Percy Shelley Poems
Percy Bysshe Shelley: view of literature and art
Without a doubt Faiz and Shelley require the all-inclusive community to stay against the abuse and comprehend their vitality. They require the mistreated to rise against the persecution and the abominable mishandle. They influence them to understand that they have an indistinguishable right from the high society has. Their verse addresses that there is no separation between needy individuals and the rich, and if anyone tries to prevent them from claiming their benefit, they should have the quality to get it by propel. Shelley needs the freedom of destitute individuals. He advocates their inspiration and grasps their rights. Shelley dynamic is as pertinent for the present age as it was for his own particular age. Shelley imagined amid a period, where forces of concealment, seriousness, violence and mercilessness were normal. As Shakespeare would have puts it, something was ruined on the region of Denmark and the Hamlet in Shelley was out to wash down it.
The start of the French upset saw a spread of liberal thoughts among the individuals who had been rubbed of their rights for quite a while. The quality of freedom did impact French as well as spread to wherever there was suppression and domineering dictatorship. It influenced man to understand their value that at last gave them a feeling of respect. In 1814, Shelley began seeing what was occurring in Europe. Shelley stole away with Mary Godwin and went through France. It was the time when Shelley created the lyric “Revolt of Islam”. Shelley gives an insightful and adjusted record of the times of French unrest in the sonnet. Shelley was a dissident by nature. Shelley’s progressive demeanor was productive over the long haul. This lyric shows his view however isn’t that effective as his different ballads. In his prelude to “The Revolt of Islam”, he indicated out that the needed encourage in the base of his perusers an upright energy for freedom and equity, that confidence and expectation in something great, which neither viciousness nor partiality, can ever completely stifle among humanity. In another work “Prometheus Unbound” Shelley made his legend curve revolt and contrasted him and Satan of “Heaven Lost”. This lyric depends on the amazing epic scale like as Spenserians stanzas of the Farie-Queen. This sonnet is primarily worried about the everlasting clash amongst great and malevolence. The Revolt of Islam notwithstanding its hopeless posing even with oppression, and it is as yet idealistic sonnet. A definitive message of the sonnet is “give up not” and it is delineated that what will happen when great spreads. This ballad demonstrates the fundamental decency of man. Shelley driven and honorable prescience is additionally reflected “if winter comes can spring be a long way behind”. Political reasoning of Shelley likewise reflects in this ballad and furthermore makes express Shelley’s state of mind towards the French insurgency and it is ace topic of his age, or the recovery of confidence in the flexibility of man.
Shelley’s sonnet Ode to freedom formed in 1820, commend the positive progress for the country opportunity. It is to be sure a basic sort of activity for the writers of Romantic age. This lyric incorporates philosophical thoughts identified with those relevant to the French upset. Shelley composed his initially long and celebrated ballad “Ruler Mab” in 1812. In “Ruler Mab”, he proliferated the need of change. As a writer, Shelley imagined to end up plainly the inspirer and judge of men. He had an enthusiasm for changing the world which was the immediate result of that state of mind of mind which the French Revolution had taught in him. A thought contained in the first origination of the Revolution was ‘The Return of Nature’. It held that the fundamental satisfaction of man comprised in a straightforward life as per Nature. Not that it was impossible to miss to the Revolution; but rather that it came as a legitimate. When man moans under the foot sole areas of oppression, defilement, narrow minded intrigue and social traditions; when he “lives like worms wriggling in a dish, far from the torment of insight and the futility of culture”; he cries, unwillingly: “Release me back to the bosom of Mother Earth where my own hands can win my own particular bread from woods and fields.”
“Tribute toward the West Wind”, was additionally composed by Shelley under the immediate impact of the circumstances. The good, social and political recovery appeared to Shelley conceivable in the air of Nature. The ‘West Wind’ appeared to be a statement of this foundation. Discovering his life hopeless. Shelley’s dynamic vitality streams from his good faith. All his life he yearned for an ideal world without malignant, continuing and sadness. It would be the place reason would oversee superior, and Consistency, Liberty and Fraternity wound be no unfilled words. “Tribute to West Wind” imparts the craftsman’s uncommon persisting at the abuse of life and his fantastic desire in the splendid destiny of mankind. The ballad symbolizes three things; adaptability, power and change. Faiz Ahmad Faiz conveys his dynamic and progressive vitality in his verse. For scrutinizing the predominant specialist, he was treacherously threaten and mistreated, however he would not desert his standards. A few lines extricated from Tadeeb’s Article put his battle in this word, “the considerable crusader against government” who is experiencing torment because of his progressive idea. Faiz was the writer of all despot and persecuted individual as Iftikhar Arif portrays Faiz as, Faiz was the artist of humankind, and his verse was interminable, general and illustrative of human esteems.
Faiz is a standout amongst the most well-known and extraordinary Urdu writer. He is celebrated for dynamic battle and progressive verse too. As indicated by Khalid Hussain, “Faiz’s verse is inappreciable from the way he has carry on with his life”. Faiz got popularity after the distribution of his first accumulations of ballads “Naqshe – e-Faryadi (1941)”. “Try not to approach me my adored for the past sort of affection” it is a sort of adoration lyric and contemplation of affliction and torments of the world. This ballad is magnum opus in the verse of Faiz. It drives him to thought of the agonies and sufferings of his general surroundings; likewise inconveniences against him with respect to the flexibility battle in his property. This sonnet depicts the contention going ahead in Faiz’s psyche and furthermore strife between the draw and push of adoration and requests of patriotism.
