How would you write an explanation for "Ozymandias"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This incredibly famous poem is a very haunting mediation on the ephemeral nature of human power and glory. The first speaker quotes a traveller wondering in the desert who discovered the vestiges of a monument that was dedicated to Ozymandias, who was obviously a Pharaoh of ancient Egypt. It is the traveler who shares what was written on the monument:

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings,

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

However, it becomes self-evident that this is incredibly ironic: the only "works" that can be seen around are sand and desolation. The vanity of human ambition is thus starkly highlighted. The only remnant of the once-powerful empire of Ozymandias is the shattered statue, the ironic inscription and the "sneer of cold command" that is presented on the face of the statue. Shelley uses Ozymandias as an example to show how even art will suffer the same fate as Ozymandias. Even the unknown sculptor's "art" will be eventually erased by the desert sand and thus the artist's own bid for immortality will end in the same way as the bid of Ozymandias for eternal power. The last three lines offer a profound meditation on what awaits such power-hungry individuals as Ozymandias:

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Dust is all we can hope for in our future, as Shelley's own form of "art" tells us.

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