Pyramids is split into four ‘Books’, a structure that gives it a unique position amongst the otherwise chapterless Discworld novels (The Colour of Magic doesn’t really count—it’s a collection of linked novellas, not a single novel with chapters or sections).
Book I is The Book of Going Forth, which refers to The Book of Going Forth By Day, (see the annotation for p. 9/9 of The Light Fantastic). Book II is The Book of the Dead, a more direct reference to the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Book III is The Book of the New Son which puns on the title of the Gene Wolfe SF novel The Book of the New Sun (perhaps there is an earlier title both authors are drawing on, but I haven’t been able to trace it). Book IV, finally, is The Book of 101 Things A Boy Can Do, which gives a nod to the typical titles sported a few decades ago by books containing wholesome, innocent, practical, but above all educational activities for children.
- [p. 7/7] “[...] the only turtle ever to feature on the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, [...]”
The Hertzsprung-Russell diagram depicts the evolution of stars, plotting luminosity (how strongly they emit light) versus surface temperature (determined from their colour).
- [p. 8/8] “Some people think a giant dung beetle pushes it.”
The ancient Egyptians did, for instance.
- [p. 10/10] “Morpork was twinned with a tar pit.”
A reference to the concept of twin cities.
Following the horrors of the Second World War, and in the spirit of egalitarianism and common feeling for our fellow men which prevailed at that time, it was decided that the best way to cement bonds between the people of the world so that they would never ever even consider dropping big noisy things on each other again, was to have every town, village and (apparently) cowshed in Europe ‘twinned’ with an equivalent one which had previously been on the other side.
With these new-found unities, the merry laughing people of Europe would engage in fraternal and sporting activities, school-children would go on two-week exchange visits to discover that they couldn’t stand sauerkraut, and the respective mayors of the towns would be able to present each other with touching and expensive symbols of international friendship and get in the local paper all on other peoples’ money.
The most visible effect of this accord is the presumptuous little legend under the sign at the entrance to towns and villages saying “Little Puddlebury—twinned with Obermacht am Rhein”. Some towns (Croydon springs to mind) got a little over-enthusiastic about twinning, with the result that they are coupled to several towns, which makes the sign saying “Croydon welcomes careful drivers” look reminiscent of a seventeen-year-old’s jacket at a Guns n’ Roses concert.
You may—or may not—care to know that the UK town of Cowes has a twin relation with the New Zealand township of Bulls.
- [p. 11/11] “Teppic paused alongside a particularly repulsive gargoyle [...] He found himself drumming his fingers on the gargoyle, [...] Mericet appeared in front of him, wiping grey dust off his bony face.”
It may not be immediately obvious from the text, but Mericet was the gargoyle. Teppic had been leaning on his camouflaged instructor all the time. This is another annotation which I am only putting in after repeated requests from readers. Personally, I feel that ‘getting’ this is simply a question of careful reading. But a quick straw poll of afp readers showed most were in favour of explicitly annotating it, so in it went.
Terry was once asked at a talk if he was always fully in control of his characters and events or if they tended to run away with him. The answer was: always in control—with one single exception. The whole of the assassin examination sequence in Pyramids was written “almost in a trance” with no idea of what was to happen next. It is one of his favourite bits.
- [p. 12/12] Teppic’s test.
Teppic’s examination is heavily modelled on the British Driving test, which, as with the other important tests in British life such as 16- and 18-plus exams, undergraduate finals, and doctoral vitas is not actually intended to test whether you are actually any good at what is being tested, concentrating instead on your proficiency at following arbitrary instructions.
Many of the elements of a driving test are present in the passages which follow: The short list of questions, the sign on a small card (often held upside down), the clipboard. Mericet’s rather stilted language, “Now, I want you to proceed at your own pace towards the Street of Book-keepers, obeying all signs and so forth”, is almost a direct parody, as is the little speech at the end of the test. The ‘Emergency Drop’ (p. 42/42) is the ‘Emergency Stop’, where you have to stop the car “as if a child has run out into the road, while keeping control of the vehicle at all times”. Finally, the back of the Highway Code has a table with minimum vehicle stopping distances, which examiners almost never ask about.
