Ozymandias, King of Nothing
In "Ozymandias", Percy Byshe Shelley relates a description of a mysterious land laid to waste as told to a man by an unnamed traveler. Granted, the poem was written after Shelley had seen ruins of the ancient Egyptian Empire imported to England, but in the poem is something greater, a portrait of a man who built himself during the span of his life to a position of great power, only to be discovered centuries later with nothing but eroded stone to his name. The particular words that Shelley chose to describe a lost, grand and ruined kingdom are all words of powerful connotation. Every adjective, every noun, builds an image of something big and strong, something enormous and indestructible.
An emphasis on physical appearance is blatant. Surfacing first, above the duality and symbolism in the poem, is the immediate call to attention of the physical size and orientation of the statue. This is most notably presented in lines 2 through 4. Although only two words, "vast" and "half," are specific in relating size, "stand" and "near" connect to project exactly how the "...two vast and trunkless legs of stone" and the "shattered visage" lie. The word vast is not as common as a tired word such as "big", and helps to describe the sheer monstrosity of the base of the statue of the great king Ozymandias. To simply have two "vast" legs, without the trunk, indicates how imposing the statue must have been when intact. Ozymandias' head, somewhat fragmented and laid to rot with the sands, is half sunk. Half sunk, yet clearly still able to stir deep emotional response with its "sneer of cold command." Although the word "half" is not as impressive as "vast" and almost detracts from the imposing nature of the statue before its fall, it works in reverse to create inside the mind of the reader the notion that this huge stone head, half sunk and buried in the sand, is still large enough to grimace at the sky and curse at the passer-by who treads on his land. What power the statue must have conveyed during the height of its power!
Once the mental image of two stone trees extending from the dunes, not far away from a head made meaner by erosion of sand and wind, has been established, the non-physical attributes belonging to the departed Ozymandias can easily be imparted. Shelley dwells little on the small details of Ozymandias' face, but the triumvirate rule by Ozymandias' frown, wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, delivered in less than two lines, immediately carry to the reader a vision of a cold, callous, yet strong and determined leader. These...