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by Percy Bysshe Shelley


Symbol Analysis

The statue that inspired the poem was partially destroyed, and the poem frequently reminds us that the statue is in ruins. The dilapidated state of the statue symbolizes not only the erosive processes of time, but also the transience of political leaders and regimes.

  • Line 2: The "legs" of the statue don't have a torso ("trunkless").
  • Line 4: The statue's head is "shatter'd" and partly buried in the sand.
  • Line 11: The inscription implores the viewer to "look on" Ozymandias's "works." One of those "works" is the statue described in the poem, and it's only a pair of legs and a "shatter'd" head.
  • Line 12-13: The statue is described as in a state of "decay" and as a "colossal wreck."
  • Line 13-14: We're assuming this statue wasn't always in the middle of nowhere – there must have been some kind of temple or pyramid nearby. Not anymore; the area around the statue is "bare" and the desert is "lone," or empty. The traveler calls our attention to the barrenness of the desert through the extensive use of alliteration (beginning multiple words with the same letter): "boundless and bare," "lone and level," "sands stretch."

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