- [p. 14/14] “He [...] jumped a narrow gap on to the tiled roof of the Young Men’s Reformed-Cultists-of-the-Ichor-God-Bel-Shamharoth Association gym, [...]”
Refers our world’s YMCA youth hostels. YMCA stands for ‘Young Men’s Christian Association’, and is often made fun of (e.g. Monty Python and their ‘Young Men’s Anti-Christian Association’).
See also the annotation for p. 88/88 of The Light Fantastic.
- [p. 15/15] “[...] the narrow plank bridge that led across Tinlid Alley.”
In our world, Tin Pan Alley is the popular name for the area in New York City near 14th Street, where many publishers of popular songs had their offices in the late 19th / early 20th century. Aspiring composers would audition their new songs, and the din of so many songs being pounded out of pianos up and down the street gave the district its name. Another theory has it that the name derived from the rattling of tins by rivals when a performance was too loud and too protracted.
In England, Denmark Street, off Charing Cross Road, was also called Tin Pan Alley.
Today the phrase simply refers to the music publishing industry in general, and it is therefore no surprise that later, in Soul Music, we learn that the Guild of Musicians have their headquarters there.
- [p. 17/17] “Oh, Djelibeybi had been great once, [...]”
The name Djelibeybi puns on the sweets called Jelly Babies. See also the annotation for p. 109/82 of Soul Music.
It has been remarked that there are quite a few parallels between the country of Djelibeybi and the castle of Gormenghast as described by Mervyn Peake in his Gormenghast trilogy (which we know Terry has read because in Equal Rites he compares Unseen University to Gormenghast, and in Wyrd Sisters he does the same with Lancre Castle). The hero of Gormenghast, Titus, also has a mother with a cat obsession, and his father died because he thought he was an owl. Furthermore, the atmosphere of decay, ancient history and unchanging ritual pervades both Djelibeybi and Gormenghast, with in both cases the presence of arbiters of tradition who are almost as powerful as (or even more so than) the actual ruler.
For those interested in pursuing Gormenghast further (people who have read it almost invariably seem to think it’s a work of genius), the names of the three novels are Titus Groan (1946), Gormenghast (1950) and Titus Alone (1959, revised 1970).
- [p. 19/19] “[...] the Plague of Frog.”
Refers to the Biblical ‘Plague of Frogs’ from Exodus.
- [p. 20/20] On the subject of the Assassin’s Guild School, Terry has this to say: “Yes, the whole setup of the Assassin’s Guild school has, uh, a certain resonance with Rugby School in Tom Brown’s Schooldays (note to Americans: a minor Victorian classic of school literature which no-one reads anymore and which is probably now more famous for the first appearance of the Flashman character subsequently popularised by George MacDonald Fraser).”
Teppic and his friends map directly to corresponding characters in Tom Brown’s Schooldays: Teppic is Tom, Chidder is Harry “Scud” East, Arthur is George Arthur and Cheesewright is sort of Flashman, but not exactly.
The line on p. 27/26 about “If he invites you up for toast in his study, don’t go,” may refer to the incident where Tom is roasted in front of the fire by Flashy and his cronies. The reference to blanket-tossing on p. 45/44, which Arthur puts a stop to, is also an incident in Tom Brown, on Tom’s first day. The scene in the dormitory on the first night, when Arthur gets down to say his prayers, also has an equivalent in the book.
- [p. 39/38] “Truly, the world is the mollusc of your choice...”
The oyster is, of course, a mollusc.
- [p. 45/44] “[...] the day when Fliemoe and some cronies had decided [...]”
Someone on afp noticed that ‘Flymo’ is a brand of lawnmower, and wondered if there was a connection. Terry replied:
“Er. I may as well reveal this one. That section of the book is ‘somewhat like’ Tom Brown’s Schooldays. A bully (right hand man to the famous Flashman) was Speedicut. Speedicut is (was?) a name for a type of lawnmower—I know, because I had to push the damn thing... Hence... Fliemoe.
Well, it’s better than mugging old ladies...”
- [p. 45/44] “It transpired that he was the son of the late Johan Ludorum [...].”
At a British public school/grammar school sports day, the pupil who overall won the most, was declared ‘Victor Ludorum’—“Winner of the games”.
