“Ozymandias” Poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Ozymandias” has been written by Percy Bysshe Shelley and is among his most famous short poems in the form of a sonnet. The principal theme of the poem is the unavoidable decline of man, all the work he has done, and the mighty empires that he has created. The text has a vivid enunciation and has an atypical assonance system which creates an interwoven and supple result. The central assonance system of the complete text is ABABACDCEDEFEF. The entire poem is of 14 lines and has been mainly written in iambic pentameter, as evident from the following lines,

“I met | a trav- | eller from | an anti- | que land
Who said: | Two vast |and trunk- | less legs | of stone”

Ozymandias was one of the most majestic rulers of Egypt and was also known as Ramses II. He had ruled Egypt for almost 66 years and had built a number of structures. Shelley tries to tell us through his poem that even the mightiest of kings will not last forever, but art lives on almost forever.

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay”

Ozymandias’ statue which symbolized glory and power has completely crumbled now, but even then the expressions of the ruler are intact on the sculpture. Even though the sculptor mocked and mimicked his king, it is only his interpretation of the king’s feelings in the form of the head of the statue, which has survived, and not the king himself.

“Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read”
The most powerful lines of the poem are,
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

This has been said as an ironic indictment that reflects the ruler’s pride. The entire poem has two settings, firstly when the narrator of this poem meets the traveler, and secondly, when the traveler tells his tale regarding the crumbling statue of Ozymandias.

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