Ozymandias – Exam prep

Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias”

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.

Question: How does Shelly convey the idea of Ozymandias’ hubris in the poem??

The poem, Ozymandias, written by Shelly, conveys an idea of ones self importance or hubris. In spite of what we may deceive ourselves to think. our power as human beings is transient, at best. Through the use of symbolism and imagery this idea of hubris is communicated. When the traveler is recounting his/her encounter with the Ozymandias statue in the desert the barren, bare landscape is used as an important symbol of isolation. The poem says “And on the pedestal these words appear: ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’” which emphasises the over importance Ozymandias holds of himself. He had power, he thinks he is powerful but surrounding him is nothing. The sand symbolises how his power, like many other people’s perception of their own power, could have been great, grand, and remarkable at the time but if our ambitions get the better of us and because we all eventually die, our power is lost, we’re left with nothing and no one. Another way this idea is communicated is through imagery. “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert… ” is said at the beginning of the poem, implying that the Statue of Ozymadias is very large. The poem then goes on to talk about how the lonely landscape of nothingness surrounds it. This create a strong imagery of how Ozymadias’s statue stands so tall in the desert for no one to see because that’s how he saw his self. Big, extravagant, and far more important than anyone else. The barren sand represents his isolation due to his arrogance. Overall the poem explores this idea hubris and the symbolism and imagery add to this exploration.

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