Ozymandias Essay

Submitted By mrpowers
Words: 474
Pages: 2

Ben Powers, #4321
Mr. Powers
AP English Language, pd. 3
October 20, 2010
The Mark That Will Not Last
Shelly’s poem “Ozymandias” is a reflection on the notion of impermanence, or mutability, the idea that nothing lasts forever. The poem contrasts this fundamental truth with the human desire for permanence, revealing, in the end, the speaker’s attitude that our desire for permanence is nothing more than arrogance and pride. The speaker presents an image of a once “colossal” but now crumbling statue of a powerful king, Ozymandias. The statue, which we may assume was commissioned by the king himself, exaggerates the king’s size. We know from the “vast” legs that the king was portrayed as much larger than life sized. On his face, we can see a “sneer of cold command.” This shows the king’s arrogance, his belief that he has the right to command others. Even more telling are the words he has had inscribed on the base of the statue, which read, “Look on my works, ye mighty and despair.” This is further evidence of the king’s pride and arrogance, his desire to be admired, feared, and respected. Clearly, this is a man who thinks very highly of himself and who believes that he has made his permanent mark on the world. Ozymandias’s belief that his name and accomplishments would live forever is called into serious question by the poem’s last four lines, however. Ironically, although the lines on the statue’s pedestal command us to “look on [his] works,” we learn that there are no works to be looked on, for “nothing beside remains.” Everything that the king had built is now gone, reclaimed by the desert or perhaps carried away by looters, and one gets the feeling that even the remnants of the statue, the “two vast and trunkless legs” will eventually sink into the