“Talk up” this short and intense sonnet composed before the segment of the sub-mainland. This sonnet additionally called the “Confirmation of the Third World “by various commentators. Its written in those occasions when challenge British Raj. It was sans where articulation was fiercely treated and talk was to wreck and fierceness of the oppressors, and they were pilgrim experts. Faiz composed another sonnet (Pie Dogs) for the general population of sub-landmass to influence them to acknowledge of their cruel treatment. In this lyric Faiz presents the state of his nation man as pooches. He endeavors to make the mindful of their debasement. ‘Puppy’s’ ballad is absolutely political and progressive. Faiz needs to mix the inner voice of the needy individuals of the sub-mainland. Fiaz was against the unnatural British lead, which grabbed the true-blue privileges of sub-landmass individuals.
Accumulation of ballads in “Dast-e-saba(1953)” implies the Faiz’s battle amongst sentimentalism and authenticity. It was about the adoration for mankind by him. Another ballad “we will see” in this lyric He depicts everything will kick the bucket and just Allah will remain who is effective and great. hope to flexibility from sufferings and tragedies of individuals and furthermore by dictators and seek after splendid future. Shahrukh Hussain who is a writer and screenwriter additionally proofreader of “The Virago Book of Erotic Myths and Legends”. She depicts Faiz treatment of topics and his approach towards verse along these lines, even in the ballads where he challenges conspicuously they are additionally well known with a more extensive sort of adoration, in which sentimental energy changes, frequently all of a sudden, into a tormented love of humankind. Riaz Rahim in his book “Faiz Ahmed Faiz A famous Urdu writer” portrays faiz verse as following; “Individuals adored his verse, however specialists did not support of the legislative issues and developments it spoke to” his verse reviewed and presented amid the Musharraf Emergency of 2007(‘speak up, Bol’) after the 25 years of his passing. The poetry (speak up, Bol) of Faiz demonstrates the importance for now Pakistan and its unfading quality too. Faiz considered the Urdu’s most acclaimed, regarded and generally read artists today and it is difficult to overlook.
“Nought May Endure But Mutability:” Examining Shelley’s Opinions on Change
Throughout several of his poems, Percy Bysshe Shelley celebrates mutability and takes comfort in the fact that change is inevitable. In “Mutability,” Shelley suggests that constant change is positive because it means that no ill feeling can ever last too long. While one cannot be certain about most things, one can depend on the inevitability of change and hope that the change will bring good. In “Ozymandias” and “England 1918,” Shelley takes comfort in the fact that change is unavoidable because it ensures that tyrants cannot hold onto their power forever. It does not matter how horrible they are — all tyrants eventually fall into the annals of history. However, while Shelley appears to accept that change is inevitable, he rejects those who change their opinions. In “To Wordsworth,” Shelley suggests that because Wordsworth changes his character and his values, he ceases to exist. Ironically, even though Shelley claims to know that change is inevitable, when it comes to changing one’s beliefs or opinions, he considers that person to no longer exist. Furthermore, while Shelley takes comfort in change, he is not prepared to actively create it. In “The Mask of Anarchy,” Shelley advocates for a passive resistance, essentially telling the people to allow tyrants to trample them. However, this approach feels far to passive to actually generate change. While Shelley appears to celebrate mutability, several of his works suggests that he unwilling to actively create change, and rejects change when it comes to one’s opinions and beliefs.
In “Mutability,” Shelley celebrates the inevitability of change. The first two similes of the poem align change with the wind, comparing human existence with clouds and lyres, both of which are at the mercy of the mind. Wind is unpredictable and uncontrollable, as well as inevitable. The speaker discusses the various shifts in the clouds’ existence, as one moment they “speed, and gleam, and quiver,/Streaking the darkness radiantly! — yet soon/Night closes round, and they are lost for ever” (Shelley 2-4). The clouds are controlled by the wind, which is uncontrollable itself, and inevitably they are blown away. Similarly, “forgotten lyres,” or harps that are no longer played are left alone for the wind to control (5). The changes are always constant, whether taking away the clouds or streaking them across the sky, playing pleasing melodies or not. Just as one cannot stop or control the wind, one cannot stop or control change. Furthermore, the lyres “give various response to each varying blast,” (6) and to this “frail frame no second motion brings/One mood or modulation like the last” (7-8). Each gust of wind creates something new, just as each change will bring something different. The speaker encourages one to “embrace fond woe, or cast [one’s] cares away,” because “it is the same! —For be it joy or sorrow,/The path of its departure still is free” (12-14). The speaker argues that whether good or bad, it will all unavoidably pass eventually, so one should embrace change as it comes. The speaker takes comfort in mutability and in the fact that nothing lasts forever. There is solace in the constancy of change, as “man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow; Nought may endure but Mutability” (15-16). There is a lot of hope and reassurance in that one must only endure something for so long, before inevitably a change will come. Mutability is very important for Shelley; it gives him hope that change will come and nothing can stay that bad for too long. Shelley evidently not only recognizes the inevitability of change, but also celebrates it and takes comfort in it.
Ironically, even though Shelley knows change is unavoidable, he rejects Wordsworth’s change in character completely. “To Wordsworth” not only laments change, but suggests that Wordsworth ceases to exist because of his change. Shelley suggests that change is celebrated, but is against changes in character, stressing his belief of how it is important to stay true to oneself. However, Shelley mourns Wordsworth as though he “shouldst cease to be,” essentially rejecting the change instead of just lamenting it (14). While Shelley is “much disappointed” in the “growing political and religious conservatism of William Wordsworth” (92 note 1), to claim he is dead while he is still alive rejects the change in Wordsworth’s beliefs. It is ironic that Shelley knows change is inevitable, yet feels he has been left “to grieve/Thus having been,” rejecting the changed, still living version of Wordsworth (13-14). While earlier, Shelley encourages people to embrace change, good or bad, “To Wordsworth” presents a contradictory message that rejecting changes and proclaiming someone dead when they are not is also an acceptable way to cope with change.
