Poetic Structure In “Ozymandias” Essay

1603 words - 6 pages

Despite the vast differences between the many cultures that make up the world’s population, certain key characteristics, some good and some bad, have shown themselves in every civilization, regardless of time or location. One negative characteristic that has repeatedly made an appearance in the world’s history is man’s desire for power. In the sonnet “Ozymandias”, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, power, which humans consistently fight over and which is also the cause of arrogance in many, is shown as insignificant through the description of a statue’s ruins. The statue is of an ancient ruler, Ozymandias, and throughout the poem he is characterized as powerful, yet arrogant because of his power. Shelley mocks the once great and feared Ozymandias, who is now little known and whose empire has decayed over time. Percy Shelley has utilized the poetic form of “Ozymandias” and the structure of each line, including punctuation, word placement, and quotes, to contribute to the description of the statue and its setting, which in turn supports the central idea that the power of man and all man made creations are insignificant against the passage of time.
In “Ozymandias”, Shelley shows the unimportance of human power as time goes on by describing a statue, which depicts a once powerful man, that now lies in ruins. The poem begins with “I met a traveler from an antique land / Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Stand in the desert…” (1-3). The ambiguity of who told the speaker of the statue and where the statue is located alludes to the unimportance of the once great and powerful man whom the sculpture represents. If the location of the decaying art piece was made more clear , it would imply that the man’s power had survived the passage of time, because he is still talked about and well known. The ellipsis, which comes in the middle of the 3rd line, means that there is more to Ozymandias’ story that has not been included. This contributes to the feeling of unimportance of the statue and the man it represents by making it seem as though details to the story have been left out or forgotten over time. Additionally, it adds to the obscurity of the location by trailing off rather than continuing on with more detail. This is important because at one point, the man the statue depicts was very influential and well known. As time moves on, however, more and more of his story is forgotten.
The lines following the vague introduction of the poem continue to demonstrate the unenduring nature of power by using the structure of the poem to help depict the statue and to add to the meaning behind its portrayal. All that is left of the figure, according to the anonymous source, are two stone legs, and “Near them, on the sand, / Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, / and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,” (3-5). In this description, the commas break up what could be smooth, flowing lines. By doing this, Shelley is showing through the poem’s form...

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