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First time I read this poem was for a research project on the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelly, and I couldn't make head nor tale of what it mean't. Obviously, its about a fallen statue in a dessert. But there is more - this is now one of my favourite poems, because I understand the meaning behind it. Let me explain, so you may also appreciate its creativity. The poem was alledgedly written after Shelly saw a statue of King Rameses II of Ancient Egypt, being brought into the British Museum in London. This obviously made an impact on him, as the poem has a very profound meaning - he has paraphrased the inscription on the base of the statue, including it in his work. Ironically, 'Ozymandias', which was another name of Rameses', translates into english as 'ruler of nothing'; the Greek word 'oziem' means air, and 'mandius' or 'mandate' means rule. This echoes the overall tone of the poem, which is quite negatory and mocking. The entire poem is infact a metaphor for the ephemral nature of political power and the insignificance of humanity when compared to nature and the passage of time. Shelley's use of the direct quotation " 'My name is Ozymandais, king of kings; Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!' ", lies in contrast to the descriptions surrounding it, which is quite purposeful. His overreaching message is that ALL leaders meet their decline, their social structures crumble and history destroys their legacies. The ultimate demonstration of this if found in the fact that the sculpture of the king survived the man himself, who considered his greatness so vast - and the sculptor receives more praise than the once-powerful Ozymandais; 'its sculptor well those passions read'. Hope you enjoyed the dramatic recital of the poem too!!
Contributed by Sarah Joy Blankenship