In the book Deliverance Lost, from The Horus Heresy,

Corvax is given, by the Emperor himself, the secret of the location of the laboratory where the primarchs were created (or at least somewhere that holds this information, I have not finished it yet). When entering the cave in the mountain, there is some kind of poetry talking about Egypt and Ozymandias, written on the ground/walls.

In real life, there is a poem written by Shelley, called 'Ozymandias'.

While the coincidence seems very unlikely, I am wondering if this is an actual reference to this poem. While I do not know if this is the only existing piece of text that mentions Ozymandias, the content of the text in the book is very different from the real version I linked above.

So my question is: Is this really a reference, as I suspect, to the real 'Ozymandias' poem ?

  • What exactly are you quoting from in those two block quotes?
    – user14111
    Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 7:59
  • @user14111 Are you refering to the spoiler blocks ? If yes, it is to avoid spoiler for people who would like to read it. (Obviously ^^) Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 8:56

1 Answer 1


With a name like "Deliverance Lost," poetic allusions are very much to be expected.

In this particular case, the poem that Corvax finds is the other 1818 poem titled "Ozymandias," written by Shelley's friend Horace Smith.

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 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.

The poems were inspired by the same statue and published a few weeks apart. As Wikipedia explains: "It takes the same subject, tells the same story, and makes a similar moral point...." Smith's poem is less famous but still a fine piece of work. (Personally, I think the two sonnets are of similar merit, but most people seemingly prefer Shelley's.) This was also not the only time that the two friends tried picking a single subject and each writing a verse about it.

  • 4
    Horace Smith later retitled his poem "On A Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below" - sometimes being a good poet means knowing what title to choose ;) Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 9:17
  • I disagree with Wikipedia's claim that the poems make a similar moral point. Shelley's point is that the sculptor left a more impressive legacy than the king, while Smith's is that what happened to Ancient Egypt may happen to us. I don't know how the poem figures into the novel, but I doubt that they would have been equally appropriate in context.
    – benrg
    Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 22:54
  • 2
    @benrg Perhaps one of the reasons that Shelley's sonnet is regarded more highly is that it has a more layered meaning. However, the best known part of the poem seems to be: "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;// Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!" rather than the parts about how "its sculptor well those passions read."
    – Buzz
    Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 0:22

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