Percy Shelley, “Ozymandias”
This is a profound statement ascribed to one of the most powerful pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Yet, as Percy Shelly writes, the “works,” due to the sands of time, have vanished – “of that colossal wreck… the long and level sands stretch far away” (13-14). At his zenith, Ozymandias believed his empire was timeless and would inspire “despair” in all those who labored to match his accomplishments. But the monuments, his self-praising idols, and, in sum, his empire have all but eroded away. In such a way, Ozymandias emphasizes the frailty of mankind in the thread of measureless time. It’s not happenstance that one of the main characters in the movie Watchmen refers to himself as Ozymandias. Adrian Alexander Viedt, the smartest and one of the most powerful individuals on Earth, is a contemporary version of the Egyptian king. Though, Adrian Viedt masterfully averted the looming nuclear war and created his utopia in the movie, his feats are concealed to the public just as Ozymandias’s vast empire has been forgotten in the modern world. An awareness of the poem “Ozymandias” aids the viewer in analyzing the fundamental issue – the pervasive fallacy of power and divinity - in the film Watchmen.
The unusual structure of the poem aids viewers in analyzing how Watchmen migrates towards its utopian themes. The poem corresponds to the film’s cultural context of the Cold War in the Eighties as it is unlike a typical Petrarchan, Spenserian, or Shakespearean sonnet. First, this poem is in pentameter and not the normal iambic pentameter found in Shakespearean derived sonnets. The majority of sonnets contain five iambs in a line which begins with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. However this poem refuses to conform to such a pattern. For example in the start of line twelve of the poem, the “No” in the word “Nothing” is stressed rather than unstressed. Secondly, the poem has an unusual rhyme scheme. Most sonnets are divided into three quatrains of alternating rhyme with a closing couplet. These sonnets have the normal “ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG” structure. The poem Ozymandias, however, has a strange rhyme scheme of the “ABABACDCEDEFEF” format. Instead of the poem ending with a concluding couplet, the reader gets another EF group. The apparent and perhaps purposeful disorganization of the poem possibly alludes to the confusing conflict between the world’s superpowers of the Eighties in Watchman. The failure of both the Soviet Union and the United States to preserve their military and economic prowess from the Cold War represents how Ozymandias in the poem was unable to create an eternal Egyptian empire. Hence, the moral poem helps the reader understand that in the film Watchman, the struggle for power is to of no avail.
The detached tone of the poem resembles the divided relationship between the heroes and the rest of humanity in Watchmen. The manner in which the poet distances himself from his sonnet is related to how...