The traveler relates that on the pedestal words appear that reveal the purpose of the king having his statue erected. "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:/Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair" (lines 10-11). Thus Ozymandias was bragging to present and future leaders that nothing they could do would match his works, and indeed that his works were indestructible. The passage of time, however, has made Ozymandias' words empty, and his boast nothing more than an ironic footnote to the history of his ancient civilization. All that is left of Ozymandias' proud boasts are fragments of his monument, symbolizing the ruin that comes to the once powerful. "Nothing beside remains; round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare" (lines 12-13). Another irony is found in Ozymandias' use of the word "despair." He meant for other rulers to look upon his works and despair because they could never match his. However, these rulers he addresses will despair because they will share his fate.
Although this sonnet is a famous one, found in many anthologies throughout the years, it is not one of Shelley's typical, or greatest, poems. Shelley, however, does an excellent job expressing his theme within the constraints of the sonnet form. The feelings of despair and sadness evoked in the sonnet may indicate that Shelley was going through some sad experience of his own that made him interested in this subject matter, a subject that was different from most of his Romantic poetry.