Shelley takes comfort in mutability as it gives him hope that things can and will change. Shelley’s political stance was anti-monarchical, proclaiming himself a democrat. King George the III reigned for the entirety of Shelley’s lifetime, and at the time held the longest ruling of the country in history. The political climate of the times inspired many of Shelley’s poems, and his hope for the end of tyranny was the inevitability of change. A popular example of this is “Ozymandias,” which is the Greek name for Ramses II, Pharaoh of Egypt during the Exodus. The totalitarian rule of Pharaoh can be compared to that of King George the III, as the speaker notes that the “passions read…yet survive” (6-7). On the sculpture of Ramses, there is an inscription that reads: “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,/Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” (10-11). The speaker mocks Ozymandias by juxtaposing this inscription with the reality that:
“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away” (12-14).
The sands of time have literally wiped away the work of Ramses II, no matter how great and powerful he was in his time. Shelley reiterates the impermanence of power in “England in 1918,” which is a clearer statement of his current political situation. The speaker expresses their dissatisfaction with the “old, mad, blind, despised, and dying King” (1) and the current situation of “a people starved and stabbed in th’untilled field” (7). The speaker turns to time, and hopes that “a glorious Phantom may/Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day” (13-14). The inevitability that things will change despite how long they may last for or how great they may be in their time comforts Shelley. Mutability consoles his frustration with the tyranny of his own time.
However, even though Shelley takes comfort in mutability, he is not willing to actively generate it. In “The Mask of Anarchy,” Shelley advocates for a passive resistance against the oppressors:
“Let the horsemen’s scimitars
Wheel and flash, like sphere less stars
Thirsting to eclipse their burning
In a sea of death and mourning.
Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war” (315-322).
The speaker tells the people to allow themselves to be literally slaughtered while they stand there with their arms crossed. They are suggesting that if one does not give in to the fighting of the tyrants, there is no war to be won, and therefore no war to be had at all. The speaker argues that if one “look[s] upon them as they slay/Till their rage has died away…Then they will return with shame” (346-348). This approach seems far too optimistic; the idea that tyrants will stop if they are not pushed back can have tragic consequences. While one would hope that Shelley was right and that it would end the cycle of violence, the speaker’s controversial advice to just allow oneself to be slaughtered feels too passive to create change. As a result, Shelley’s celebration of change appears to be at odds with his willingness to actively create change. While he may believe that passive resistance will cause change, it feels more like an easy way to relinquish one’s responsibility to make change and instead, leave it up to time and mutability.
Shelley’s poems about mutability originally appear to celebrate and take comfort in the inevitability of change. However, upon closer inspection it appears that he rejects change when it comes to changes in character, and is not necessarily willing to actively create change. A lot of Shelley’s writing is about the necessity of staying true to oneself, and he himself was known for doing this. Despite being unpopular in his own day because of his extreme view for the time, he did not retract any of his sentiments. For example, at Oxford Shelley “was hauled before a disciplinary committee where he refused to deny he had written another essay “proving” God did not exist, and was expelled” (Furness). As a result, one can understand why he had so much trouble with Wordsworth’s change of beliefs and spoke of him as though he were dead. Shelley is evidently trying to break the cycle of violence. However, as an advocate for change, it is still surprising that he would suggest an entirely passive approach.
Romantic Politics: Writing Politics in Mary Shelley”s “Frankenstein” and the Poetry of Percy Shelle
Revolution was a key idea to the philosophy of the Romantic writers, whether it be social, cultural or aesthetic. It is in the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, however, that the most overt revolutionary political statements are made while Frankenstein, the masterpiece novel by his wife Mary, interacts with politics through innumerable layers and allegory. Through their work, politics and literature become intertwined, though there a specific differences in how this connection is made in their contrasting works.
It was not in Percy Shelley’s nature to turn a blind eye towards the injustice he saw in the world but he would instead directly attack those who enforced tyranny. As Paul Foot notes in his introduction to Shelley’s Revolutionary Year, “Shelley’s enormous talents were not used to butter up the rulers of society … but to attack those rulers from every advantage point.” This overt political confrontation is evident in his sonnet ‘England in 1819’ where Shelley directly attacks and criticizes the political establishment. The opening line, “An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying King” serves as caricature of the monarchy, immediately setting a critical tone to the poem. Later in the poem Shelley calls the British government “Rulers who neither see nor feel nor know”, demonizing Parliament as well as pointing out their ignorance and incompetence.
Due to this strongly derogatory description of the ruling forces in Britain, Shelley sets out the Crown and government as the villains of the poem, unfit to govern over the masses, cruel and outdated figures with only their own selfish intentions at heart, as shown by “leechlike to their fainting country cling”. But Shelley, as the poet, provides salvation for the masses, stating that the horrors of the ruling classes have become “graves from which a glorious Phantom may / Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.” It is here that Shelley presents ideas that will be further explored in his ‘A Defence of Poetry’, that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.” Shelley is fully conscious that he, the poet, is calling for the masses, and thus the reader, to rise up in revolution in the final lines of ‘England in 1819’, therefore making the poem, as a form, an overtly political instrument.
The political implications of Frankenstein, and how they interact with the text, are subtly presented by Mary Shelly. The creator and creation narrative present throughout the entire novel provides the reader with a variety of ways to engage with the text from a political angle. In one way Mary Shelley provides an allegorical exploration of the French Revolution, similar to Jane Austen in Sense and Sensibility. Victor Frankenstein, after creating his monster, is unable to control and contain the horror that he has released unto the world.
The monster in many ways is representative of the force of the Revolution itself: he has been created from corpses, symbolic of the famine and poverty stricken French populous; he is driven by a need to enact revenge upon the cause of his pain, highlighted by almost indulgent violence; and the monster never ceases his rampage until his persecutor has lost everything and then he himself ends. The Revolution is often seen as a monstrous period in France’s history, full of new possibilities but ultimately corrupted and a failure in respect to its own goals, as is the monster to his creator. By presenting Victor Frankenstein as unable to fully understand the implications of his actions or control was he has released into the world Shelley presents him as a representative of, as Fred Botting notes, the “revolutionary alchemists or Enlightenment philosophers whose dangerous experiments upset all order by releasing dark and chaotic forces of evil”, or, in other words, Revolutionary ideology.