- [p. 45/45] “He could send for Ptraci, his favourite handmaiden.”
Should be pronounced with a silent ‘p’. Note also that in the UK the name Tracey (Sharon, too) is often used to generically refer to the kind of girl immortalised in the “dumb blonde” jokes, or Essex Girl jokes as they are known in the UK.
This annotation may also help explain why over on alt.fan.pratchett people regularly and affectionately refer to their Favourite Author as ‘Pterry’ (although the lazier participants usually just refer to him as TP, conforming to the sometimes bloody annoying Usenet habit of acronymising everything longer than two words or four characters, whichever comes first. Hence DW stands for Discworld, TCOM for The Colour of Magic, and APF for Annotated Pratchett File—but you already knew that).
I was later informed that ‘Pterry’ was also the name of a pterodactyl on a kids’ TV program called Jigsaw, but as far as I can recall Terry’s nickname was not coined with that in mind.
- [p. 50/49] “It’s rather like smashing a sixer in conkers.”
Conkers are the nuts of the Horse Chestnut—not the one you eat, the other one with the really spiky outer covering. It is a regular autumn pass-time in England for school-boys to put conkers on the end of bits of string, and commence doing battle.
The game of conkers is played by two players, almost always by challenge. One player holds his conker up at arms length on the end of its bit of string, and the other player tries to swing his one with sufficient force to break the other player’s conker. After a swing, roles are reversed. Since this is a virtually solely male sport, whose participants’ average age is about seven (although there is a bunch of nutters who regularly get on local news programmes with their “world championship”), there is of course much potential for strategic ‘misses’ against the opponents knuckles, or indeed against almost any other part of his anatomy.
In the (rather unlikely, usually) event of one conker breaking the other one, the winning conker becomes a ‘one-er’. A conker which has won twice, is a ‘two-er’. Hence a ‘sixer’ (although it must be remembered that there are of course the usual collection of bogus seventeeners and sixty-seveners which circulate the black market of the playing field). There is a black art as to how to ensure that your conker becomes a sixer -- baking very slowly in the oven overnight, is one approach, as is soaking for a week in vinegar. Most of these methods tend to make the conkers, if anything, more rather than less brittle. There’s probably a lesson for us all in there somewhere.
- [p. 50/49] The legend of Ankh-Morpork being founded by two orphaned brothers who had been found and suckled by a hippopotamus refers to the legend of Romulus and Remus who were two orphaned brothers raised by a wolf, who later went on to found Rome (the brothers did, not the wolf).
- [p. 58/56] “Hoot Koomi, high priest of Khefin [...] stepped forward.”
The name Koot Hoomi (or Kuthhumi) is a Sanskrit word that means ‘teacher’.
Koot Hoomi is the author of a series of letters that were published as The Mahatma Letters To A. P. Sinnett, and which form the basis of many theosophical teachings.
- [p. 63/62] “Look, master Dil,’ said Gern, [...]”
Since not everyone is familiar with all those weird English food items, this is probably a good place to point out that there is a red line that runs from ‘Dil the Embalmer’ to ‘Dill the Pickler’ to ‘dill pickle’, a British delicacy.
- [p. 64/62] “Get it? Your name in lights, see?”.
“Your name in lights” is generally a term indicative of achieved fame and success. In this context, however, not everybody may be aware that ‘lights’ is also a word originally describing the lungs of sheep, pigs, etc., but more generally used for all kinds of internal organs. Presumably Gern has taken various parts of the dead king and spelt out Dil’s name.
- [p. 64/62] “[...] I didn’t think much of the Gottle of Geer routine, either.”
Ventriloquists who want to demonstrate their skill will include the phrase “bottle of beer” as part of their patter. However, as it is impossible to pronounce the ‘B’ without moving your lips, it usually comes out as “gottle of geer”. Gern has presumably been playing macabre ventriloquism games with the corpse.
- [p. 64/63] “Good big sinuses, which is what I always look for in a king.”
In the process of embalming, the Egyptians removed the deceased’s brain through the nose cavity. That’s all I know about the process, and if it’s all right with you people I’d rather keep it that way.
- [p. 71/69] “Do I really have to wear this gold mask?”
