Essay on Ozymandias: A Poem of Love, Romance and Tragic Ruins

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1524 Words
Date:  2023-03-02

Ozymandias is a poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley that focuses on love and romance. And it talks about how the speaker in the poem meets a traveler from an ancient land. The poem describes the ruins of a foreign king's statue in a desert. The speaker in the poem remembers how he met a traveler who explained to him how the figure had been ruined in the desert. Although the statue once commanded people to look at the work done by the king, there is nothing left to look as everything gets ruined. The empires, cities, and power owned by the king are all destroyed and disappeared over time. Ozymandias refers to himself as the king of kings, a phrase borrowed from the bible and which shows the level of pride that he had. From this, one can assume that the obscurity of the king may be a reprimand from God. The poet uses other phrases as the las lines in the poem use alliteration to make the poem memorable. The fragments of the statue have been used to preserve the personality of the king as a person who was proud and commanding and can be used to reference the kind of man and leader Ozymandias was. Although the poem insists that nothing gets left apart from the pedestal remains and the shattered statue, there is one remaining thing that has withstood the test of time, which the poet calls art. The words carved on the icon and how skillful it survived long enough after the kingdom of Ozymandias has turned to dust. Through this, the poet portrays art as the most long-lasting tool for preserving the legacy of humanity.

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I met a traveler 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,

The first four lines talk about how the speaker met with the traveler who comes from an old world. There is no way of knowing whether the traveler is a native of the land, or he was just a person who had visited the place. There is also no way of knowing where the encounter took place, whether it is on the roadside or in a building. There is also no way of knowing which city the conversation was carried out in. From the first line, it can get deduced that the traveler was from an ancient land such as Egypt, Greece, or Rome. The traveler tells the speaker some of the things he witnessed in this ancient land, where he talks about the ruined statue he came across. From this, there is the element of a story within a story. This way of writing enables the poet to add a certain level of obscurity in the minds of the readers about the position of Ozymandias. It indicates how the glory of power and pride diminish with time. In the second line, the traveler talks about how he came across two huge stone legs of a statue in the desert. The legs were trunkless, meaning they did not have the upper part of the body. It is strange as there is no way of knowing what happened to the rest of the body. Could it have been destroyed by war or natural disaster? From the desert setting, there is a hint that the place was most probably ancient Egypt. There was also a broken head that got partially buried in the sand near the two legs. The shattering of the head indicates that the rest of the statue is probably destroyed. However, there is no definitive way of knowing what happened to the icon. It could be as a result of natural processes such as decay or withering with time.

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;

The traveler continues describing how the face of the statue was when he says that it had the expressions of the mighty ruler Ozymandias still visible and identifiable. As it turns out, the face was not destroyed as one can see wrinkles, frowns, and sneer. There is still no understanding of the person the statue relates to. The traveler uses the words wrinkled up, frown, and sneer of cold command to give the reader the impression that the person on the statue was often upset, commanding, and angry. It is also possible that the person on the sculpture thought that sneering made him look more convincing. There is also a possibility that he ordered the sculptor to make the statue. By this, the poet can show the uniqueness of art. Art can capture and relate the character of an individual even after they are dead. The poem is able to bring out the ability of art to bring forth the personality of an individual. The next line in the poem shifts focuses from the sculpture to the sculptor. The traveler gets pleased that the person who created the statue understood and felt the emotions and passion of the subject in the sculpture. He drew the face perfectly well that it was still visible even after the destruction of the statue. The traveler continues praising the sculptor. By using the words "but yet survive," the traveler implies that the work of art created by the sculptor will live far much longer, or it means that art is immortal. It says that although Ozymandias may be dead, the sculptor was able to capture his passions and emotions and made a reproduction of them. It indicates that although the stones used are lifeless, the art creation is still alive. The sculptor mocked and copied the passions of his subject. He also felt the emotions of the king, which inspired him to create the statue. The poet is also able to bring out more about the abilities of the sculptor through the writing on the icon.

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."

In this last part of the poem, the traveler shifts his attention from the sculptor to the statue again. Here the traveler makes a quotation of the words found on the icon. The inscription identifies the name of the subject, which is Ozymandias, who referred to himself as the king of kings. Ozymandias despises other people who believe they are mighty and asks them to look at the things he has achieved before they declare themselves powerful. The pedestal can preserve the character of Ozymandias in a better way than the statue itself. He has the command for mighty and expects that onlookers will despair at his strength and superiority. His words can then get regarded as just threats, yet only the words survive long after Ozymandias is dead. Without these words, it would be difficult for anyone to know who the statue belongs to or what it is all about. It is, therefore, right to say that the legacy of Ozymandias and his failures can only get identified through artwork. From the poem, it can get deduced that Ozymandias was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. The work then may refer to the famous statues, and temples built by Ramesses II. In this section of the poem, Ozymandias is warning other kings not to get their hopes high as they can never attain the things that he has managed to achieve. From this, one can see the commanding and proud nature of the king. However, it is ironic that despite the much power that Ozymandias portrayed, his statue is now buried in the sand by the great force of nature. The final words of the traveler get seen in the line that begins with "nothing beside remains." In this section, the traveler wants the speaker to understand that of all the empires and cities built by the king; there was nothing left except for the ruined state and sand. By using the words colossal Wreck, the traveler wants the speaker to understand that the high-flying passion and the gigantic statue of the king have all turned into dust with time. The vastness of time gets indicated by the line stating, "boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away." The poem itself than suggests that art is a sign of immortality. Although everything else about Ozymandias disappears, art, although broken and buried in the sand, has the capability of carrying the legacy of an individual. The power of art is well reflected in the poem as the poem can keep the story about Ozymandias for an extended period to be used by the following generations. Through the poem, one understands the power of art. Art can preserve cities, people, objects, among other things, giving them a sense of immortality and allowing future generations to review past work with wonder.

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Essay on Ozymandias: A Poem of Love, Romance and Tragic Ruins. (2023, Mar 02). Retrieved from

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