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Transcript of Ozymandias
Road to "Ozymandias"
I met a traveller from an antique
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of
Stand in the desert. Near them on the
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold
Tell that its sculptor well those passions
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that
And on the pedestal these words
"My name is Ozymandias, king of
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and
Nothing beside remains: round the
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and
The lone and level sands stretch far
The poem "Ozymandias" was written by Percy Bysshe Shelley who is one of the most highly regarded English Romantic poets of the 19th century. The poem, an Italian sonnet written in iambic pentameter, is devoted to a single metaphor: the shattered, ruined statue in the desert wasteland, with its arrogant, passionate face. Shelley uses this extended metaphor of the statue and an unusual rhyme scheme of ABABACDCEDEFEF, to demonstrate that art and language long outlast the other legacies of power, and the ironic insignificance of human beings to the passage of time. Ozymandias considered himself the greatest ruler of his day and assumed his name would live throughout history. However, despite his beliefs, even he was completely forgotten by history and literally buried in the sands of time.
Section 1 (lines 1-8)
In Shelley’s work, the statue of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Rameses II, or Ozymandias, symbolizes political tyranny. The statue is broken into pieces and stranded in an empty desert, which suggests that tyranny is temporary and also that no political leader, particularly an unjust one, can hope to have lasting power or real influence. The broken monument also represents the decay of civilization and culture: the statue is, after all, a human construction, a piece of art made by a creator, and now it—and its creator—have been destroyed, as all living things are eventually destroyed.
In order to fully understand the meaning of Ozymandias it is important to know how Shelley found inspiration for the poem. Shelly took inspiration from the recent discoveries in the Near East, in the wake of Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt in 1798. The archeological treasures found there stimulated the European imagination as well as Shelley's. Shelly wrote Ozymandias (an alternative name for the Egyptian pharaoh Rameses II) in the Christmas season of 1817 while his friend Horace Smith stayed with him and his second wife Mary (author of Frankenstein).
The poem begins with the encounter between the speaker who recalls meeting a traveler from an "antique land." In Lines 2-4 the traveler describes his unusual discovery of a statue with a "shatter'd" head next two huge "trunkless" legs somehow still standing in the middle of the dessert to the speaker. This statue creates a strange image beacuase only the two legs and the statue's head remain visable in the sands and leaves the reader to wonder what fate has fallen upon the other missing pieces of the sculpture. Lines 4-6 explains the head isn't completed "shatter'd" because one can still see a "frown" a "wrinkled lip" and a "sneer," that captures the arragance and "cold command" of the staue. After briefly describing the "visage," the lines shift our attention away from the statue to the guy who made the statue, the "sculptor." The poem suggests the sculptor, who "well those passions read," was able to understand and reproduce exactly the facial features and emotions of his king. Lines 7-8 tells us more about the "passions" of the face depicted on the statue. The passions not only "survive"; they have also outlived both the sculptor ("the hand that mock'd") and the king himself.
Section 2 (Lines 9-14)
In lines 9-11, the traveler reveals that the sculpture is Ozymandias. The incription suggest that Ozymandias is arrogant, as he calls himself, "the king of kings." Ozymandias's speech is ambiguous here. On one hand he tells the "mighty" to "despair" because their achievements will never equal his "works." On the other hand, he might be telling the "mighty" to "despair" as a kind of warning, stating their achievements and works will ultimately succumb to the same fate of being buried in the sand. The last lines 12-14 reminds the reader again that "nothing" remains besides the head, legs, and pedestal, and that the statue is a "colossal wreck." The alliteration of begining sounds, "besides," "boundless," and "bare"; "remains" and "round"; "lone" and "level"; "sands" and "stretch," emphasize the desolate and barren desert that seems to go on forever.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "Ozymandias Summary." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 26 Jan. 2015. <http://www.shmoop.com/ozymandias/summary.html>.
SparkNotes. SparkNotes. Web. 26 Jan. 2015. <http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/shelley/section2.rhtml>.
Mikics, David. "Ozymandias." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 26 Jan. 2015. <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/guide/238972#guide>
English IV 6th
January 26, 2015
1 I met a traveller from an
2 Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
3 Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
4 Half sunk, a shatter'd
lies, whose frown
5 And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
6 Tell that its sculptor well those
7 Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
8 The hand that mock'd them and the
heart that fed
9 And on the pedestal these words appear:
10 "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
11 Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
12 Nothing beside remains: round the decay
13 Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
14 The lone and level sands stretch far away.
: ancheint. The land the speaker is reffering to is an acheint civilization that no longer exists.
: head. The head is like a time capsule preserving the arrogrance of the king
: emotions of the king.
Heart that fed
: the kingdom that fueld the king's arrogance commanding power
: Repetition of a Vowel Sound
Two vast and trunkless legs
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
boundless and bare
lone and level sands stretch
: Inversion of the Normal Word Order
Well those passions read (normally, read those passions well)
: Carrying the sense of one line of verse over to the next line without a pause.
a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
"Whose frown" begins the enjambement.
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
"Round the decay" begins the enjambement.