Terry has confirmed that the scenes in which Dios dresses up Teppic in his King’s outfit (starting with the Flail of Mercy and culminating in the Cabbage of Vegetative Increase) are a parody of the old BBC children’s game show Crackerjack. In this show the contestants were asked questions, and for each correct answer they received a prize, which they had to hold on to. If they answered wrong, they were given a large cabbage, increasing the likelihood of dropping everything. The person left at the end who hadn’t dropped anything won the game.
- [p. 73/71] “Interfamilial marriage is a proud tradition of our lineage,’ said Dios.”
Teppic is astonished to hear that his great-great-grandmother once declared herself male as a matter of political expediency. It was in fact indeed the custom of the Egyptians to marry their pharaohs to close relatives, and Hatshepsut, daughter of Thutmose I, wife and half-sister of Thutmose II, and mother-in-law of Thutmose III actually did proclaim herself king in order to seize the throne.
Incidentally, Dios is using the wrong word here: A marriage between relatives would be intrafamilial, not interfamilial.
- [p. 90/87] “This thing could put an edge on a rolling pin.”
See the annotation for p. 35/35 of The Light Fantastic. There’s another more explicit reference on p. 140/134: “[...] contrary to popular opinion pyramids don’t sharpen razor blades”.
- [p. 95/91] “Squiggle, constipated eagle, wiggly line, hippo’s bottom, squiggle’ [...] the Sun God Teppic had Plumbing Installed and Scorned the Pillows of his Forebears.”
The constipated eagle is obviously the plumbing system, but what not many people outside Britain will realise is that the hippo’s bottom comes from an advert for Slumberdown beds, which featured a hippo sitting down next to a chick.
- [p. 95/92] Pteppic’s dream about the seven fat and seven thin cows is a reference to the Bible’s Joseph, who had to explain a similar dream
(which did not have the bit about the trombone, though), to the Pharaoh. Pyramids is of course riddled with religious references, most of which are too obvious or too vague to warrant inclusion here.
- [p. 100/97] “All things are defined by names. Change the name, and you change the thing.”
This is a very ancient concept in magic and ‘primitive’ religions. Although I haven’t asked him, I’m willing to bet money that Terry did not take his inspiration from Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, despite the many e-mails I have received suggesting a connection.
For a definitive reference on this subject, read James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough.
- [p. 102/99] “[...] I am a stranger in a familiar land.”
The phrase “stranger in a strange land” originates from the Bible, Exodus 2:22, “And she bare [Moses] a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.”
Since the “strange land” in question was Egypt, there’s a nice resonance with Pyramids itself in Terry’s use of the phrase.
These days, people may be more familiar with the quote as the title of Robert Heinlein’s 60s cult science fiction book.
- [p. 109/105] “Doppelgangs,’ he said.”
Pun on the German word ‘doppelgaenger’, meaning ‘body double’. Thanks to dozens of bad sf-movies the word has entered the English language in the mostly sinister meaning of some metamorphic life form taking the shape of a human being.
- [p. 127/121] Notice the sound accompanying the pyramid flares. It phonetically spells ‘Cheops’.
- [p. 134/128] “It seemed to Teppic that its very weight was deforming the shape of things, stretching the kingdom like a lead ball on a rubber sheet.”
This metaphor ties in neatly with the quantum aspects of the Pyramids: rubber sheets distorted by balls are one popular way of visualising Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The sheet represents the space-time-continuum, and the balls are bits of mass (like suns and planets). The balls press down and deform the space around them. When things try to move along the rubber sheet, not only are they attracted into the dimples in the sheet (gravity), but things like light which try to travel in a straight line find little kinks in their path around an object.
- [p. 144/138] “She can play the dulcimer,’ said the ghost of Teppicymon XXVII, apropos of nothing much.”
Reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. See also the annotation for p. 127/115 of Sourcery.
- [p. 156/150] “[...] distilling the testicles of a small tree-dwelling species of bear with the vomit of a whale, [...]”
Animal substances are extensively used as fixatives in perfume. Examples include musk (from deer-testicles; ‘musk’ is Sanskrit for ‘scrotum’), ambergris (from the intestines of whales) and castor (from a beaver’s perineal gland).
