Ozymandias poem analysis

8 August 2016

Pharaoh Ozymandias was a cruel tyrant, who thought himself to be the most mighty person on earth; almost as mighty as a god. The statue is described as having “two vast and trunkless legs” (line 2) inspiring the reader to comprehend Ozymandias’ power; he was so mighty that no-one could even measure his “vast” power. The reader is led to understand that Ozymandias was an arrogant, cruel leader with the words: “frown” (line 4), “wrinkled lip” and “sneer” (line 5).

These physical features captured on the visage expose the Pharaoh’s true character as a nasty tyrannical leader, sneering and frowning at his subjects if they didn’t follow his “cold command” (line 5), proving his absolute dominion over his kingdom1. The inscription Ozymandias had placed by his statue, allows the reader to fully comprehend the extent of his arrogance. He considered himself to be “King of Kings” (line 10), a cut above everyone else. Ozymandias aimed to intimidate mighty warriors as well, he wanted to awe them with his power this is shown with the words “ye mighty and despair” (line 11).

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The engraved words on the pedestal and the sheer enormity of the statue; seem to be intended to spark fear and dread in those who see it. Anyone compared to him is nothing, and worth nothing. Question 2: Ozymandias’ angry, cruel “passions” (line 6) were so evident and strong that it was easy for the sculptor to capture them in their entirety for eternity. The irony that the passions, so strong and full of life, remain only due to a “lifeless thing” (line 7) is emphasised by the juxtaposition of the two contrasting words.

Human ambition can be strong and powerful but unless one uses them to create something concrete they will be lost forever, when they die along with the person they burn within – only lifeless, hard proofs remain to testify our full of life, flighty emotions and aspirations. Ozymandias is dead and so is the sculptor, yet the arrogant and cruel passions survive because of the concrete and tangible statue. The King’s passion is now, “lone and level sands stretch far away”, yet the great work of the sculptor remains to some degree; testifying to his ambitions as a talented sculptor. 1 Shmoop54461332 Question3: The inscription that remains beside this statue reads; “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty and despair” (lines 10 and 11). As mentioned before this inscription enables the audience to understand his power and greatness, as even other kings and mighty warriors were warned that they would never reach, and should despair from even trying to reach, his level. Yet ironically all that remains is the work of the “hand” and “heart” (line 8) of the sculptor. Humans are vain and aspire to be remembered forever2, to leave an everlasting mark on this world.

However often those not seeking this level of immortality are the ones to receive it and those who do pursue it are somewhat forgotten. The sculptor is now getting all the attention and praise, for his accurate portrayal of the Pharaoh, which Ozymandias felt he deserved and therefore strove to preserve. The only thing that has survived of Ozymandias’ kingdom is the sculptor’s carvings; “stamped onto these lifeless things” (line 7). Everything that resembled Ozymandias’ power is now a “colossal wreck, boundless and bare” (line 13). What does remain of Ozymandias’ arrogance and dominion is what the artist recorded by carving into the stone.

Art has endured and served as tool to preserve the history of mankind. The statue has remained causing the sculptor to become more ‘powerful’ than Ozymandias himself. Question 4: This poem highlights man’s mortality and his inability to fight the power of nature, despite his possibly extreme physical might. “Two vast and trunkless legs” (line 2) leads the reader to wonder what happened to the rest of the awe-inspiring statue, and become disheartened that this impressive statue is now nothing more than a “colossal wreck” (line 13).

This poem teaches us that even the strongest and mightiest will eventually fall; Ozymandias considered himself the “king of kings” (line 10) yet now his visage is “half sunk” and “shattered” (line 4). The very statue Ozymandias thought would remain to forever testify his greatness now lies in ruins. The inscription of the pedestal was once intended Ozymandias’ subjects to despair at their inability to reach his level of majestic power, yet now it seems to beg passer byes to despair at the sorry state in which the statue is now lying, to despair at the fleeting nature of humanity.

The scene described in this poem brings 2 3 gradesaver Wikihow 54461332 to mind the cliche yet true expression of; ‘Pride before fall’4, we in hindsight can see that nothing remains of Ozymandias’ might or power but what the sculptor recorded. He, who was a cruel tyrant; “sneer of cold command” (line 4), has his memory at the fate of nature the sculptors “hand” and “heart” (line 8). Ozymandias thought his power was so exceptional it would remain for aeons, yet the reader is made to understand that his statue is decaying alone; “nothing beside remains” (line 13).

The short, not-real, sentences of line 12: “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay”, add to the sense of finality that man is mortal and will not last forever in any form or any what way. The poem ends on a depressing note, the words “sands stretch far away” (line 14) suggest to the reader that there is nothing man can do about his mortality, nature- the sand- stops for no one. “Far away” hints to sense of man giving up and giving into nature, losing the will to try remain immortal forever. Question 5:

The writer uses alliteration as he ends the poem to emphasize that man has no hope, no capabilities to fight and emerge victorious, against nature and time. The words “boundless and bare” (line 13) accentuate how desolate the desert now is, leading the reader to wonder what it once possibly looked like during Ozymandias’ rule. Yet nothing remains of the mighty kingdom and the king’s statue is surrounded by vast stretches of nothing. An element of eeriness is added to the poem with the use of the words; “lone and level” (line 14), as what once had beauty and power remains as a silent and destitute land.

The “sands stretch” (line 14), another use of alliteration, reminds the reader once again that only nature prevails. “Stretch” is a word in the present tense, hinting to us that the sand will continue to do its job of decaying the statue, and destroying the “two vast trunkless legs” (line 2), that do remain. Thereby obliterating from the world the last memories of Ozymandias and with it man’s hope of immortality. Bibliography: • • • • 4 Wikihow BBC – GCSE bitesize Shmoop Gradesaver BBC- GCSE bitesize 54461332

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