Percy Bysshe Shelley

Edited by Jack Lynch

The copy-text is the first published version, The Examiner, 11 January 1818, under the pseudonym “Glirastes.”

I met a Traveller from an antique land,
Who said, “two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, face
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!
No thing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.


Pronounced with the accent on the first syllable.
The Greek name for Rameses II of Egypt. The actual Rameses apparently had a statue in Egypt with a similar inscription: “King of Kings am I, Osymandias. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works.” When Shelley was writing the poem, the British Museum had just acquired part of a statue of Rameses.
King of Kings
King of kings was a title used by many rulers in the ancient Middle East. In Judaism king of kings was sometimes used to refer to God; in Christianity, Jesus is several times identified as “king of kings and lord of lords.”
Look on my works
The copy-text for this edition, the first magazine publication of Shelley's poem, has confusing punctuation: an open quotation in line 2, then another open quotation before “My name,” with a single closing quotation mark after “King of Kings.” Most editors either put the next line — “Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!” — inside the quotations, or remove quotation marks from this section of the poem altogether.
The word colossal (“vast in size, amount, extent, or scope; gigantic, huge” — OED) comes from the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, a huge bronze statue of the sun god near the harbor in Rhodes. It is said to have been destroyed in an earthquake in the third century BCE.