I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. 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.

Ozymandias [2] is a sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley. It was published in 1818 in the 11 January issue of The Examiner, a journal in London. It is probably Shelley's most famous short poem.

The poem has been noted for its skillful diction, and its powerful themes and imagery.[3] The central theme of Ozymandias is the inevitable (unavoidable) ruin of leaders and empires. The message is that all leaders and the empires they build will always end up as nothing, however mighty they are.[4]

The name Ozymandias comes from a transliteration into Greek of the throne name of Ramesses II. The sonnet paraphrases (copies in different words) the writing on the base of a statue of Ramesses. The statue is called Younger Memnon and it is from Thebes (it is now in the British Museum). The writing on the statue was recorded by Diodorus Siculus in his Bibliotheca historica. It reads: "King of Kings am I, Osymandias. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works".[5][6]


  1. Text of the poem from Shelley, Percy Bysshe (1819). Rosalind and Helen, a modern eclogue, with other poems. London: C. and J. Ollier. OCLC 1940490..
  2. Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 508. ISBN 0-582-05383-8. entry "Ozymandias"
  3. "SparkNotes: Shelley's Poetry: "Ozymandias"". SparkNotes. Retrieved 2008-02-26.
  4. "MacEachen, Dougald B. CliffsNotes on Shelley's Poems. 18 July 2011". Archived from the original on 5 March 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  5. (Greek Text) Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, 1.47.4 at the Perseus Project
  6. RPO Editors. "Percy Bysshe Shelley : Ozymandias". University of Toronto Department of English. University of Toronto Libraries, University of Toronto Press. Archived from the original on 2006-10-10. Retrieved 2006-09-18.

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