In "Ozymandias," what is referred as boundless and bare in line 13? Is it Ozymandias' kingdom or is it the destruction?   

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The words "boundless and bare" in line 13 refer to the destruction of Ozymandias's kingdom. Where it once was, nothing is left except the sands of the desert stretching in every direction, and the broken remains of Ozymandias's statue. This setting functions ironically, for the inscription on the statue indicates that people looking all around will see a mighty kingdom. In fact, the statue says that the kingdom will appear so mighty that even powerful people will despair of ever challenging it. Now, however, nothing remains.

The desolation of the boundless and bare desert setting provides a new context for the statue's inscription. Now, instead of despairing at Ozymandias's might, today's tyrants should, instead, be despairing at the fact that even the mightiest of empires crumbles into dust. What has happened to Ozymandias's kingdom, the poem implies, will happen to their own.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Here is the quote you are referring to: 

"Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

The "colossal wreck" refers to the fallen statue of Ozymandias, the once-great ruler of Egypt who commissioned an image of himself so that the mighty should look on his works and despair. The word "colossal" echoes the word "vast" from line 2, identifying the colossal wreck as the vast stone sculpture. The words "boundless and bare" do not modify the statue, nor do they modify the king's empire. If a comma was placed after "bare," the meaning would be ambiguous, and the words could modify either the "wreck," the preceding noun, or the "lone and level sands," the following phrase. Without the comma, however, the words must be read to modify the "sands." The poetic word order might lead to confusion. To clarify, put the words into the word order normally used in speech, like this: "The lone and level sands stretch far away, boundless and bare." This means that the only thing surrounding the fallen statue is a barren wasteland of desert. The word "bare" means that nothing stands on the sands--no city, no temple, no shrine, no gardens, no fountain--not a single stone testifies to the great kingdom over which Ozymandias once ruled with his "sneer of cold command." 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial