Ozymandias and Sonnet 18


The history of art has been tasked to mirror contemporary concerns and rise above them, achieving attention that has a universal impact among the readers.
The reason why we still read these pieces of poetry till today is because the expressions and effects that are contained in these poems can be applied and relatable to our modern society’s issues and history.

In ‘Ozymandias’, the poet puts an ironic tone. Shelley’s message is that leaders/rulers can be extremely powerful over their reign at one time, but they too will end up dying. Their legacy along with their achievements will be entrenched in the vast history and never be found.

Starting from the second line: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert… Near them, on the sand, half sunk, a shattered visage lies”. This line tells the reader about the pharaoh’s mighty works he once created had faded through history and all is left are the remains and remnants of it. The lands where he reigned have become desolated. These adjectives furthermore describe his works as lifeless and forgotten. Furthermore, the traveller recounts the cracked statue of Ozymandias, and it’s ‘cold command’ written on the pedestal.

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’ This ‘command’ emphasizes the might and power of Ozymandias and shows how powerful he was at that time which is the effect of the intimidating tone used in this ‘command’.

Shelley tries to convey that power that was once possessed by the pharaoh has diminished and turned into emptiness. The poet’s message can clearly be relatable to the many powers and empires that fell or collapsed after Shelley’s time such as nations with a proud and powerful history like China and the Ottoman Empire, whom were all European colonies after the 20th century. This is shown through the juxtaposition of the sonnet with 'Ozymandias' who is now only a work of art and a group of words, not a 'Mighty' ruler nor a...