I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… 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.”
— Ozymandias, Percey Shelley
Ozymandias is one of my favorite classic poems.
Most analyses of this piece focus on the temporary nature of power, but for me the tale has always served as a poignant reminder of human mortality and how we should address it.
The sonnet shines a spotlight on the transient nature of our existence, urging us to prioritize meaningful actions over the pursuit of ephemeral power or stature. As the old epigram goes: “The world was not big enough for Alexander the Great, but a coffin was.”
Memento mori indeed.
The fate of Ozymandias calls us to embrace the brevity of life by cultivating our relationships and leaving a positive impact on the lives of those around us. Rather than erecting monuments of stone, we should instead strive to build legacies of compassion, love, and benevolence.
In the face of life’s transience, let Ozymandias remind us of the enduring value of human connection and the importance of our contributions to the collective human experience. Make every moment count, recognizing that even the grandest legacies will ultimately fade into the sands of time.
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