The poem Ozymandias, composed by Percy Bysshe Shelley, is a well-recognized sonnet on the accomplishments of King Ozymandias. This king is believed to be Rameses II of Egypt. The Sonnet was probably written after the poet, Shelley, found out that remains of Egyptian kings had been recovered. Shelley depicts in "Ozymandias" that pride and human accomplishments pass away over time, and how our beliefs of those accomplishments change too. The poem illustrates the strength and descends of false greatness, told from the eyes of a traveler who meets an aged stranger.  The stranger tells him about the fall of the great realm that had believed itself unconquerable by even time itself.  The image of a statue is employed to symbolize the kingdom (Helium.com)


There is vivid irony in Ozymandias’ shattered visage on the sand. The king no longer commanded any power and therefore he no longer frightened those he once suppressed with his mightiness. Nevertheless, ridicule still showed in his face and is the very passions that contributed to a period of glory but also its own devastation as captured by Shelley. The words  “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” reveals sheer irony  in  the poem as it shows a power, which conceived itself unbreakable, shattered yet was laid to waste; “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone” ( Shelley 65)

The assonance in “cold command” brings out the sense of cruelty and power of Ozymandias. The “sculptor” forged the exact character of Ozymandias; powerful, cruel, and abounding with intimidation. The “lifeless things” which still “survive” is an indication of the king’s empire; which had been cut down to nothing more than a “thing (authspot.com).

The alliteration in “boundless and bare” brings out the degree of deterioration that has taken place on the land. Other alliterations used are in the last two lines includes: “sands stretch” and “lone and level”.  “Lone and level” symbolizes the ultimate individual power of the Earth: Nature. Equally sand is a symbolization of nature; “sands stretch” displays the unrestrained dominion of nature, which “stretch” far outside any human’s control (authspot.com)

The poet employs symbolism in the poem since the poem is inspired by a sculpture of Ramses II. The "colossal" size of the sculpture is a symbolization of Ramses's lofty self-promotion imperial ambition. The statues and sculpture serves as a vehicle for the poet to research questions about them.

The Land” cited to in the first stanza and the “sand stretch far away” shows the background of the poem as Egypt. “Vast” is also an indication of the history of the land and its civilization that had perished long ago. The useless sculpture in the poem formalizes Ozymandias’ deprivation of power and immortality.

The third stanza awakens the feeling of intimidation. Appearance of words on the pedestal. “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” implies that King Ozymandias was evidently incredibly mighty and had the ability to control and manipulate his fellowman.  The real meaning of the “half-sunk” sculpture describes the king’s true level as he is level with everyone else although, the king was no higher than his dependents but domination had led him to think that. Shelley though the poet sets out to divulge in the idea of humans being equal and the belief that nobody is immortal.

The statue that inspired the composition of the poem was partly destroyed and thus the poem often reminds us that the sculpture is in ruins. The derelict state of the sculpture symbolizes not only the erosive actions of time, but also the briefness of politicians and governments.

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