Mary Shelley, in direct contrast to the position her husband takes in his poetry, presents through her work a far more hesitant attitude towards the concept of revolution, as shown by her representation of the most immediate example to her and her writing. While Percy is direct and defined in his pro-revolutionary stance, using poetry as a form of overt political expression, Mary is more subtle and hesitant in that she suggests the use of caution so as to avoid how revolution is presented in her novel. As Botting notes, the “monster forms the hideous result of Victor Frankenstein’s allegorical actions, a revolutionary mob that cuts a wake of terror across Europe.” Mary Shelley would rather the world avoid having to face the political demon that she created in her work.
While the violence of Frankenstein is used, from one aspect, as a representation of what encompasses a revolution, both Shelleys use it as a symbol of moral decisions and a catalyst towards bettering one political philosophy. In ‘The Mask of Anarchy’, Percy Shelley uses the brutality of government forces at the Peterloo Massacre as reason for possibly one of his most unconventional and radical political ideas. Firstly, he presents the Massacre as enacted out by an apocalyptic force, including politicians such as Viscount Castlereagh, Baron Eldon and Henry Addington as members of the Four Horsemen, the final horseman being Anarchy. Anarchy, who declares that “I AM GOD, AND KING, AND LAW!” is a critical representative of all ruling powers in Britain who forces his subjects to repeat the previously mentioned phrase and thus cementing him as the omnipotent governor of the country.
Much like he did in ‘England in 1819’, Shelley intentionally uses satirical elements to dehumanize the government and separate them from both himself and the reader who is assumed as sympathetic towards Shelley’s point of view. Once again, Shelley has positioned the reader in opposition to the government and thus includes them in the “Men of England, heirs of Glory” who are being addressed by an unnamed “maniac maid” who professes the political statements Shelley attempts to convey. These political statements revolve around the idea of a nonviolent resistance to government oppression, as the maid declares that when soldiers march upon and attack those who are protesting they will be met by people who “Stand ye calm and resolute”. This passive resistance aims to make the soldiers question their own morality and sense of justice.
This new form of political dissent is important not just in how it has influenced political thinkers and activists (Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi being among those inspired by the poem) but in how it shifts the political role of the poet. In contrast to ‘England in 1819’ where Shelley presents himself as merely a critic and observer of the world, detached but still ideologically invested, ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ involves Shelley, and thus the poet, directly with political philosophy. Shelley transcends the roles of poet and political thinker by providing a lyrical direction for the masses, thus emphasizing his later belief that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ is a clear example of how the poet and his form of expression are able to express political critique and ideology in a way that captures the imagination like no other. As Mark Kipperman states in his essay Shelley and the Ideology of the Nation, Shelley is as example of how neither “philosophers nor kings nor social economists can so form the political, social, and moral language of a nation as can its poets.”
This idea that writers are far more able to provide political commentary can be disputed when comparing the works of Percy and Mary Shelley. While Percy is clear and direct in his condemnation and satire, Mary utilizes greater use of allegory and subtle metaphor. Due to being such a broad novel, Frankenstein can be interpreted from a wide array of critical analyses while the poetry of Percy is easily seen as political. If we are to continuing interpreting the monster as representative of change, Frankenstein can be read as portraying a message similar to that of Percy’s poem ‘Ozymandias’. Through ‘Ozymandias’ Percy observes how nothing can repel the ravages of time and he suggests that even the British government, who seem to hold indisputably consolidated power, will one day fall, or, as the more probable option, drastically change from one outdated and tyrannical tradition into a new and fairer one.
This shift from the old tradition into the new tradition is also shown in Frankenstein. Victor Frankenstein’s narrative begins with him stating “I am by birth a Genevese, and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic.” It is thus immediately stated that Victor comes from a privileged background, further emphasized by his attending university abroad, his frequent travelling across Europe and his non-existent concern for financial responsibility. Victor, much like Ozymandias, is symbolic of the ruling elite of the old tradition and thus his creation represents the future: well educated despite poor beginnings, a product of science rather than superstition and physically superior. Thus, the monsters reign of terror over the life of Victor is designed to represent a shift in power from the old to the new.
This sense of change could also be interpreted from a Marxist perspective as not just a shift due to time but also a class revolution. Due to Victor’s status as an aristocrat and creator it could be seen that he holds dominion over the monster, creating a master and slave image. Victor denies the monster suffrage in that he never recognizes the monster, who is intelligent, eloquent and reasonable, as an equal even close to being human. No matter what the monster does, whether it be a physical, emotional or intellectual act, Victor refuses to give him autonomy. As Franco Moretti notes, the monster “makes us realize how hard it was for the dominant classes to resign themselves to the idea that all human beings are or ought to be equal.” Much like the masses of the proletariat in capitalist society the monster resorts to violence. This is the only means that he is able to declare that Victor may be “my creator, but I am your master obey!” The stubbornness of the ruling classes, Shelley suggests, does not solidify their hold over society, but merely forces the masses to resort to violence.
The relationship between politics and writing, as presented by Percy and Mary Shelley, is one of intricate and important connections. There is, however, differences when the matter of form is addressed. Percy, the poet, is direct and unbashful in his political motives, while Mary, the novelist, allows her work to not be restricted by focusing on the sole topic of politics but rather be of such breadth that politics is just one subject that can be read as the novels focus among many others. This suggests that the relationship between politics and writing is often dependent on form, the novel providing far more ambiguity on the subject with poetry being more appropriate for a confident and clear argument.
