The Ozymandias we know is only a sculpture and the words on it. What does this say about the Romantic view of history and art?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the vision of Ozymandias tells us a couple of things about Romantics.  The first would be that there was a strong desire to reconfigure time.  For the Romantics, time was something that was not linear, but rather subjective.  Through their own voice, the individual was able to see themselves as part of past, present, and future.  We see this in the poem.  We, as readers of the present, understand Ozymandias as a figure of the past who sought immortality, strove for establishing his name as part of the permanent sense of the future.  Yet, we only know of the antiquated ruins that now remain, demanding that others will cower in fear of Ozymandias' greatness.  I think that such a vision might reflect both the hopes and the darkest fears of the Romantic view of art and its creation.  On one hand, the Romantic thinkers really saw themselves as different forces on the scene that would be able to transform the intellectual dialogue, ensuring them a place in the pantheon of thought for now and forever.  Yet, the fear of not achieving this immortality is a real fear in Romantic thought and one that the statue of Ozymandias would reflect.  In the end, one can say that the hopes of the Romantics are counteracted by their fears, embodied in the decrepit and broken statue of Ozymandias.  In addressing both fears and hopes, the reader might be able to gain a more embracing views of how the Romantic thinkers saw themselves and their works of art.