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 king.
Look on my works, ye Might and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away’
Percy Bysshe Shelley(1792-1822)
Let’s look at the poem from my points of view.
This is a very well-known sonnet of Shelley. It is neither patrrarchan nor Shakespearean. But the picture is clear, and the message is artistic. It is a satire on the vanity of men. Man is nothing but an insignificant ant crawling on the earth. His ambitions are hollow, and his glory and greatness do not stand the test of time.
Once the poet met a traveller who told him the story of a broken statue which he saw in a desert of Egypt. He saw two hung legs of the statue carved out of stone. The inscription on the pedestal said that it was the statue of ozymandias, king of king. The expression on the face of the statue was realistic and revealed the character of the man and the skill of the sculptor. Anyone who looks at the ruins of the sculpture gains an insight into the character of both the king and the sculptor. From the frown on the face of the statue people can form an idea of the king’s authoritativeness and the sculptor’s insight into the king’s character. Both the king and the sculptor are no more, but their characters survive stamped on the ruins. When the traveller looked around he could find only vast stretches of sand and nothing else. Then he was reminded of the vanity of man.
As far as I am concerned, Shelly makes the traveller tell the story of the ruined statue. And then he allows the irony of fate, and stresses the hollowness of human glory and greatness.
A trveller from Egypt met the poet He told him that a broken statue of the king Ozymandias stood in the desert. Two vast, trunkless legs still stood on the pedestal. But the rest of the statue lay half-sunk in the sands. There were some lines carved on the base. They contained the king’s proud boast. They were a challenge to other kings: they should not hope to achieve his glory and greatness-they must only despair seeing his greatness and their own smallness.
But then the poet shows the irony of fate. Nothing has now remained of the statue: only the broken pieces lying in the bare endless desert. Time has proved the boast a total failure. Glory has greeted the grave. Pride has perished. Such is the fate of human vanity!
Furthermore, Shelley’s sonnet, Ozymandias, reveals the proud character of the king ozymandias of Egypt. He was proud and haughty. His face was always frowning and lips curved in a sneer of cold command. He believed that he was the greatest of great and none could match his greatness. So, frowning, sneering and commanding are the silent features of the character of Ozymandias. But by a strange irony of fate, all his greatness is lost and wiped out in lonely vast desert. Thus Time takes its revenge on this powerful and proud king who hoped for immorality.
As per my opinion, Shelley wants to show that even the mightiest of the mighty are bound to be forgotten in the course of time. Even a proud king like Ozymandias is just forgotten Even his statue is broken and the desert sand has covered his once great city. Thus, pride, greatness, etc are transitory things before the sweep of Time. Death is the great traveller and Time has always the last laugh.
By for now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tushar Brahmbhatt M.A. (ELT)