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,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 5
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; imitated
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: 10
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.
Humans throughout history have striven to overcome their mortality
by leaving something of themselves behind -- evidence of their existence.
The subject of Shelley's poem 'Ozymandias' is an ancient king who shared
this common desire, but not in a common way.
He not only wanted to leave
behind a record of himself for future generations, he wanted his memory
exalted above that of others, and even above the 'Mighty' who would live
after him. He did not want to give up at death the power he had wielded
The irony in this poem lies in the difference between what
Ozymandias intends -- to hold onto the glory of his works after time takes
its course with him -- and what actually happens. This great monument's
'frown, / And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command' and the inscription
on the pedestal are all meant to inspire fear in the viewer. However,
natural weathering and (possibly) destruction due to conquest have
dismembered this image of the king and rid him of the awe-inspiring
ability he once possessed.
Rhyme plays an elusive part...