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 shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd 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 is one of the names of the great Egyptian Pharoah Ramses II. Percy Bysshe Shelley was inspired to write this poem by the removal of a massive statue of Ramses to Europe (it is now in the British Museum).
Shelley dashed off the poem in an evening in a lighthearted competition with his friend Horace Smith. Smith came up with On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, which is somewhat second-rate when compared to this wonderful poem.
The huge pieces of Ramses' sculptures can still be seen lying around the Ramasseum, the Temple of Ramses II on the West Bank of the Nile near Luxor.