Shelley tells us about this statue of the great King Ozymandias, and engraved on his pedestal reads: “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Look on my Works, ye Mighty and despair!” We read that passage and immediately think of the arrogance and pride that this man must of had. “Look on my Works, ye Mighty and despair!” Works is capitalized as if it deserved reverence and awe.
Shelley also tells us that this great statute has been shattered: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand Half sunk a shattered visage lies,” So we imagine these pair of legs on a pedestal in the middle of a desert and look to the ground to find the rest of the sculpture shattered into pieces. We read the engraving on the pedestal and look around to see his works so that we can “despair” and we find that “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away. ” I can’t help but laugh at the whole situation.
Nature has smitten man. Nature won out in the end. Man tried to build a huge empire and then mocked all of natures work and even asks that all “despair” because who could beat his work. Nature has in the end won out and we sit and laugh with nature as Ozymandias’s face is in the ground, shattered with a frown half sunken in sand.
Nature’s arrogance is also evident too though. Nature destroyed man’s Work and leaves us the pedestal to read. Nature kept the pedestal as a sign for all of us: “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Look on my Works, ye Mighty and despair. ” Now replace the name Ozymandias with Nature. “My name is Nature, King of Kings, Look on my Works, ye Mighty and despair.
” We can replace Ozymandias with Nature because Nature won out in the end. Nothing that Ozymandias accomplished survived. Nature survived and destroyed all that man had done. Shelley’s story of Ozymandias can be compared to the arrogant Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar who had a dream about a great statue of himself which God shattered into pieces and ruined because Nebuchadnezzar never gave praise to God but prided his work in front of all mankind. (Daniel 1-4 ; Jeremiah 21-52)It’s also interesting to note that this poem was written during a time of great despair.
Shelley’s first wife had just committed suicide. The courts wouldn’t let him have his children and “his baby daughter with Mary Shelley (his second wife), had just died; and Shelley himself was plagued by ill health, pain, financial worries, and the sense that he had failed. ” I can’t help but think that this poem can be related to this situation. Shelley is Ozymandias, who was a man of great ability and had done what he wanted in life and now he sat broken down by what had happened.
He was now unable to live as he wanted. He couldn’t just get up and start a new life. He was very ill, depressed and broken. This poem is a cry of Shelley’s heart during this time as well as a lash out against mankind.