Main Theme of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Stanzas Written in Dejection, Near Naples”
Amongst the ideas presented in the poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples, the theme of isolation is prominent. Although Coleridge’s poem departs from Romantic stylistic tendencies, it exemplifies many of the ideas which defined the era, while Shelley uses a more typical Spenserian stanza form, manipulating this to enhance a sense of isolation throughout the poem. Both poets explore isolation in different ways throughout their poems – specifically, Shelley uses the theme of ‘dejection’, referenced in the title, to present his feelings of sadness as something he experiences very much alone.
Stanzas written in Dejection, near Naples is written in first person, again emphasizing Shelley’s feeling of isolation – he is the only one present in his poem – otherwise, there is only the nature that surrounds him. For example, he begins the poem by describing an idyllic scene by the sea – ‘The sun is warm, the sky is clear,/The waves are dancing fast and bright’, and only in the second stanza does he introduce himself into the poem. Similarly, much of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is written in first person while he is telling his story, so we are able to get just his (the Mariner’s) version of events and his feelings of loneliness. Separation from others, therefore inducing isolation is prominent throughout both poems – Shelley refers to ‘others’ and ‘they’ rather than including himself with his fellow people – he seems to see himself as separate because his ‘cup has been dealt in another measure’. This suggests he sees isolation as something that he has no control over – using the passive, ‘dealt’, it is by another hand that his ‘cup’ is unlike everyone else’s, those who ‘call life pleasure’.
This feeling of ‘dejection’ is likely because of what he was experiencing at the time the poem was written – his wife indirectly blamed him for the death of their daughter on September 24th, 1818, shortly before they arrived at Naples. Mary’s ensuing estrangement from him and his poor health whilst the couple were in Naples made him very depressed – even to the extent to which (as Newman Ivy White writes in his biography of Shelley) he tried to commit suicide. We can see that Shelley’s feeling of isolation probably had a major effect on his mood – it is evident in Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples he expresses this through the first person and relationship – or lack thereof – with others around him. Contrastingly, in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge explores the theme of isolation through the Mariner’s physical separation from civilisation and others, when his crewmates die. At points he is surrounded by them – but their spirits rather than them being actually alive, so arguably he is alone for the majority of the poem.
His isolation is perhaps heightened by the fact that he is essentially the cause of his own loneliness – by shooting the albatross, his crewmates suffer for his crime, dying and leaving him with their corpses – ‘alone on a wide wide sea’. The repetition of ‘wide’ suggests how small the Mariner feels compared to the expanse of ocean around his ship, and how now that the souls of his crewmates have ‘passed [him] by,/Like the whizz of [his] cross-bow’ he feels the enormity of the ‘wide wide sea’. The reference to the ‘whizz of [his] cross-bow’ perhaps suggests how shooting the albatross is constantly on his mind, and how he makes a link between the death of his crewmates and his ensuing isolation to the shooting of the albatross. This view of isolation is somewhat incongruous with the Romantic idea of the latter – the Mariner has caused his own isolation by shooting an albatross who was doing no harm, an innocent creature, perhaps even symbolic of Christ due to the heavy religious undertones throughout the poem.
This contrasts with common Romantic ideas of isolation – that the Romantic poet is destined to be detached from society because of a ‘higher understanding’ above most people, that they have an ability to see beyond the routine of daily life and are more sensitive to nature and religion than everyone else. Coleridge’s portrayal of isolation in Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples is more similar to the canon of isolation within the Romantic era – bad things have happened to the poet to divide them from society, or they are simply more at peace in nature and away from the modern world they live in. Therefore, we can deduce that Shelley perhaps sees isolation as the fate of the Romantic poet to see the world clearly but miserably, rather than a choice, and Coleridge by presenting it in this way perhaps sees isolation as more of an eternal punishment for an evil committed.
However, although Shelley’s poem suggests he is miserable in his isolation, he does not portray his loneliness in a negative way – he sees misery and bad luck – ‘the cup being dealt ‘in another measure’ as the cause of his isolation, rather than the latter being the cause of his sadness. For example, he describes solitude as being ‘soft’ – ‘The city’s voice itself, is soft like Solitude’s’. Shelley uses a change in tone here by using a half rhyme and more syllables in the line to create a sense of discord – in a way isolating the line, reflecting his feeling that he cannot connect with nature or others because of his misery. Nonetheless, solitude is personified and given a ‘soft’ voice, suggesting Shelley may find comfort in it – it may be like a refuge for the ‘troubled soul’ of a Romantic poet. This contrasts to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as the poet (Coleridge) is not present in the poem at all – it tells the story of the Mariner in ballad form and the Wedding Guest’s response, so we do not get Coleridge’s direct perspective at all. In addition, this poem was originally published anonymously because Coleridge wanted people to think it was a traditional story that had been told before, hence the use archaic language. However, we can get a sense of Coleridge’s ideas about isolation, specifically relating to religion, through the language and ideas presented in the poem.
Interestingly, Coleridge had the idea of ‘five stages of prayer’ in his journals from 1795-97, which we can interpret the Mariner as going through at various points in the poem. He is only able to pray and achieve ‘the celestial delectation that follows ardent prayer’ (the fourth stage) after he has ‘blessed [the water-snakes] unaware’, gone through the ‘repentance and regret’ of the death of his crew mates and the ‘horrible solitude’. This similarity between the Mariner’s journey and the 5 stages of prayer suggests solitude as part of prayer, and therefore a religious experience and a driving force behind repentance and regret, then later the ability to achieve ‘self-annihilation – the soul entering the Holy of Holies’. This expression of solitude as part of religion, or how we understand religion means Coleridge may be suggesting that to truly connect with God through prayer one must isolate oneself or be isolated to do so. Shelley also explores the idea of isolation in death in the last stanza of Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples. He suggests that ‘Some might lament that I were cold’ and repeats this (‘they might lament’) later on, as though he perhaps hopes that people will be sad when he dies, but is not confident that they will. ‘I am one/Whom men love not’ shows how he feels he is disliked and shunned by others, and by referring to himself as ‘one’ implies he is a solitary person – that only he is ‘one/Whom men love not’. This idea that he will be alone in death and not remembered fondly – or at all – evidently causes him some distress, as the last stanza uses somewhat clumsy syntax, unlike the rest of the poem. This loss of fluency in his writing could indicate he has only just thought of how he will be isolated in death – the verse does not seem to be planned – it is confused and suggests at his troubled mind. Contrastingly, Coleridge explores the value of company rather than recognition (after death) as something preferable to isolation.
