The Irony in the Poem Ozymandias

In Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Ozymandias, there is an overriding irony presented to show the difference between the sculptor and the sculpture of the pharaoh Ramesses the Great. Ozymandias was actually another name for the pharaoh, who ruled over the nineteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt. Shelley’s poem showed the mockery which seem to be evident with the sculptor creating a very similar image of the pharaoh.

            The irony in the poem can be seen in line 8, about “the hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed”.

Here, the sculptor is seen to be mocking the passions of the great pharaoh Ramesses, because he was able to “stamp” it or carve it on a lifeless piece of rock. The sculptor is seen to be mocking the pharaoh himself because of attempting to duplicate such a great person. Ozymandias was a great man, the “king of kings,” yet nothing remains of him now except the ruined stone sculptures by the hand that mocked him (Shelley).

            The poem’s irony revolves around Ozymandias himself. The great irony here was having the pharaoh narrate the poem, boasting of all his greatness and power, yet all that he has “established” now lies in ruins, crumbling through time, slowly joining the surrounding sands. Ozymandias was so full of authority, even though there was nothing left of what he boasts. His kingdom and his glory now lies in the sands, and all that is left of it were several pieces of stone slabs created by a “hand” who was able to create something in the likeness of the pharaoh (Roberts and Jacobs).

            As a poem, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias was able to show the aspect of change, wherein nothing is permanent in this world that we live in. No matter how strong or how powerful the pharaoh was at one time, he later lost all of it, only to be forgotten through the course of time. What remains of him was not really from him, but a creation from the sculptor’s hand. The greatest irony in this poem was how the artwork, which was a piece of stone, was able to outlast even the greatest of kings.


Roberts, Edgar V., and Henry E. Jacobs. Literature an Introduction to Reading and Writing. Eighth Edition ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “Ozymandias”.  2000. November 30 2007. <>.