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<font size=5px>''Welcome to the '''explain [[xkcd]]''' wiki!''</font>
 
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We have collaboratively explained [[:Category:Comics|'''{{#expr:{{PAGESINCAT:Comics}}-9}}''' xkcd comics]],
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We have an explanation for all [[:Category:Comics|'''{{#expr:{{PAGESINCAT:Comics|R}}-13}}''' xkcd comics]],
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If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.
 
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Please only submit material directly related to —and helping everyone better understand— xkcd... and of course ''only'' submit material that can legally be posted (and freely edited.)  Off-topic or other inappropriate content is subject to removal or modification at admin discretion, and users who repeatedly post such content will be blocked.
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[[Category:Root category]]
 
[[Category:Root category]]

Revision as of 03:05, 4 September 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have an explanation for all 1562 xkcd comics, and only 0 (0%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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Ozymandias
And on the pedestal these words appear: "And on the pedestal these words appear: "And on the pedestal these words appear: "And ...
Title text: And on the pedestal these words appear: "And on the pedestal these words appear: "And on the pedestal these words appear: "And ...

Explanation

Ponytail is reciting the opening of "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (see text below). However, instead of continuing on with the poem, Ponytail is going through a recursion where the information is always being quoted from "a traveler from an antique land" who recounts what they were told by a similar traveler from another antique land. The title text once again plays with recursion, but instead of it being a string of travelers talking about travelers, it is a string of pedestals that are quoting pedestals. (In the original poem, the text on the pedestal is itself recounted as part of the traveler's story, so there are already two levels of quotation.)

The poem Ozymandias is about the last vestiges of a once-great civilization that has since been lost to history. However, the poem itself, like the statue it describes,can be thought of as a pinnacle of achievement for its civilization- in this case, English civilization. So it is entirely possible that one day, after the fall of this civilization, the poem will fill the same role for it that the statue filled for Ozymandias' (fictional) civilization, and would therefore be referenced by a traveler from an antique land who stumbled across it.

The fact that Ponytail is now telling Cueball the story of this recursion implies that she is yet another layer of this recursion and is herself "a traveler from an antique land."

The quotes are not nested properly, as they never end. So there is only the starting quotation mark (") for each quote. If she ever finishes there would be one closing quotation mark for each quote in the recursion at the end of her sentence.

The poem is a sonnet written in iambic pentameter, 10 syllables to a line (note that traveler should be read as trav'ler with only two syllables. Also note that it was originally written in British English where it was spelled with two l's as traveller). The fragment quoted in the comic consist of the first line and two syllables of the second line of the original poem. The way Ponytail recites her version of the poem in the comic, each line continues to be iambic pentameters (which is the reason for the hyphenation of an-tique between 2nd and 3rd line). However the fourth and last line stops two syllables short, but would have continued as indicated by ... Perhaps Randall did this to avoid finishing in mid word ("a trav-").

The title text quotes exactly one line, the 9th line or the first line of the second part of the poem, also stopping during the fourth repetition, although after just one word the fourth time, also with ... to indicate that this goes on and on and...

The poem "Ozymandias" is mentioned on pages 169 and 170 of the book Recursive Desire: Rereading Epic Tradition by Jeremy M. Downes.

Ozymandias text

I met a traveller 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."[1]
  1. Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ozymandias" in Miscellaneous and Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley (London: W. Benbow, 1826), 100.

Transcript

[Ponytail, with her arms stretched out, is addressing Cueball.]
Ponytail:
I met a traveler from an antique land
who said: "I met a traveler from an an
-tique land, who said "I met a traveler from
an antique land, who said "I met ...


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  • List of all comics contains a table of most recent xkcd comics and links to the rest, and the corresponding explanations. There are incomplete explanations listed here. Feel free to help out by expanding them!
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