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Most recently, the poem was a presence in the final episodes of the acclaimed American television series , which charted the rise and fall of a ruthless drug lord.One of the most powerful episodes is called ‘Ozymandias’, and in the trailer to the series the protagonist reads the poem in full over a shot of the desert of New Mexico.Thanks to art, only the Pharaoh's arrogant passions, as expressed in the ruined statue, have survived, outliving both the sculptor (‘The hand that mocked them') and Ramses himself ('the heart that fed'), whose many monuments have reverted to 'The lone and level sands'.
Round the decay / Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare / The lone and level sands stretch far away’.
Shelley lived in a period when the British government, fearful of revolution, took oppressive measures against radicalism. His hatred of tyranny is well-known and was eloquently expressed in much of his prose and correspondence; but while political events occasionally prompted him to write a poem, most famously when he composed in response to the Peterloo Massacre in 1818, he never treated poetry as a vehicle for explicit political comment or moral argument.
In 1812 Shelley ordered a copy of Diodorus’s forty-book One of these, made in a sitting posture, is the greatest in all Egypt, the measure of his foot exceeding seven cubitts .
This piece is not only commendable for its greatness, but admirable for its cut and workmanship, and the excellency of the stone.
The unconventional rhyme scheme joins the break, in the traditional Petrarchan sonnet form, between the first eight lines (the octave) and the final seven lines (the sestet).
Internal rhymes and combinations of sounds (‘land’, ‘Stand’, ‘sand’, ‘hand’, ‘Ozymandias’; ‘trunkless’, ‘sunk’; ‘frown’, ‘Round’, ‘boundless’; ‘stone’, ‘lone’ ) convey a powerful but tightly controlled mood.
‘Didactic poetry is my abhorrence’, Shelley wrote in the preface to (1820), ‘nothing can be well expressed in prose that is not tedious and supererogatory in verse.’ Horace Smith’s sonnet on Ozymandias draws clear parallels between the rulers of ancient Egypt and the European monarchs of his own day, and concludes by imagining the annihilation of Regency London and its discovery by some future traveller.
Shelley, by contrast, communicates a more implicit message through subtle literary effects.
Regardless of what he thought, Ozymandias' empire eventually ceased to exist.
Even a statue he has made to reinforce the possibility of his immortality shatters.