Ozymandias ~ A Poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley
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.
Ozymandias, by English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), was first published in 1818. In antiquity, “Ozymandias” was the Greek name for the Egyptian pharaoh, Ramses II, who ruled Egypt for sixty-six years, from 1279 BCE to 1213 BCE. Shelley was inspired to write the poem as a result of the British Museum’s acquisition of a 7.25-ton fragment of a statue of Ramses that had been removed from the mortuary temple of Ramses at Thebes. The poem explores the fate of history and the ravages of time. Even the greatest of men and the empires they forge are impermanent.