Ozymandias is a poem by Percy Shelley, first published in 1818. Ozymandias is widely considered one of the greatest examples of irony in poetry. The title character Ozymandias is a tyrant who ruled over an empire that has long since crumbled into dust. Ozymandias represents the inevitable fall of all rulers and empires, no matter how powerful they may seem.
The irony lies in the fact that Ozymandias himself is now nothing more than a forgotten relic, just like his once great empire. Ozymandias is a reminder that everything is temporary and that even the mightiest of rulers will eventually fall. Ozymandias is an excellent example of how irony can be used to create a powerful poem.
In his poem “Ozymandias,” Percy Shelley employs symbolism and irony to express his message that power over society is fleeting and every attempt at perpetual renown will fade away. Shelley’s use of symbolism emphasizes the futility of an authoritarian ruler’s efforts to establish an everlasting authority over people. The traveler in the poem, for example, records the “two enormous, statue-like legs of stone standing in the desert” (2-3).
Ozymandias’ legs are all that remain of his once-great statue, and they serve as a symbol of how Ozymandias’ power has crumbled. The stone legs are also representative of Ozymandias himself; they are “trunkless,” meaning they have no body or support, just as Ozymandias has no lasting power or legacy.
The irony in the poem Ozymandias is that Ozymandias’ efforts to create an everlasting empire have failed, and all that remains of him is a few stone legs in the middle of the desert. Ozymandias represents the ultimate failure of those who seek absolute power; his story is a warning to others that such power is fleeting and will eventually disappear. Ozymandias is a reminder that all empires, no matter how great or powerful, will one day fall.
A massive pair of crippled stone legs springs to mind, suggesting that a once magnificent, now-ruined statue is effectively worthless without its entire head and torso. These trunkless yet enormous legs typify Ozymandias’s overblown self-importance and ego.
Ozymandias was the Greek name for Ramses II, one of the most powerful Egyptian pharaohs of ancient times. The statue memorialized Ramses’s greatness and accomplishments, but now only its ruins remain. Ozymandias represents the relentlessly unstoppable force of time and change, which Ozymandias himself once thought he could defy.
The irony in Percy Shelley’s poem Ozymandias is that Ozymandias’s hubris led to his downfall, and everything he built to glorify himself has crumbled and decayed. Ozymandias represents how even the most powerful people and empires are eventually reduced to dust. The once mighty Ozymandias is now just a “colossal wreck” and a warning to others not to overestimate their own importance. Ozymandias is a reminder that everything is temporary, and that even the mightiest people and empires will one day fall.
For example, the face is “mugged” with a “frown/wrinkled lip” and a “cold, commanding sneer,” implying that its sculptor must have well understood those emotions since they still endure, stamped on these lifeless things, after all this time (4-6). The frown corresponds to Ozymandias’s callous nature, while the sneer reflects his haughty and dismissive self-importance. The talented sculptor captured Ozymandias’ narcissism and selfish pride in stone for all eternity.
Ozymandias’s arrogance and lack of foresight led to his downfall, as Ozymandias represents the ephemerality of earthly objects and accomplishments. Ozymandias’s hubris is also seen in his choice of words, as he calls himself a “king of kings” (2). This title not only shows Ozymandias’s inflated sense of self-importance but also foreshadows his future demise.
Ozymandias was so wrapped up in his own greatness that he failed to see the inevitability of his own obsolescence. The irony in the poem Ozymandias lies in the fact that Ozymandias, in his efforts to immortalize himself, has instead become a symbol of the transitory nature of earthly power and glory. Ozymandias is a reminder that, in the end, everything will return to dust.
The destroyed statue is a testament to the king’s magnificent regime and immense power, yet it is also an accolade to his vanity. An inscription on the base of the monument reads, “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!,” but wholeheartedly contradicts itself with “Nothing else remains” (10-12).
Ozymandias, once a powerful pharaoh who demanded to be remembered for his greatness, is now nothing more than a “colossal wreck” (13). The Ozymandias poem is an ironic twist on the ideal of a great ruler who leaves behind a mighty legacy; Ozymandias may have had vast power and wealth in his lifetime, but all that remains of him now is a ruined statue in the middle of a “lone and level sands” (14).
The irony in Ozymandias is not only found in the ruins of the statue, but also within the inscription itself. Ozymandias clearly states that he wants to be remembered for his works, yet there are no works remaining. In addition, Ozymandias calls himself the “King of Kings”; however, the only thing that remains of him is a destroyed statue. Ozymandias was once a mighty king, but now he is nothing more than a memory. The irony in the poem Ozymandias is that what was intended to be a tribute to the king’s greatness has instead become a reminder of his fall from power.
The goal of Ozymandias was to establish an unassailable dominance over the viewer, making them quake before his enormous regime. These words appear far-fetched, as the statue has shrunk and the sand surrounding it is as lonely and wild as ever. Shelley is mocking the ruler’s ridiculous self-view by first echoing the vain message and then immediately mocking it with its desolate surroundings, increasing the poem’s satirical quality.
Ozymandias represents the ultimate tragedy of existence, and Shelley’s poem is a memento more, a reminder of the transitory nature of all things. Ozymandias is Ozymandias’s lofty epitaph, and it is also an ironic commentary on the futility of endeavoring to leave a lasting legacy. Ozymandias’s magnificent statue has been reduced to a head and a few shards, all that remains of his once mighty empire.