"Ozymandias", by Percy Shelley Essay

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Percy Shelley indited "Ozymandias" in competition with his friend, Horace Smith, who also composed a sonnet concerning the ruined statue. Shelley's was published in the "The Examiner by Hunt in January 1818"1. Although "Ozymandias" detached style differs from the exalted tone of most of Shelley's oeuvre, it pleased Desmond King-Hele enough for him to honour it with a comparison to Shakespeare's poetry: "Few of Shelley's sonnets can bear comparison with Shakespeare's, but in 'Ozymandias' he successfully challenges the master on his favourite ground, the ravages of time."2 In this essay I hope to illustrate how the "music" of "Ozymandias" is integral to conveying its meaning. I intend to provide a close reading of "Ozymandias", focusing …show more content…
This fragmentation of the line forces the reader to mirror the "antique"(1) traveller's experience of descrying the monument's ruined pieces on the sand. Shelley also harnesses the sonnet's prescribed form to create disparity, inserting the affix: "-less" to accord with the syllable-count. He uses this technique thrice with the words: "trunkless"(2), "lifeless"(7), and "boundless"(13). Deliberately using the negative morpheme: "-less" three times instead of a synonym is evocative of "The Language of Paradox", as "-less" indicates both absence and presence by simultaneously appearing on the page to satisfy the sonnet's accentual-syllabic structure, while also denoting absence within the context of the poem. For example, "trunkless"(2) draws attention to Ozymandias' dismembered body whilst complying with metrical constraints. The language of the poem also harbours contrastive elements, such as when the traveller limns Ozymandias' " ... sneer of cold command"(5), or describes the "surviv[al]"(7) of "passions"(6) in "lifeless things"(7). The poem's speed, which Shelley dictates with diction and punctuation, is another important aspect of its "music". C.S. Lewis likened the speed of Shelley's poetry to:

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