers of the late 20th century. He grew up extremely poor and in his teens he began a career of theft and burglary. After his release from San Quentin prison in 1960, he became a professional musician in Bakersfield, an important regional country music center. He began recording in the early 1960s, and in 1965 he started producing hit recordings regularly for the Capitol label. There is a somber cast to many of the songs he wrote, including "Mama Tried," "The Bottle Let Me Down," and "If We Make It Through December," that partly reflects his difficult youth.

From "Mama Tried":

The first thing I remember knowing,
Was a lonesome whistle blowing,
And a young un's dream of growing up to ride;
On a freight train leaving town,
Not knowing where I'm bound,
No-one could change my mind but Mama tried.

It's the birthday of writer Alice Bach, born in New York, New York (1942). Bach's first novel, They'll Never Make a Movie Starring Me (1973), is a story for young adults about the adventures of a young student at an all-girls boarding school in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and was based loosely on Bach's own school experiences. Bach's novel, Waiting for Johnny Miracle (1980), was inspired by her two years of experience working with young teens at New York's Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research. She said: "I am a feminist, a Catholic, and a gourmet cook. I dislike game shows, am suspicious of super-organized people, and consistently vote for losers."

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