Ozymandias

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

About the Author

Percy Bysshe Shelley

1792-1822


Born in England, and being the eldest son of Timothy and Elizabeth, Percy was set to inherit his grandfather's estate and seat in parliament. He went to college, and started writing poetry. He didn't publish anything until his 1810 work, Zastrozzi. Shelley was an Atheist, and when he expressed his views on religion he was kicked out of college. His father was furious and disowned him. He moved away, married, and then started writing professionally. In his life, he wrote almost 70 works, including Ozymandias, which he is widely known for.

The Poem

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:

Big image

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Interpretation

The narrator meets a traveler from an old culture who tells him a story of something he found in the desert. The statue he found was broken, but he could see by the face that it was well sculpted from life. This statue is of a king from long ago, who thought that he was the best king of all time, as shown in the inscription. Even though he thought that he was the best, there is no trace of his kingdom other that this broken statue.

Themes

The poem Ozymandias has many different themes to it. The first theme is that time erases everything. The statue from long ago is broken, even though it is of a once mighty king. The next theme is about art. The statue in the poem is described in great detail, including saying "it sculptor well those passions read" which means he was really good at recreating the emotions shown in the king. Thirdly, the king felt great pride or arrogance. He felt that he was the best around, proven by calling himself the "king of kings" and saying that he will be known in the future (even though he isn't). The final theme is the relationship between man-made objects and nature. The statue came from the earth, having been carved from stone, and as time moves on, wind and rain take their toll as well. They return the statue to the earth, like how the face is half sunk.