Words for eternity
,,I am Osymandias, king of kings; if anyone would know how great I am, and where I lie, let him excel any of my works"
These are the words engraved on the tombstone of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II. Ozymandias is undoubtedly one of both Percy Bysshe Shelley's and romantic poetry's best known works. It was written in December of 1817 during a writing contest and it was published in 1818.
Shelley was part of the Romantic Movement that originated in 18th century Europe. The Romantics, including Shelley, are characterized by a strong sense of individualism. They also typify themselves as stressing the beauty of nature, death, and their love for Shakespearean works. Another strong theme in Romanticism is escapism. They often imagined exotic locations and the distant past was revalued. ,,Ruins were sentimentalized as iconic of the action of Nature on the works of man, and mythic and legendary material which would previously have been seen as low culture became a common basis for works of high art and literature.''
Shelley's poem Ozymandias encompasses many of these themes of the romantic age. The poem is a small tale of a ,,traveler from an antique land's" (line 1) account on Ozymandias' statue he set eyes on in the (Egyptian) desert. At a first glance, the poem deals with the irony of the engravings on the stone; nothing remains of the great kingdom Ozymandias once ruled, only the ruins of a once mighty statue. But at a closer look, a different and more interesting theme arises. Although nothing of this grand statue remains, or as the traveler puts it ,,nothing beside remains .of that colossal wreck," the only intact remnants of the statue are the words engraved by the sculptor. Shelley composes a subtle but interesting point through these words: power and objects are forgotten in the rush of history, but words transcend the limits of time.
Most of Shelley's poem covers the traveler's description...