'Ozymandias'

A sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), written in 1817. Ozymandias was the Greek name of Pharaoh Ramses II. The colossal monument to the apparently self-styled ‘King of Kings’ has shattered, illustrating the precarious, transitory nature of his power. Some critics have suggested that Shelley is also conveying a point about Napoleon’s downfall – the emporer was a prisoner on the island of St Helena in the year of the poem’s composition. Other possible implications are that the memory of outstanding figures can never be completely erased; or, that an artist’s work continues to have a life, long after political tyranny has been thwarted.

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