Today I’m going to write about a very famous poem called Ozymandias. This poem is so famous throughout the history of poetry it hits a high score on most lists involving any expertise on why and how it’s considered so good. Well, one may one how come any poetry written several hundred years ago. What can it possible tell us today? How can something considered to be so good be so hard to understand?
Context and themes
Ozymandias is a sonnet and was published in a well-known London-paper The Examiner on 11 of January in 1818. The poet was Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). Ask yourself who do you think would like to hear this poem? Who is Ozymandias? He presents himself as the king of kings…this title is somewhat biblical, but fact is that in antiquity, Ozymandias (Ὀσυμανδύας) was a Greek name for pharaoh Ramesses II who ruled Egypt many hundreds of years before Christianity. Shelley started to write the poem in 1817, soon after the announcement of the British Museum’s acquisition of a large fragment of a statue of Ramesses II from the thirteenth century BCE, leading some scholars to believe that Shelley was inspired by this event. Shelley wrote the poem in friendly competition with poet Horace Smith (1779–1849), who also wrote a sonnet on the same topic with the same title.
Themes: hubris and time
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.”
Wikipedia.org (various entries)