What is the irony of the line "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair"?

The irony of the line "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair" from Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "Ozymandias" is that nothing remains of Ozymandias's rule. There are no "works" to behold, and everything the former leader took great pride in has been destroyed.

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At one time, Ozymandias was a mighty and powerful ruler. He believed himself to be the "King of Kings," reflecting a sense or superiority over even other leaders. As a tribute, a statue was created that reflected the "sneer of cold command" which Ozymandias seemingly displayed. As a testimony of...

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At one time, Ozymandias was a mighty and powerful ruler. He believed himself to be the "King of Kings," reflecting a sense or superiority over even other leaders. As a tribute, a statue was created that reflected the "sneer of cold command" which Ozymandias seemingly displayed. As a testimony of his power and influence, he penned words to be displayed with his statue, instructing anyone who saw his statue to "look on [his] works ... and despair!"

Ozymandias expected his power to forever affect his kingdom; he believed himself so influential that the magnificence of his work and leadership would be eternally recognized. The irony is that the only thing left of Ozymandias's rule is this broken statue. Nothing else remains. The statue itself has been ravaged by nature; the only things remaining are two huge legs and half of a face, both stuck in the sand. The remains of the statue which proclaim the magnificence of Ozymandias are surrounded by endless barrenness.

Those who read the plaque are asked to stand in awe of Ozymandias's works. Yet those works are now gone, leaving nothing for those who read his words to behold. Instead, the words ironically demonstrate the fallibility and limited influence which seemingly marked Ozymandias's eventual end.

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