- [p. 157/150] “...Phi * 1700[u/v]. Lateral e/v. Equals a tranche of seven to twelve...”
Some confusion has arisen here, because the asterisk symbol ‘*’ is the same one used in at least some of the editions of Pyramids as a footnote marker. This has caused a few people to wonder if there’s a ‘missing footnote’ intended for this page. Matters are not helped much by the fact that the American paperback edition does contain the text of a footnote on (their equivalent of) p. 157/150. This footnote is simply misplaced and the marker for it occurs on the previous page (see also previous annotation).
We’ll let Terry have the last word in order to remove any remaining doubt: “I’m pretty sure the missing footnote in Pyramids doesn’t exist. If it’s what I’m thinking of, we just bunged in loads of gibberish maths and among the symbols was, yes, ‘*’.”
I am told that in later paperback editions the asterisk in question has been entirely removed from the text.
- [p. 168/162] “I’ve got as far as “Goblins Picnic” in Book I.”
After the children’s song called “Teddy Bears’ Picnic”:
Today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic.”
- [p. 176/169] The philosophers shooting arrows at tortoises are discussing one of Zeno’s three motion paradoxes. See also Douglas Hofstadter’s Goedel, Escher, Bach. Or Zeno.
- [p. 178/171] “The rest of them die of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, [...]”
Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (HUP) says that for a quantum particle (e.g. an electron), it is impossible to know with complete accuracy both where it is and how fast it is going. The act of observing it interferes with the event you want to measure (in fact, one might say that at the quantum level the observation is the event) in such a way that it is physically impossible to determine both velocity and position of the particle in question.
- [p. 179/171] Philosophers’ names.
Xeno refers to Zeno, of aforementioned paradox. Copolymer (“the greatest storyteller in the history of the world”) might refer to both Homer (because of the name) and Herodotus, ‘the father of history’, who was known for his very chatty and discursive style, and who basically made his living as a story-teller/dinner guest. Pthagonal (“a very acute man with an angle”) refers to Pythagoras. Iesope (“the greatest teller of fables”) to Aesop. Antiphon (“the greatest writer of comic plays”) to Aristophanes. And Ibid (whose name reminds us of Ovid) is actually short for ibidem, which means, when citing literature references: ‘same author as before’. Hence the quip later on: “Ibid you already know”.
The only one left is Endos the Listener, who is perhaps meant to portray the standard second-man-in-a-Socratic-dialogue—the man who spends the entire dialogue saying things like “That is correct, Socrates”, “I agree”, “you’re right”, “your reasoning appears correct”, and the like.
Also, an ‘antiphon’ is a name for a versicle or sentence sung by one choir in response to another (e.g.: “No you can’t / Yes I can!” repeated many times with rising pitch. Or a more modern example would perhaps be Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’: “No, we will not let you go / Let me go!”). ‘Copolymer’ is a term from chemistry; it refers to a polymer (plastic) made from more than one kind of monomer (simple compound).
[Finally, my source also suspects that Copolymer’s monologue may be a take-off on a particular translation of his Histories. Anybody?]
- [p. 179/172] “The tortoise did beat the hare,’ said Xeno sulkily.”
Reference to Aesop’s classic fable The Hare and the Tortoise.
If you have access to the Internet, you can find an online version of the Aesop fables at the URL:
- [p. 180/173] “Now their gods existed. They had, as it were, the complete Set.”
For those of you whose Egyptian mythology is a little rusty: Set, brother to Isis and Osiris and father of Anubis, was the Egyptian God of evil and darkness.
- [p. 181/174] “Sacrifice a chicken under his nose.”
Refers to the old practice of burning a feather under the nose of an unconscious or fainted person.
- [p. 181/174] “[...] here comes Scarab again... yes, he’s gaining height... Jeht hasn’t seen him yet, [...].”
The high priest’s commentary on the gods’ battle for the sun is obviously based on sports commentators. In particular, several of the phrases are based on the diction of David Coleman, a popular British figure of fun noted for his somewhat loose grasp on reality and his tendency towards redundancy and solecism. In fact, an amusingly redundant comment spoken live by a personality is sometimes referred to as a ‘Colemanball’, after the column of that name in the satirical magazine Private Eye.
