Poetry Sunday: Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The poem of the week this week is about a hubristic and egotistical leader who saw himself as the greatest king who had ever lived or ever would live. His works, he believed, would last for all eternity.

It is said that Shelley's inspiration for writing this sonnet came from reported descriptions of the broken monuments to Rameses II, perhaps ancient Egypt's greatest pharaoh. The self-aggrandizing passions which Shelley attributes to his Ozymandias could easily describe some modern leaders as well.


by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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.”


  1. Time and 'the elements' can erase almost anything.

    1. Except for the pyramids. As the Arab proverb says, "Man fears time, but time fears the pyramids."

  2. Replies
    1. Or at least one who sees himself as omnipotent and omniscient.


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