Poetic Forms Poetic Forms    

Lesson 16: Sonnet: Ozymandias

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

lesson image
Colossal Bust of Ramesses II at the British Museum

I met a traveler 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 shattered visage lies, whose frown,

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!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away."

    Poetic Forms Poetic Forms    

Lesson 16: Sonnet: Ozymandias

by Percy Bysshe Shelley


Study the poem for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the poem each day.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Read about the poetic form.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


In the Petrarchan sonnet "Ozymandias," Percy Bysshe Shelley writes in iambic pentameter (da-DUM) of Ozymandias, the Greek name for Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II. Reportedly inspired by a broken statue of Ramesses II acquired by the British Museum, the poet addresses the rise and inevitable fall of power to the passage of time. Long ago, Ramesses II was a powerful pharaoh who ordered towering colossi built to demonstrate his might. Over time, the symbols of his might crumble to dust.


Poems often adhere to specific poetic forms, defined as 'poems following distinct sets of rules.'

The nine poetic forms we'll study include the:

  1. Sijo: A lyrical Korean poetic form of three long lines.
  2. Haiku: A Japanese poem of three lines and a total of seventeen syllables.
  3. Limerick: A humorous poem of five lines and the rhyming scheme AABBA, typically having syllables of 9–9–6–6–9.
  4. Sonnet: A poetic form of fourteen lines that follow one of a few common rhyming schemes.
  5. Epitaph
  6. Acrostic
  7. Visual
  8. Ode
  9. Blank Verse

Although we'll not delve into the details, listed below are six common types of sonnets:

  1. Italian Sonnet
  2. Petrarchan Sonnet
  3. Shakespearean Sonnet
  4. Spenserian Sonnet
  5. Miltonic Sonnet
  6. Terza Rima Sonnet

Petrarchan sonnets like 'Ozymandias' follow the listed rules:

  1. Consist of fourteen (14) lines
  2. Have approximately 10 syllables per line
  3. Divided into an 8-line stanza and a 6-line stanza

'Ozymandias' is written partly in iambic pentameter, although not all lines strictly conform. Iambic pentameter is all about the rhythm:

  1. The rhythm is da-DUM | da-DUM | da-DUM | da-DUM | da-DUM, with an emphasis on the 'DUM.'
  2. Read the second line in the poem, emphasizing the rhythm.
  3. half SUNK | a SHATT | ered-VIS | age LIES | whose FROWN
  4. Note how there are five (5) groupings of da-DUM - the penta in pentameter means '5.'


Activity 1: Recite the Poem Title, Poet Name, and Poem

  • Each day this week, recite aloud the title of the poem, the name of the poet, and the poem.

Activity 2: Study the Poem Picture

Study the poem picture and describe how it relates to the poem.

Activity 3: Narrate the Poem

  • After reading the poem, narrate the poem events aloud using your own words.

Activity 4: Map the Poem

  • In the poem, the poet explores the rise and fall of power of Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II.
  • Find Egypt on the map of Africa.

Activity 5: Discuss Time

  • The poem meditates on the rise and inevitable fall of power to the passage of time.
  • Discuss whether time always triumphs. Can anything defeat time?

Activity 6: Complete Book Activities   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete page 19 of 'Elementary Poetry 6: Poetic Forms.'


  1. 'Sonnet.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.
  2. 'Ozymandias.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.
  3. 'Iambic Pentameter.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.