Ozymandias is a sonnet, written by the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelly, “Ozymandias” refers to the great ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II. In this sonnet, Shelly portrays the ruins of a statue of Ozymandias as a symbol of the transience of power in contrast to the timelessness of art.
The sonnet starts with the poet describing an ancient land, in the desert. The traveler observes the statue with its two huge stone legs, missing torso in the midst of nowhere. The broken face was half-buried in the sand with a frowned expression, wrinkled lip. According to the traveler, the sculptor perfectly understood the emotions underlying the person’s face, and the statue was carved to live and depict reality forever. The sculptor’s hands perfectly carved an eternal, vivid statue depicting the Pharaoh’s animosity.
The traveler next describes the words written on the pedestal of the statue as, “My name is Ozymandias, the King who rules over even other kings.” The irony of the statement lies in the fact the statue now stood in a barren desert, surrounded by nothing but endless ruins.
The sonnet beautifully describes the transient nature of power. Ozymandias declared himself to be The King of kings, but since power is fragile and transient, it is transferred from one person to the other and the fall is inevitable. The poem suggests that both rulers and their subjects will fall when the time comes, no one is more powerful than time itself.
The sonnet also portrays a typical idea of Man Versus Nature. Mankind has destroyed and exploited nature in every possible way, instead of being grateful to nature, we have caused severe harm to it. The poet portrays how even the ‘King of kings’ Ozymandias is now just a statue with a distorted, half-buried face and torso-less legs. Humans are mortal and will perish, turn into nothingness with time, but nature is almighty and lives on forever.
Though the sonnet is of merely 14 lines, the impact it has on the audience is gargantuan. It describes how powerless we are when we have to compete with the almighty time. Even the King of kings Ozymandias is now nothing more than a motionless statue in the midst of nowhere.
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Written By: Sneha Baidya
Editor and Team Lead: Ashutosh Sharma