Ozymandias Poetry Analysis
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Percy Bysshe Shelley was a rebel from the British upper class. He was married to Harriet Westbrook, and friend with Byron. Although he died very young at the age of thirty, he left behind him valuable writings. Ozymandias is without doubt a poem of such kind. The poem is an Italian sonnet, and describes the remains of a ancient “glorious” ruin seen by a common “traveler from an antique land”(1). The subject of Shelley’s poem is more subtle than it seems. Found in the multitude of Romantic themes and made with a great combination of literary devices, the subject is is the eternal human desire to leave something behind, to overcome the mortality, and to leave an evidence of existence.
Using different literary devices, Shelley sharply contours the theme of overcoming human mortality. Imagery creates a special effect on the poem. The image of the old statue is describedas ” Two vast and trunkless legs of stone [that ] / Stand in the desert.”(2-3) Meanwhile “Near them, on sand, /Half sunk a shattered visage lies” (3-4). The statue’s ” wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, / tell that its sculptor well those passions read “(6). The opposition in the poem creates the dramatic effect of irony. The difference between the image that actually exists in the dessert and Ozymandias’s intends after his death, is the basic ironical idea here. The fact that nobody is there to fear the power of the unexistent kingdom, and the king’s harsh words, also underlines the entire paradox formed. The ancient king’s common desire, presented in the theme, and his try to put it in an uncommon way is also a good example.
Like all the later Romantics, Shelley’s theme of humans wish to leave something behind, is one from the major characteristics of the Romantic era. Shelley moves from the Classic and Neoclassic era. He moves away from tradition and reason invoking nature for his creativity. The subject matters now, and it is treated from the author’s point of view. The originality of the poems is evident. The classic subjects are abandoned in the favor of new ones. Shelley’s poem is about the art of nature, which has an overwhelming beauty. He is inspired in essence by its glory and power. Shelley shows clearly that nature has its own will. He implies that nature is able to create and destroy everything in the same time “Nothing beside remains”. Everything swings on a wire controlled by time and nature “Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, / The lone and level sands stretch far away” .
The name “Ozymandias” is the Greek name for Ramses II, or Ramses the Great, third king of the 19th dynasty of Egypt. He was a powerful pharaoh that fought many wars and won most of them. The statue described is real. Ramses’s desire to leave something glorious and immense behind creates an ironic opposition with the current standings of the ancient ruins of his thumb. The eternal desire of importance and recognition of self existence is present in the poem as the main theme. Imagery and irony complete each other to show the turn from classicism to romanticism. Inspired by nature, its hypnotizing beauty and sublimity, Shelley creates the perfect expression of his own feelings, thoughts and desires.