The proverb applies to many things in life, to success as well as travail. Simply understood, it suggests that we bear both success and difficulty with humility and patience. The proverb concerns a great king who is humbled by the simple words. The poet Shelley constructed a poem, Ozymandius, whose theme is about the temporal state of all things. The poem is short and worth repeating:
Ozymandius, by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
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:Everything has its place and time. And, each of us struggles with challenges in life. These difficulties may seem insurmountable and unbearable, but with time become bearable. "Do you wish to rise," St. Augustine asked. Then, "Begin by descending."
“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.
Humility has its place.