Ozymandias Summary & Analysis by Percy Bysshe Shelley
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.”
About Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelly was a controversial romantic poet in the 19thcentury. He was born in 1792. His school days were unpleasant as he was often bullied by the other students both mentally and physically due to his shyness, a usual behaviour in a man. As a result he retreated into imagination to get rid of his loneliness. In 1810, Shelly entered University College, Oxford. Shelley and his friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg had publisheda pamphlet titled “The Necessity of Atheism” which created much controversy as a result of which Shelleywas expelledfrom the university.A radical in his poetry as well as in his political and social views, Shelley did not see fame during his lifetime, but recognition of his achievements in poetry grew steadily following his death.
Analysis of Ozymandias
The poem describes the antique statue of Ozymandias. The speaker meets a traveller who was from the antique land. He narrates the story told by the traveller as he hears without adding or omitting anything, that’s why it is given in reported speech. The traveller talks about a broken statue of a great emperor called ‘Ozymandias” he has seen.
“Ozymandias is an ancient Greek name for Ramses II“pharao” of Egypt during the 19thdynasty. Ramses II was one of Egypt’s greatest pharaos who is known not only for his building programsbutalso for several ambitious foreign military campaigns and for his diplomacy as well. “Ozy” comes from the Greek term “ozium”whichmeans “air” and “mandius”comes from “mandate’ whichmeans “to rule”. So Ozymandias is the ruler of air or the ruler of nothing.(Wealer).
This is a political poem which gives insights into the poet’s views on power, fame and political legacy. The poem shows that political leadership is fleeting and forgotten, no matter how hard a ruler may try to preserve his own greatness”, (David Wheeler).
- Power of nature-he shows the positive as well as negative aspect of nature. Nature is a source of inspiration and creation like the massive statue. At the same time it is not only capable of destroying but also can punish the arrogant ones. It destroys the statue overtime.
- Vanity of pride and arrogance.
- Illusion of fame and power.
Ozymandias Literary Techniques
- Structure-sonnet(but not Shakespearian)
- Rhyming scheme-ABABACDC-EDEFEF
- Near them on the sand
- Half sunk, a shatteredvisage lies, whose frownBoundless and bare
- Irony-the power that Ozymandias tries to capture for the eternity has become a testimony to his mutability.
- Symbols-King’s broken statue-symbolizes the nature’s superiority over humankind’s arrogance
- Statue of Ozymandias-symbolizes political tyranny.
- The statue is broken into pieces-symbolizes that oppression is temporary and that an unjust ruler does not have power which lasts forever.
- The broken statue also symbolizes the era of civilization and culture. The statue is a construction made by a creator and now it and its creator have been destroyed, likewise all living things which are finally destroyed. (Reiman, 1977)