The British library says of this 19th-C. man, “one of his most famous poems… is a warning about the arrogance of great leaders”

In the category of “Literature,” the Final Jeopardy question presented on June 26, 2024, offered a compelling challenge to its contestants.

The clue provided by the British Library referenced a 19th-century man known for a poem that serves as a caution against the hubris of great leaders.

Who is Percy Bysshe Shelley?

Percy Bysshe Shelley, an iconic figure of the Romantic movement, was renowned for his lyrical and evocative poetry, which often delved into themes of idealism and personal liberty. However, one of his most enduring works, which fits the description provided in the clue, is “Ozymandias.” This sonnet is not only a reflection on the inevitable decline of all leaders, no matter how powerful, but also a meditation on the impermanence of empire.

Shelley’s “Ozymandias” describes the ruins of a statue of an ancient king, whose arrogant proclamation, “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” stands ironically amid nothing but vast and empty sands. This powerful imagery effectively captures the transience of power and the vanity of tyranny. The British Library’s reference to this poem highlights its continued relevance as a critique of the overreach often seen in positions of great power.

The inclusion of “Ozymandias” in a Jeopardy clue underscores not only the poem’s literary significance but also its socio-political commentary. Shelley’s work invites readers to ponder the legacy of leadership and the fleeting nature of authority, themes that resonate deeply in today’s global political climate. The clue, therefore, not only tested the contestants’ knowledge of literature but also their understanding of the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the works they study.


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