Please explain the symbolism in "Ozymandias"?

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susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm not exactly sure what you are asking about the poem by Shelley.  The poem involves a description of a statue that is now in ruins.  The speaker is a traveller from an "unknown land," and he is describing a once magnificent statue, probably that of Ramses II.  All that is left of the statue is the head and the feet.  On its pedestal reads the ironic quotation, "Look on these works, ye mighty, and despair!"  And of course, there are no works that have withstood time's erosion.  So, what then, does this statue symbolize?  It symbolizes perhaps man's yearning to make a permanent mark on the earth, and ultimately his inability to do so.  Eventually all our efforts are overcome by nature's forces.  The magnificent pharoah Ramses II's work has all vanished.  The sculptor's fashioning of the statue of this pharoah is now broken and in ruins.  Neither the work of a king nor the work of an artist can remain.  The forces of nature will overcome all.