"Ozymandias" is a poem written by Percy Shelley. It was published in the January, 1818 issue of "The Examiner" in London. Shelley wrote the poem in competition with Horace Smith, his friend who equally wrote another "Ozymandias".
"Ozymandias" is a sonnet. This means, it’s written as a 14-line poem. It has an unusual rhyme scheme. The other "Ozymandias" written by Horace Smith, Shelley’s friend is also a sonnet. Both poets were competing with each other in their write-ups.
The major theme of the sonnet is centered on the unavoidable decline of all wicked world leaders and their great empires. In the poem, Shelley describes the remains of Ramses II Empire which is also referred to as "Ozymandias". He recounts his experience when he met a traveler in the ancient Egypt where the statue of Ramses II was seen positioned at a spot. He describes the dilapidating statue as representing the symbols of Ramses personality. During his time, he was seen as a very wicked ruler. The sculptor who created the image captured Ramses’ personality judging from the facial expression of the statue.
The poet goes ahead to describe the details seen on the pedestal of the statue. Actually, what is written is "Ozymandias King of Kings, Look on my works, ye mighty and despair". The name ""Ozymandias"" is a Greek name. The "Ozy" in the name means "air’ while "Mandias" means "to rule". Hence, the full name literally translates to "ruler of air". From this interpretation, there’s nothing left for the Ramses Ii Empire. Only "air" is left. Hence, the name "Ozymandias" actually mocks King Ramses II and also ridicules his empire and rule. The only thing left for him is the dilapidating statue which keeps on shattering by the day. The engraved wordings on the pedestal no longer have any meaning since the works of the king have already been destroyed. He’s no longer the King of Kings as engraved on the statue. The former great Ramses II Empire is now an empty desert. Everything is gone. Only the decaying statue is left.
In all, the central theme of the poem is focused on the futility of clinging to power in a wicked manner. Several Kings come and go. The wicked ones reign supreme only to end up leaving everything. Within a space of time, their wicked rule and works are forgotten. Their statues may still be seen but within a space of them, they will decay eventually get destroyed.