Ozymandias Summary & Analysis; Poem by PB Shelley


The poem Ozymandias by PB Shelley talks about the mortal nature of humans and also depicts how short-lived pride and ego are. Everyone has to die and meet the same fate. However, the rulers forget this universal truth and consider themselves mighty and eternal.

In this poem which is a sonnet, the poet talks about Ozymandias which is a Greek name for the Egyptian Ruler named Ramesses II. He was very mighty and strong and full of ego. But he had to die eventually and now there is nothing left. Even his sculptor has been broken down.


Stanza 1 (Lines 1-4)

The poem begins with a first-person perspective. According to the poet, he meets a traveller from an antique land. As discussed above, Ozymandias was an Egyptian ruler (pharaoh). Hence the antique (old) land (country) here refers to old Egypt.

The traveler tells the poet about and old and ruined sculpture. According to him, there are two vast (big) legs of stone stand in the desert without a head (trunkless).

Near those two stone legs, lies a visage (head) which is half sunk in the sand. The phrase shattered visage here depicts the crushing of ego by Supreme Power (God).

The traveller new describes the appearance of the face which is still visible. According to him, the lips of the sculpture show displeasure (frown) and anger (wrinkled)

Stanza 2 (Lines 5-8)

The next expression of the sculpture described by the poet is sneer of cold command. Sneer means disapproving. Cold command (emphasizing on the letter c) depicts the harshness of the commands given by that person.

Collectively, sneer of cold command refers to the ego, haughtiness, and harshness of the ruler. As per all these expressions, we expect him to be very boastful, revengeful and egoist who would consider himself to be superior and most powerful.

Note here how different is his condition now in the desert as compared to what it was when he was alive! According to the poet, the expressions and passions engraved (stamped) by the sculptor (the one who made this sculpture) on the lifeless stone show how perfect he was.

The skills in his hands helped him copy (mocked) the expressions and his heart inspired (fed) him to bring those expressions perfectly on the face of the sculpture.

Stanza 3 (Lines 9-11)

On the pedestal (bottom) of the sculpture, these words were engraved – My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Looks on my works (i.e. achievements, in the war), ye (the) Mighty (powerful) and despair (i.e. fear from me)!

The words of Ozymandias represent his nature very clearly. He was a powerful ruler and also was very violent who used to crush others. He made all others bow before him and fear him.

Stanza 4 (Lines 12-14)

According to the traveler, there is nothing left now i.e. he is dead, he ego is gone, his rule and his harsh and violent rule has gone. What remains there now is ruins (decay) of that colossal Wreck i.e. large sculpture (of Ozymandias).

The ruined, broken and destroyed sculpture stands alone (lone) in boundless (never-ending) and bare (without grass) sand which is spread (stretch) all over the desert.