A high school English class assignment for our son Jesse was to memorize and recite a poem. He chose “Ozymandias,” by Percy Bysshe Shelly. The poem’s thesis is that a cruel, powerful, arrogant tyrant is now and forever relegated to a forgotten dustbin of history.
The poet-prophet Isaiah says the same, directing God’s impending judgment on the king of Babylon. “You said in your heart, “I will ascent to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God…I will make myself like the Most High.”
But God speaks to that king (and the Empire) through Isaiah, “…You will be brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.” (Isaiah 14:3-21)
The vision in Daniel 7 metaphorically identifies four beasts who represent empires of that epoch that rise then collapse. Since then, and throughout history, more empires have risen, then collapsed due to arrogance, hubris, violence, oppressive exploitation. I recent centuries this has included empires of Spain, England, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany. Meso-American empires have included Mayan, Aztec, Inca. Asian empires included the Mongol and the Ottoman. All have collapsed. The United States is an empire. Think about that in historical context.
Here is Shelly’s poem, Ozymandias.
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 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.”