GCSE Conflict Poetry - Ozymandias Analysis

October 26, 2017

GCSE Conflict Poetry: Ozymandias Analysis

Conflict Poetry: Ozymandias Analysis

Are you studying conflict poems for your English GCSE?

Check out our free, expert-written sample analysis of the conflict poem, Ozymandias!

Text

 

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:

'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away."

 

Summary/Context

 

Written by Shelly in a collection in 1819, this poem was inspired by the recent unearthing of part of a large statue of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramesses II. The Egyptian Pharaohs like

Ramesses believed themselves to be gods in mortal form and that their legacy would

last forever. The reference to the stone statue is likely a direct reference to the

statues and sculptures like the one which was unearthed, which the ancient Egyptians

made.

 

On the base of the statue is written (translated), ‘King of Kings am I, Ozymandias. If

anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works.’

 

Analysis

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land (poet’s varied way of saying ‘ancient’)

Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, (the traveller’s physical description of how the statue appears now; time has crumbled it, and yet the former king’s prominent features still thrive, strengthened, arguably, by the decay of the rest of the statue; these are its characteristics that he will continue to be remembered by – that are immortal)

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, (as before, what the king was noted for, his ‘passions’, has outlived him in the memory of others and in history)

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed: (suggests that the sculptor’s work is a true, realistic depiction of this man; that the ‘sculptor’ remained unbiased in his work, regardless of what was said and what he’d hear about ‘Ozymandias’)

And on the pedestal these words appear:

'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!' (this inscription sets up an intriguing contrast that’s completed by the closing three lines)

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away." (though it seems as if Ozymandias’ chosen ‘last words’ are an attempt to goad and antagonise all who visit his memorial, actually, to the trained eye and mind, they reveal his wisdom and self-awareness; he realises that he will be judged and remembered only by his actions in life, and what he has left behind him in death; his memory will fade away and disintegrate, just like this statue that serves to perpetuate it)

Read next: iRevise.com's Conflict Poetry, Revision Notes

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