Towards the end of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner he suggests that ‘sweeter than the marriage-feast’ is ‘to walk together…With a goodly company’ – in other words, that over any material comforts is the happiness of being with other people. He also suggests that religion can be something experienced and enjoyed as a community – ‘Old men, and babes, and loving friends’, conflicting his earlier idea that to pray one must be in solitude. And yet, the Mariner is destined to wander the earth alone, only interacting with people when he feels the ‘woful agony’ that forces him to tell his tale – he cannot experience the joy of the company of others. It could be argued that his lifelong isolation is the result of killing the albatross, but it is equally likely Coleridge was trying to present isolation as something which could happen to anyone if a tragedy such as the death of the Mariner’s crewmates befell someone.
In conclusion, the most prominent way that isolation is portrayed in Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples is as a fate of the Romantic poet, which enables them to see the world clearly, yet in which misery thrives. Coleridge presents isolation as more of a punishment and misery itself in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, as the Mariner must be alone for the rest of his days, whilst Shelley, speaking biographically, refers to a relatively short period in his life – the time he spent in Naples.
Comparative analysis of the poems Ozymandias by Percy Shelly and My Last Duchess by Robert Browning
The poem Ozymandias by Percy Shelly and My Last Duchess by Robert Browning are very different. However, they do have something in common, both poems represent power. Ozymandias represents power as poem shows that human life is insignificant compared to the passing of time, even for egotistical kings such as Ozymandias, time is very powerful. My Last Duchess represents power through the narrative technique, which makes it seem as if the Duke is speaking directly to an audience, powerful as it captures the reader.
Shelley’s poem “”Ozymandias”” is about a ruined statue of a powerful ruler who once controlled an ancient kingdom. Browning depicts that Ozymandias was a very harsh ruler – this is shown by the quote, “His sneer of cold command”, his “sneer” shows that Ozymandias somewhat abused his power because he was cruel leader; this leads the reader on to think that King Ozymandias was most likely a dictator in his ancient kingdom. “Cold command” is an example of harsh alliteration, the strong repetition of the letter ‘c’ at the start of both words once again gives a representation of power, “command” also represents the dictatorship of pharaohs kingdom and the use of the word “cold” may show that by being a dictator and abusing power this can reveal that the pharaoh may have been lonely. Shelley also uses alliteration when mentioning the “boundless and bare” desert, it emphasizes the emptiness of the desert, which has survived far longer than the statue which is now lifeless. “bare” and Ozymandias has nothing left after he died because his statue has collapsed, which may represent all the influence he had has collapsed.
In contrast, My Last Duchess is about a duke who is very powerful. We see this by the fact that he refers to his surname as “a nine-hundred-year-old name. This shows that his family ancestry has been one of importance for many hundreds of years. This also suggests to the reader that his name would have been known throughout Italy, predominantly in Ferrara since his surname is still significant nine hundred years later. The Duke seems to be extremely proud of his name to even know that his name has been one of power for these centuries. “Ozymandias” is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem metered in iambic pentameter.
The rhyme scheme is unusual for a sonnet of this era; it does not fit a conventional Petrarchan pattern, this suggests that things are out of place. Ozymandias’ rule is no longer and time has distorted all of his achievements and power he used to have. This gives evidence that the power the king once had has all been changed, due to the power of time which overshadowed the Ozymandias’ power.
The difference between “Ozymandias” by Percy Shelley and “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning
The poems “Ozymandias” by Percy Shelley and “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning are very different. However, they do have something in common – both poems are representations of their power. “Ozymandias” represents power as poem shows that human life is insignificant compared to the passing of time, even for egotistical kings such as Ozymandias, time is very powerful. “My Last Duchess” represents power through the narrative technique, which makes it seem as if the Duke is speaking directly to an audience, powerful as it captures the reader.
Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” is about a ruined statue of a powerful ruler who once controlled an ancient kingdom. Browning depicts that Ozymandias was a very harsh ruler – this is shown by the quote, “His sneer of cold command”, his “sneer” shows that Ozymandias somewhat abused his power because he was cruel leader; this leads the reader on to think that King Ozymandias was most likely a dictator in his ancient kingdom. “Cold command” is an example of harsh alliteration, the strong repetition of the letter ‘c’ at the start of both words once again gives a representation of power, “command” also represents the dictatorship of pharaohs kingdom and the use of the word “cold” may show that by being a dictator and abusing power this can reveal that the pharaoh may have been lonely. Shelley also uses alliteration when mentioning the “boundless and bare” desert, it emphasizes the emptiness of the desert, which has survived far longer than the statue which is now lifeless. “Bare” and Ozymandias has nothing left after he died because his statue has collapsed. Which may represent all of the influence he had has collapsed. The rhythm of iambic pentameter also represents a heartbeat perhaps ironic as his life has already ended at this point.
In contrast, “My Last Duchess” is about a duke of Ferrara who is also very powerful. We see this by the fact that he refers to his surname as “a nine-hundred-years-old name”. This shows that his family ancestry has been one of importance for many hundreds of years. This also suggests to the reader that his name would have been known throughout Italy, predominantly in Ferrara due to the fact that his surname is still significant nine hundred years later. The Duke seems to be extremely proud of his name to even know that his name has been one of power for all of these centuries.