Typical Colemanballs include, “...He’s a real fighter, this lad, who believes that football’s a game of two halves, and that it isn’t over until the final whistle blows”, or during the test (cricket) matches, “And he’s coming up to bowl now... The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey...”. (That last one wasn’t even by David Coleman, but still qualifies as a Colemanball).
- [p. 197/189] “Symposium’ meant a knife-and-fork tea.”
Etymologically, a symposium is indeed a “get-together for a drink”. Since the Greeks believed in lubricating intellectual discussion with drink, the term eventually came to be used for a meeting, which combined elements of partying and intellectual interchange.
- [p. 197/189] The Tsortean wars refer to the Trojan wars. (Read also Eric. Or Homer.)
- [p. 201/193] “A philosopher had averred that although truth was beauty, beauty was not necessarily truth, and a fight was breaking out.”
A famous quotation from John Keats’ ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’:
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
- [p. 204/195] “[...] ships called the Marie Celeste, [...]”
The Marie Celeste left port in 1872 with a full crew, but was later found (by the crew of the Dei Gratia), abandoned on the open sea, with no crew, the single lifeboat missing, and half-eaten meals in the mess hall. It was later discovered that captain Morehouse of the Dei Gratia had dined with the captain of the Celeste the night before she sailed, and Morehouse and his crew were eventually tried for murder, but acquitted because there was no hard evidence. The missing crewmen were never found.
- [p. 205/197] “And one of them had reputedly turned himself into a golden shower in pursuit of his intended.”
According to Greek mythology the beautiful Danae had been locked away in a dungeon by her father (King Acrisius of Argos) because a prophecy had foretold that his grandson would slay him. But Zeus, King of the Gods, came upon Danae in a shower of gold, and fathered Perseus upon her.
+ [p. 221] “[...] every camel knew what two bricks added up to.”
In jokes, the castration (or, as the punchline dictates, speeding up) of camels is achieved by taking two bricks and smashing the animal’s testicles between them.
- [p. 250/239] “Go, tell the Ephebians—‘ he began.”
This is a paraphrase of “Go tell the Spartans”, which is the beginning of the memorial for the Spartan soldiers who got massacred by the Persians at Thermopylae as a result of Greek treachery. The full quote is given by Simonides (5th century BC) as:
- [p. 270/259] “And it was while he was staring vaguely ahead, [...] that there was a faint pop in the air and an entire river valley opened up in front of him.”
People interested in more stories about magically disappearing valleys are referred to R. A. Lafferty’s ‘Narrow Valley’ (to be found in his collection Nine Hundred Grandmothers), where a half a mile wide valley is sorcerously narrowed (with its inhabitants) to a few feet and then opened up again by the end of the story.
- [p. 271/259] “[...] the birds said more with a simple bowel movement than
Ozymandias ever managed to say.”
Ozymandias was the Greek name for Ramses the Second. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Ozymandias is famous, but because it is short and it has always been a favourite of mine I hope you will forgive me the indulgence of reproducing it here in full:
I met a traveler 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 their 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.”
While I was browsing the net in order to find an on-line copy of Ozymandias so that I could cut-and-paste the text, I came across a wonderful piece of related information. It appears that in 1817 Shelley held a sonnet-writing session with his friend, the poet Horace Smith. Both wrote a sonnet on the same subject, but while Shelley came up with the aforementioned Ozymandias, Mr Smith produced something so delightfully horrendous I simply have to indulge even further, and include it here as well. By now the connection to our original annotation has been completely lost, but I think you might agree with me that Smith’s poem would be worthy of Creosote:
On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below.
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! Naught but the leg remaining to disclose The sight of that forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some hunter may express Wonder like ours, when through the wilderness Where London stood, holding the wolf in chase, He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess What wonderful, but unrecorded, race Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
The poem was cited by Guy Davenport of the University of Kentucky in a New York Times article a few years ago, which concluded: “Genius may also be knowing how to title a poem.”
+ [p. 273] “You said it worked for Queen wossname, Ram-Jam-Hurrah, or whoever,’ said Chidder.”
Legend has it that Cleopatra had herself smuggled to Caesar inside an oriental rug.
- [p. 277/265] “For the asses’ milk?’ said Koomi [...]”