Who is Ozymandias?, By John Fuller


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The Independent Culture

The customary answer is Rameses II, though Fuller asserts the "obvious Ozymandias of Shelley's day" was Napoleon.

This exploration of poetic puzzles ranges from Randall Jarrell's shocking Death of A Ball Turret Gunner ("they washed me out of the turret with a hose") to Wallace Stevens's Emperor of Ice-Cream (Fuller notes, "the national food of a country which has eschewed emperors").

Discussing the poetic force of riddles, he cites a children's rhyme about "a bottomless vessel to put flesh and blood in". Warfare? No, a wedding ring.