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Discuss the theme of the poem Ozymandias

Ozymandias is the Greek name for Rameses II. He was a very powerful monarch who ruled Egypt in the 13th century B. C. Rameses II had several by-names. Vasimare was one of them. The name Ozymandias has been derived from Vasimare. The name Ozymandias has attained a symbolic dimension in this poem. Shelley has sketched Ozymandias as a symbol of futile power that ironically fails the test of time.

The speaker of this sonnet tells that he met a traveller who returned from an ancient country. The traveller saw a broken statue in the desert. The statue's two legs stood on the pedestal. The body was not upon the two legs. Near them was lying the shattered face of the statue. There were frown, sneer and expression of the cruel authority in the face. It seemed that the person who made the statue could understand the king's character well and took every care to reflect it on stone. Though the sculptor and the king died long back, the broken statue still reflects the pride and cruelty of the king. The small platform on which the legs stood bore an inscription. It says:

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

In that vast desert there was nothing except that broken statue, the sign of the ruined power. With the passage of time this symbol of auto cratic authority turned into a huge heap of ruins, lying pitifully in a lonely vast desert. The first part of the poem introduces the subject and the last part concludes it with a reflection on the universal truth that hu man power is not eternal.

The sonnet suggests Shelley's dislike for monarchs. Though Shelley does not say here anything directly against the king, his disgust for power mongers has obviously been suggested in it. He presents Ozymandias as a symbol of the universal truth that human vanity for power is meaningless. It is a glaring irony that Ozymandias, the king of kings, is gone to oblivion.


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