Ozymandias is written in Iambic Pentameter and contains enjambment. This Iambic Pentameter accompanied with the enjambment is the closest thing to narrating a story in poetry. By almost narrating a story, the poem gives us an insight in to the Egyptian king’s life due to the fact that there are no stanzas; it’s just an account of the pharaoh’s life. Enjambment is presented when Shelley writes, “nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck”, this shows that after Ozymandias’ rule and all of the achievements he made, time was even more powerful than the king and everything is gone and decaying. It is a form of irony because even a powerful king cannot control the damaging effects of time.
Browning’s poem, “My Last Duchess” is also written in iambic pentameter. This shows that the poem is also almost a story about the Duke’s life and problems with his Duchess. The poem is a dramatic monologue, the speaker is clearly distinct from the poet and this gives the reader the impression that a poet hasn’t written this, rather this is a direct account transcript of the duke himself speaking. This creates the sense of an audience being present, even though there is not one. The fact that the reader can feel that the duke is speaking directly to them makes what he says seem even more powerful, this clever use of a dramatic monologue by Browning evidently creates a sense of power.
“Ozymandias” is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem metered in iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme is unusual for a sonnet of this era; it does not fit a conventional Petrarchan pattern, this suggests that things are out of place. Ozymandias’ rule is no longer and time has distorted all of his achievements and power he used to have. This gives evidence that the power the king once had has all been changed, due to the power of time which overshadowed the Ozymandias’ power.
Analyzing the Plato’s, Aristotle’s and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Philosophyas Highligted in Their Poems
In understanding Aristotle’s contrast between the poet and the philosopher, it is important to first understand what he means in discussing the two disciplines. He discusses the two in his work “Poetics.” Aristotle describes history as the account of a given subject over time. History is merely the relay of information from events that have already transpired. Poetry, meanwhile, is a form of imitation. Aristotle compares them as the arts of discussing what “has been” and what “could be,” respectively. He was under the impression that love for poetry stemmed from an instinctive pleasure that humans derive from imitation (mimesis), as poetry is an imitation of reality. For Aristotle, this imitative art gives the poet a certain flexibility in their pursuit of “ideal” truth, as poetry deals not with particular truths, but universal ones. Aristotle thus sees poetry as a legitimate pursuit of universal truth – particularly in morality and ethics- and is therefore a higher, more philosophical discipline than history and a perfectly acceptable method of moral teaching. He depicts this poetry as the source of the earliest lessons for children, even unknowingly, as it fulfills their sensational needs for harmony and rhythm. He further finds the poetic induction of catharsis, meant to be the purging, purification, and clarification of pent-up emotions, to be a positive moral force. These factors, in conjunction with the poet’s pursuit and depiction of universal truth, helps to make the activity pleasurable for its subscribers, which then acts as an amplifier to its cultural value.
These opinions as it regards to the values and virtues of poetry served as a great departure from the views of Aristotle’s predecessor, Plato, who lambasted poetry as being based in the realm of falsehood. Plato was in the business of pondering the ideal, or the depiction of “ultimate reality.” By this he meant that an idea of an object serves as its purest form. Fiction, being a depiction of reality, which is then a depiction of the ideal, finds itself two steps too far from the ideal for Plato to take serious interest. It was thus an art based in illusion. Of this he says, “The imitative art is an inferior who marries an inferior and has inferior offspring,” and he continues that the creator of such art is dealing “in appearance only.” This kind of art, to him, fails to appeal to any rationality or truth. He uses the allegory of the carpenter and the chair.
Culturally, he opposed the romantic and sensational depictions that poets made of sensations as in pleasure and strife, and was concerned that it was instructive to moral decays in the pragmatism and frugality of people, and especially children. He was concerned that poetry had not only failed to cultivate reason, but that its emphasis on emotional thinking was a direct obstacle for its cultivation. Plato concluded that poetry’s harboring of undesirable passions, its lack of knowledge elucidation, and ultimately its lack of educational value are all sufficient reasons to abandon it. In the Republic, he even insinuates that poetry should be censored in his proposed “Polis” by force; “These tales must not have admittance to our State, whether they are supposed to have allegorical meaning or not.” Even Plato, however, can largely be seen as a poet in the way that Aristotle had defined it. Plato’s writings are scrupulously structured for rhetorical purposes into monoliths that are meant to serve as instruction and not merely as information. To summarize, Plato saw philosophy and imitative art as inherently counterpoised and incompatible with one another.
Enter Percy Bysshe Shelley, prominent 19th century romantic/epic poet. In his essay “Defence of Poetry,” Shelley makes two categorical statements about poets; He claims that “All authors of revolutions in opinion” are poets, and he therefore concludes that they are “the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” This is because, as he says, they possess the “faculty of approximation” which allows them to communicate powerful emotions that can, as Aristotle worded it, be an invocation of catharsis in the consumer. Further, as Shelley claims, the poets of history are to be largely credited with creations of language, art, architecture, and even civilization itself. Shelley, viewing these influences as not only powerful forces but also positive ones, has his philosophy of poetics much more in line with Aristotle’s than Plato’s. Also like Aristotle, Shelley postulated that the urge to be poetic was instinctive, and even suggested the same instinct harboring an affinity for rhythm and harmony was the one that produced the necessity for language. Further like Aristotle, Shelley co-sponsored poetry as a means of achieving universal truth, and further acknowledged its cultural value.
