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Featured Poem: Ozymandias by Percy Shelley

Written by Chris Routledge, 20th July 2009

Shelley’s Ozymandias is a consideration of the nature of political power, and of the insignificance of human beings in the passage of time. The statue of the once-powerful Ozymandias, ‘king of kings’, now lying ‘sunk’ and ‘shattered’ in ruins not only represents the frailty and triviality of human life, but also how, in the end, that ‘colossal wreck’ of human existence will be outlasted by both art and the written word.


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."


Percy Shelley, 1818

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