What range of feelings is suggested by the poem Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shelley, in his poem Ozymandias, leaves his readers with possibly conflicted emotions as they contemplate greatness and how temporary it is; in fact, how  inglorious it is. Every one wants to leave a legacy and Ozymandias serves as a warning that this is not the type of legacy that readers should strive to leave. Whilst monuments are intended to honor and recall someone's great contribution to history or world development perhaps, this statue does exactly the opposite, leaving a desolate feeling - "boundless and bare."

By giving the reader insight into the sculptor as well as the self-styled "king of kings," Shelley cleverly manipulates the reader into understanding that even great art is, in the whole scheme of things, momentary. The artist was an intelligent and apparently gifted sculptor, able to fool the self-indulgent Ozymandias into believing in the majesty of his image. The "sculptor well those passions read" and it is interesting that the "visage" is the only thing left that reveals something of the personality of this "king" who now is nothing more than "trunkless legs of stone." Although the sculptor's work is ruined, he still tells a story of the futility of a selfish life. Ozymandias will be remembered because of his false belief in his own importance and the reader's feelings will range from feeling sorry for Ozymandias in his poor judgment to feelings of disgust and ridicule at his over-inflated ego. The reader may even feel satisfied that Ozymandias was reduced to the same as his lowly subjects, deserving to be reduced to a "colossal wreck." The reader is brought down to earth by thoughts of what outcome a vain and narcissistic person faces.