A famous sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley:
[Please note: The text given here is derived from the two printings during the poet's lifetime; the spelling and punctuation are from Shelley's holograph.]
- I met a traveller from an antique land,
- Who said - "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
- Stand in the desart. . . . Near them, on the sand,
- Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
- And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
- Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
- Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
- The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
- And on the pedestal, these words appear:
- My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
- Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
- Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
- Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
- The lone and level sands stretch far away."
The impact of the sonnet's message comes from its double irony. The tyrant declares, "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Yet "nothing beside remains". So "the mighty" should not despair as Ozymandias intended. And yet they should indeed despair because they will share his fate of inevitable oblivion in the sands of time.
- Reiman, Donald H. and Sharon B. Powers Shelley's Poetry and Prose (Norton, 1977)