Ozymandias, a Sonnet written by PB Shelly is a timeless masterpiece among poetries. The poem was composed to show the fragility of life and fame and to remind that nothing lasts forever. Here Ozymandias is referred to the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II. His statue is the main inspiration of the poem.
The poem starts like a narrative. The speaker tells that he met a traveller who has come from an ancient place. The traveller has seen a broken figure in the midst of the desert. The figure was a statue with only two legs remaining on a pedestal. The body of the statue is no where to be seen. Near the statue, the broken visage of the statue laid, half sunk in the sand. The visage of the statue had frowns on its eyebrows, wrinkled lip and a smile that reminded of the ruler’s rudeness and atrocities. By looking at the visage of ozymandias’s statue the readers can understand the kind of man he was, i.e. cruel and violent. The sculptor who had made the statue is a genius because he had successfully shown us the ruler’s true nature through his art. His hands have beautifully portrayed the expressions of the ruler. Even though the king died long ago the sculptor’s art remains till now which tell us about the rulers nature.
On the pedestral of the statue the following lines have been inscribed – “My name is ozymandias, King of kings, look on my works, ye Mighty and despair.”
Through this line the readers can get a glance on the rulers arrogant nature. He was filled with pride and arrogance to call himself ‘king of the kings’. He calls all other kings to look upon his work which he considered to be the greatest among all. He tries to prove is supremacy by mocking the other rulers. In fact he had ordered the sculptor to build his statue so that others and the upcoming generation would know about his superiority. However now nothing except the broken pieces of the statue remains. The only thing that remains is the art created by the hands of the sculptor. The poet here actually tells us that pride, power, fame etc are transient in nature. They fade away with time. Instead only good work and art remains forever.
The poem is a Sonnet comprising of 14 lines. In the octave the poet introduces the traveler who tells us about the statue that he has seen. In the sestet, the traveller quotes the inscription on the pedestral. As the structure of the poem it is written in the iambic pentameter. The rhyming scheme of the poem is ABABA CDC EDE FEF. Through this poem poem PB Shelly has expressed hatred for tyranny. The poet is well known for writing about topics like politics and expressing his opinions in his poems. This is not a shakespearean or Petrarchan Sonnet. The poet could have used simple rhyming scheme but he chose a complex one intentionally to match the hard reality about fame power and tyranny.