An antique land ancient country; here; Egypt. Egyptian civilization is one of the oldest in the history of the world. Who said the traveller said. Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert- The two huge legs of a broken statue stand in the desert. The trunk or the upper portion of the statue is severed from the legs and lies nearby. (This is a common sight in Egypt. Many broken and half-buried statues of ancient kings of Egypt exist in various parts of the land and remind a traveller of the ancient glory of those Kings).
A shattered visage – the broken face of the statue. Whose frown-And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command – On the face of the statue is an expression of anger, contempt, haughtiness, and sternness. The face shows a hardened sense of authority and power.
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read .It is clear that the sculptor who made the statue correctly understood the passions or feelings of the king and, therefore, successfully reproduced them on stone.
Which yet survive. The passions or feelings of the kind still exist on the face of the statue, while the sculptor who carved those passions or feelings on stone, and the king who experienced those passions or feeling, are dead and gone. (The hand that mocked them .The sculptor’s hand which reproduced or represented the king’s feelings on stone. “Mocked” is here used in the sense of “imitated them without feeling any admiration for them”.
“Them” refers to those passions. And the heart that fed and the kings’ heart which nourished or experienced those passions).
To be able to get the meaning, you should read these lines thus: “whose frown and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, tell that its sculptor well read those passions which, stamped on these lifeless things, yet survive the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed”. The idea is that the king’s passions still remain depicted on stone, while the sculptor’s hand and the king’s heart are no more, both the sculptor and the king having died long ago.
Pedestal – base; foot, these words appear – there is an inscription on the pedestal. My name is Ozymandias – King Ozymandias flourished about 2100 B.C. He was the first soldier-king to invade Asia.
The inscription on the foot of the pedestal reveals the name of the king, and gives us an idea of how great and powerful he was.
Nothing beside remains stretch far away (Lines 12-14) – There is nothing else to be seen near the statue. A vast, desolate and barren desert surrounds the remains of that huge statue which lies broken. (colossal – huge. “Colossal” is from Colossus. “Colossus” was a huge statue bestriding the harbour of Rhodes so that ships could pass under its legs. “Colossal” therefore means huge).
Note: The last three lines describing the present ruined state of the statue present a vivid and pathetic contrast with the preceding two lines which convey the glory and greatness of Ozymandias.
This poem relates an experience of a traveller from Egypt. This traveller saw two huge and trunkless legs of a statue in the desert. Near them lay, half-buried, the broken face of the statue. On this face can still be seen the expression of haughtiness and a sense of authority which had skillfully been depicted by the sculptor, and which survives the sculptor. On the pedestal, the following words were inscribed: “My name is Ozymandias and I am a great king. Look at the great deeds which I have accomplished and which nobody can equal.” Round the broken statue stretched a vast desert.
In form, this poem is a sonnet. The sonnet-form was not really suited to Shelley’s genius because the sonnet imposes restraints and restrictions under which Shelley must have felt impatient. For this reason, Shelley wrote very few sonnets and failed to achieve distinction in them. This poem, for instance, does not rigidly obey the accepted conventions of the form of the sonnet. The rhyme-scheme does not follow any of the recognized patterns, and some of the rhymes are faulty (for instance, stone and frown; appear and despair).
But though not flawless, it is the best of the few sonnets that Shelley wrote. It has earned high praise from critics and is considered a most powerful, imaginative and suggestive poem. Its moral goes home to our hearts with force and vigour. Human glory and pomp are not everlasting. Hammers of decay quickly follow the hammers of construction. Time works havoc with buildings and monument. But the moral is not directly stated. The poet only presents a picture to our minds and we have ourselves to draw the moral. It is a didactic poem, but its moral is not thrust upon us directly. Shelley said that didacticism was his abhorrence and he did not, therefore, directly preach moral lessons.
There is a touch of melancholy about the poem because it makes us reflect over the vanity of human wishes and the failure of all our efforts to keep our memory alive forever. The contrast between the past glory of the king and the present condition of the statue is very striking to the mind and emphasizes the moral of the poem. The concluding lines of the poem are particularly remarkable for their suggestiveness. The sonnet contains two note worthy pictures. One is the picture of the broken statue, a huge wreck, the face of which still wears the picture of the lone and level desert, boundless and bare, stretching far away.