“Ozymandias” is a poem, written by Percy Bysshe Shelley. It was first published in 1818, in a periodical The Examiner, which was run at that time by the author’s friend, Leigh Hunt. Back in 1817, Shelley decided to have a sonnet competition with his other friend, Horace Smith. They chose the magnificent statue of Ramses II as a subject of their writings. Ramses II was one of the Egypt pharaohs, and was well-known and admired for his building program and military campaign. He lived to be ninety, and his tenure was incredibly long. In 1817, his statue was being transported from Egypt to London. Shelly was mesmerized by the gigantic size of the statue, which weighted 7.5 tons and was partially destroyed.
Although Shelley’s works are often considered to be experimental and radical, there is nothing extraordinary about “Ozymandias”. The writer uses a wide-spread form of writing – a fourteen line sonnet.
The speaker of the poem tells a story of meeting a wanderer, who has traveled through the desert, where he came across the giant and beautiful statue. It is the sign of ancient civilization that once existed here. Although the statue is broken, it is still easy to make out a face of the person portrayed. It is undoubtedly a face of a ruler, powerful and fierce. The sculptor of the statue did a remarkably good job portraying his inner qualities and his personality. One may see that he might have been a wicked man, but he was just and righteous towards his people. The traveler ends his story by describing the surrounding in which the statue was found: sands of Egypt were everywhere; as far as the human eye could possibly see. The civilization is dead and barren, and the only sign of it existence is a broken statue.
Talking about a speaker, it is also essential to mention that the poem is many-voiced. First of all, there is the speaker of the poem, who meets the well-traveled man. This wanderer takes over the story-telling. We do not know much about him; he might be a citizen of the antique land, or just a tourist with not certain destination. For the most part of his speech, he describes the statue itself and then in the middle of the poem he reads the inscriptions on the statue. These lines belong to Ozymandias, so he is speaking now through the traveler. It makes him the third speaker of the poem.