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by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ozymandias Theme of Transience

"Ozymandias" is obsessed with transience; the very fact that the statue is a "colossal wreck" (13) says loudly and clearly that some things just don't last forever. But the poem isn't just about how really big statues eventually succumb to the ravages of time; the statue is a symbol of Ozymandias's ambition, pride, and absolute power, and thus the poem also implies that kingdoms and political regimes will eventually crumble, leaving no trace of their existence except, perhaps, pathetic statues that no longer even have torsos.

Questions About Transience

  1. Do all political regimes necessarily pass away? Are there some that just won't go away?
  2. How does the poem view the permanence of art? Do artistic "works" necessarily "decay" like the statue of Ozymandias?
  3. Is the poem's view of transience and impermanence hopeful or despairing?
  4. Are there any signs that the poem laments the destruction of the statue and the loss of the civilization that produced it?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Even though the poem is obsessed with transience and impermanence, it also suggests that a work of art, however fragmentary, leaves a record of what has passed away.

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