• Context:
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of a group of poets who became known as The Romantics (these were poets who focussed mainly upon the relationship between man and nature).
  • Ozymandias is the statue described in the poem who is also known as the Egyptian pharaoh Rameses II.
  • Structure:
  • Ozymandias is a sonnet (a poem of 14 lines) but doesn't strictly stick to this form. It is written in iambic pentameter giving it a regular sound.
  • The first line and a half up to the colon are the narrator's words, the rest are those of the traveller he meets who includes speech from Ozymandias himself. There are no stanzas but punctuation and lines are used to split up the text.
  • No regular rhyme but, the end of lines one and three rhyme ("land / sand") but so do the first and last words of line three ("stand / sand") which gives it extra power. Lines 12 and 14 also rhyme and words such as ("decay / away") mean that the poem ends with a feeling of mystery and emptiness.
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Ozymandias 2

  • Message:
  • Ozymandias boasted of his power and greatness, but even a king can't survive the test of time. It is also demonstrating that nature ultimately destroyed Ozymandias.
  • Imagery:
  • Shelley creates a memorable image of this "vast" and once great statue, now in ruins, by placing it in the middle of a huge lifeless desert it highlights the king's fall from grace, it also tells us that he is forgotten about showing us he was not remembered as a good king by the people he ruled over. The statue once so magnificent - a symbol of the king's great power - is now "sunk... shattered... lifeless". We have no sympathy whatsoever with the statue or the king though, due to some of Shelley's descriptions: "sneer of cold command... hand that mocked them" and Ozymandias' own words such as "King of Kings". This also makes it seem as though he deserves it and shows that no one is above time.
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Ozymandias 3

  • Language:
  • Ozymandias has used words such as "Ye mighty" to describe his statue and calls himself "King of Kings", however these words seem hollow and invalid because we are told that all that remains is a "colossal Wreck", this tells us that it is gone and destroyed as though it were never there. From the word "colossal" we learn just how big and important Ozymandias viewed himself and that's why he felt he needed a statue to remind people of this. Lastly the fact we learn his wreck of a statue is located on "lone and level sands" that "stretch far away" shows us how abandoned and forgotten the King is, his importance seems to be an illusion almost like a mirage in the desert, the sands and nature are shown to be eternal wehereas we learn Ozymandias statue to be "half sunk". The alliteration of the words "sneer of cold command" empathize Ozyymandias' harsh character and the word "sneer" shows he looked down upon others making the reader unsympathetic towards him. When the word "stone" is used to describe the statue it also relates to the stony personality of Ozymandias.
  • Effect:
  • Because the poem is narrator tells us he met a traveller who then gives us the story it almost seems like a fantasy as though the story and reputation of the King himself have been passed down through the generations almost making it seem like a myth.
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Ozymandias 4

Poem: 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.”

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