OZYMANDIAS

Poet: Percy Bysshe Shelley

Published: 1818

Ozymandias was a Greek name for the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, perhaps the most powerful king of Ancient Egypt. In Percy’s poem the speaker recalls meeting a traveller who tells him about two huge stone legs and a damaged head of a statue whose sculptor had captured the pride of his subject. On the pedestal of the statue appear the words, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” However around the ruin is nothing but “lone and level sands”. The poem focuses on the momentary nature of power with its central theme being the inevitable decline of all leaders, no matter how great they consider themselves. P. B. Shelley was one of the leading Romantic poets and Ozymandias is his most famous work.

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.

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