Ozymandias Summary, Themes, and Analysis: Percy Bysshe Shelley

Read our complete notes below on the poem Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Our notes cover Ozymandias summary, themes, and analysis.

Ozymandias Introduction:

Ozymandias is a famous sonnet of renowned poet of Romantic era Percy Bysshe Shelley. It was written in 1817 and was published on 11th January, 1818.

Ozymandias is the name of an Egyptian King during 13th century B.C., also known as Ramses 2. The poem reveals the impermanence of human achievements by describing the ruins of the statue of Ozymandias. The poem talks about his foolish desire to immortalize himself by erecting a statue.

It also reflects the society of that time when there was monarchic system and the rulers were as arrogant as the King, Ozymandias.

Ozymandias Summary:

The speaker meets a traveler who came from a remote land. He tells the speaker that he saw an old, fragmented statue in the desert. The statue’s body is ruined, the parts left are two huge legs and a face buried in the sand. This is the statue of a King, Ozymandias.

Although, the statue has been destroyed but the expressions of arrogance and pride are still clearly visible which indicates that the sculptor understood the emotions of the King accurately. The speaker praises the sculptor for his skills.

Furthermore, one the pedestal of the statue, some words of the King are engraved that show him as the most powerful ruler. As the King is no more, and the statue is also ruined, the engraving is a mockery at his pride and ego.

Ozymandias Themes:

Transient:

This is the major theme of the poem. The statue is a “colossal wreck” which clearly says that nothing in the world lasts forever. The King who once considered himself as God and ordered to erect his statue to show his power and mighty is now unknown to the world. Only his broken statue is left which tells about his arrogance and vain pride. No matter how proud and arrogant someone is, everything has to fade away from this world as nothing lasts forever, whether it is ones fame, arrogance or ego.

Moreover; as the statue is now destroyed, the engraving on the pedestal is just a mockery at the pride and ego of the King who once considered himself as “King of Kings”.

Power and Pride:

In the poem, statue is the symbol of pride, ambition and power. The fact that statue has been destroyed emphasizes that human power is temporary. Everything has an end, nothing is permanent. The powerful people who believe that their power is immortal are deceiving themselves.

Ozymandias was mortal; similarly his power and pride was  mortal and got vanished with him. The desert and time swallowed his vain pride and the same fate awaits the powerful of today.

Art:

The poem also shows the importance of Art. Ozymandias was an Egyptian King who is unknown to the people of today’s world but the ruins of his sculptor tell many things about his time. This statue is a piece of art, made by a skilled sculptor who did a great job while erecting it. The expressions and wrinkles on the king’s statue are so accurate that they are showing his personality very well.

The sculpture shows the Art’s longevity. Everything related to king’s time has been vanished expect the sculptor that is very skilfully made.

Ozymandias Analysis:

Shelley’s “Ozymandias” is a sonnet, written in loose iambic pentameter, but with an atypical rhyme scheme (ABABA CDCEDEFEF). It’s a sonnet without proper octave-and-sestet structure.

Ozymandias is a Greek word for King Ramses 2. Shelley describes that he was the king who ruled out of fear and had conquered many areas but he had a sense of arrogance. Through the character of Ozymandias, Shelley gives us a view of monarchy of his own time. Shelley is not a direct speaker of sonnet as we can see the encounter of speaker with traveller.

“I met a traveler from an antique land

Who said: “Two vast and trunk less legs of stone”

Being a revolutionary poet, Shelley has raised his voice against tyrannical system of his time. Moreover, he throws light on outliving of creativity and transience of haughtiness. Both of them, king ” the heart that fed” and sculptor “the hand that mocked them” have died but art has outlived them. Also, Shelley highlighted the theme that we are part of nature and to nature we will return so why all this vain gloriousness.

” Half sunk head”

Moreover, like Ozymandias monarchs of poet’s era also thought the same that they are salt of the earth and everyone should be subservient to them. They will decide whether to give them their rights or not just like the under-mentioned line

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings”

Shelley gives us message that time will never wait for anyone these monarchs will one day end up and democratic notions will be installed in society.

All those civilizations who had the element of vanity had been destroyed.

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay”

Shelley wanted to bring revolution through his piece of art and was sure that his art will outlive him and will be remembered after his death.