Interpretation of ``Ozymandias``

Topics: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Irony, Sarcasm Pages: 5 (643 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote this poem

"Ozymandias" to express to us that possessions

do not mean immortality. He used very strong

imagery and irony to get his point across

throughout the poem. In drawing these vivid and

ironic pictures in our minds, Shelley was trying to

explain that no one lives forever, and nor do their


Shelley expresses this poem's moral through a

vivid and ironic picture. A shattered stone statue

with only the legs and head remaining, standing

in the desert, the face is proud and arrogant,

"Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions

read"(lines, 4-6). On the pedestal of the statue,

there are these words, ‘"My name is

Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works,

ye Mighty, and despair!'"(Lines, 10-11).

However, all that surrounds the statue is a desert.

This poem is written to express to us that

possessions don't mean immortality, the king

who seemed to think that his kingdom would

remain under his statue's haughty gaze forever,

ironically teaches us this through his epitaph.

"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and

despair!"(Line, 11) becomes good advice, though

in an opposite meaning than the king intended,

for it comes to mean that despite all the power

and might one acquires in the course of their life,

material possessions will not last forever. In the

end, the King's "works" are nothing, and the

lines inscribed upon his statue are a sermon to

those who read it.

This is a poem about art. Shelley used imagery

and a very impressive ironical way to write this

poem. Basically, the poem is divided into two

parts; the first eight lines are describing an

ancient decayed sculpture seen by a traveler. The

last six lines however talk about the words on the

pedestal and the desolate surroundings; he

contrasts the great sculpture with the surrounding

emptiness, which gave a stronger feeling about

the poem.

In Shelley's work, it described the visage "sneer

of cold command"(Line, 5). From this you can

imagine a very conceited, arrogant pharaoh,

commanding his people building this great vast

statue hoping his power would be immortality.

And when this great piece of work is done, he

demanded to put such words on the pedestal:

‘"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look

at my works, ye Mighty and despair!"'(Lines,

10-11). Ozymandias seemed to think that as long

as his sculpture was there, his kingdom would

last forever. But according to this poem, after

hundreds and thousands of years, the only thing

left is sand and the rotting and decaying

sculpture. Shelley wrote, " Nothing beside

remains"(line, 12) after the words " Look at my

works,"(line, 11). This is really sarcastic because

the prior sentence was just talking about how

great and fabulous this sculpture was and how

the king thought about possessing his kingdom

forever this way. Then, the next sentence comes

with- "Nothing beside remains"(line, 12). Shelley

is trying to tell us something through this vivid

and ironic picture described in the poem, which is

no one lives forever, and nor do their


In the poem, this pharaoh thought that even if he

past away, his kingdom, power and possessions

would still remain the same, and forever this

way. But in reality, it's impossible. Like the

poem said, the king's work became nothing, only

shattered statue with legs and head left, lying in

the desert. Shelley put a clear image in all our

minds when he talked about the power and

desires of this mighty king. All Ozymandias

wanted was immortality, which everyone in this

world, even today, would die for. Who knows,

maybe that was the key to the king's impractical

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