To Night by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Poem Analysis
In “To Night” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poem, in my interpretation, is the result of Shelley’s introspection and his depression. Through the poem, Shelley can express his true inner feelings. When writing about “Night,” and wishing, “Swift be thy flight,” (1.7) Shelley’s desire for darkness strikes the reader with confusion. Most of the population bask in the sunlight and enjoy its presence which gives both warmth and life; however, the deep-seated desire for Night to come reveals Shelley’s internal sadness or depression. In a later stanza, Shelley denies Sleep, “No, not me!” (4.7) but does not deny Death. When a person experiences depression, they often have no desire to keep living. His ambiguous response to death is what leads to my interpretation that the poet is experiencing a time of depression. His refusal of sleep, however, is curious in nature. My interpretation of this refusal of Sleep is that due to the common occurrence of nightmares when depression sets in, Shelley refuses Sleep. Depression can cause varying symptoms such as either too much sleep or lack of sleep. If nightmares were not what Shelley was afraid of, Shelley might have wanted to stop the cycle of sleeping too much in order to slowly better himself. Shelley, in the final stanza, begs Night “Swift be thine approaching flight.” (5.6) In the night, there is often found quietness which can be equated with calmness. Night might be the only sanctuary Shelley has in this anxious time. Depression is a terrible affliction that affects each individual differently, and so through this poem Shelley can express how it has affected him.
In Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry,” Shelley breaks away from his figurative language and possible expression of his depression to talk about poetry as a whole. Shelley wrote, “Yet it is by no means essential that a poet should accommodate his language to this traditional form.” (8.2-3) Shelley comments that poetry is not bound to any specific form. It takes the shape of whatever form the poet gives it. Shelley succinctly summed up his message “A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth.” (9.1) When looking at this quote with Shelley’s poem in mind, one can see that even though it is not particularly an optimistic “image of life” being created, it is an image nonetheless. Shelley goes on to state, “[Poetry] awakens and enlarges the mind itself.” (13.6) Shelley suggests that poetry is one of the many things that helps builds upon the foundation of the human conscious and our collective intelligence. “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.” Poetry is not only what augments human’s’ minds, but also provides the lens through which we can see the true beauty of the world. Shelley also writes, “Poetry strengthens the faculty which is the organ of the moral nature of man.” (13.22) Poetry is the instrument through which authors can express themselves, expand understanding and reasoning, see the often unseen great qualities of the world, and it can improve one’s morality. This is why poetry is so important to Shelley.
Depictions of Autumn in the Romantic Period
Much of the literary work that sprung out of the Romantic period centered around images of nature and the strong emotions that these evoked; the works of John Keats and of Percy Bysshe Shelley are no exception. Both written in 1819 and published in 1820, both Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” and John Keats’ “To Autumn” offer elaborate and emotionally charged images of the fall through odes that center around the use of apostrophe. However, the similarities shared by these two poems are far outweighed by their differences; “Ode to the West Wind” and “To Autumn” differ vastly both in tone and in their overall message. Where Keats celebrates the coming of autumn, framing his presentation of the season with ideas of life and prosperity, Shelley laments it, viewing fall not as a beginning in itself, but as the bitter end to spring. In these poems, both of which describe autumn or aspects of it, fall is presented in two vastly different lights—in one, as a bringer of life, and in the other, as a symbol of death.
Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” which is addressed to a wind that is described in the poem’s opening line as being the “breath of Autumn’s being” (line 1), is characterized from beginning to end by a tone filled with darkness and negativity. The speaker begins the poem with a comparison between fall and death, thereby setting stage for the jarring morbidity with which the poem is infused throughout. The poem begins with a reference to the wind to which the title refers, “from whose unseen presence the leaves dead are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing” (lines 2-3). Here, the image of ghosts fleeing conveys an immediate sense of chilling darkness, accompanying the direct reference to the idea of death with which the speaker so clearly associates fall. The image of dead, ghostly leaves serves as a tangible symbol for the more abstract concept of fall as a whole, which the poem insists upon depicting through the lens of death and sadness. Even the most seemingly positive remark the speaker makes about autumn is inherently negative, where he refers to “a deep autumnal tone, sweet though in sadness” (lines 60-61), a sadness that one can assume, having read the stanzas that lead up to this, is an acutely mournful one.
“Ode to the West Wind” becomes increasingly morbid as it continues. The speaker does not simply use the image of death as a method of signifying an ending; it is a symbol which he expands into an increasingly dark one as he goes on to offer details of sickness. For example, he describes the “yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, / Pestilence-stricken multitudes” (lines 4-5). These references to pestilence and the hectic red of tuberculosis-induced fever contribute to an image of fall not only as a form of death, but as a contagious illness that is infecting the natural world until it is left “like a corpse within its grave” (line 8). It is lines such as these, as well as references to the autumn winds as a “dirge / Of the dying year” (lines 23-24), that go beyond the abstract concept of death to offer concrete details that leave the reader with an uneasy sense of darkness and morbidity. Together, these lines evoke in the reader an image of fall as a sort of funeral procession, mourning the “corpse” of the earth as it transitions into the even greater darkness of winter.
Keats’ poem, on the other hand, conveys a tone of positivity that is in stark contrast to Shelley’s portrayal of fall as a kind of disease-induced death. The poem’s three stanzas each contribute to the cheerful, pleasant tone that the speaker’s description of autumn takes. Where Shelley’s opening stanza offers an image of death, the opening stanza of Keats’ “To Autumn” is rooted in the idea of harvest. For example, the speaker declares that fall is “conspiring with [the sun] how to load and bless / With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run” (lines 3-4), and goes on to reference a filling of “all fruit with ripeness to the core” (line 6). These lines are perhaps the antithesis of Shelley’s initial description of dead leaves fleeing like ghosts, invoking instead images of blessing and agricultural growth and abundance through the use of words such as “ripeness.” These image he offers of growing fruit are essentially depictions of fertility, implicating autumn as a source of life. The speaker furthers this emphasis on the connection between fall and harvest in the line, “while thy hook / Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers” (lines 17-18). These images of abundance and growth promote an image of autumn as a symbol of life.
Like Shelley’s, Keats’ work does make reference to spring; however, the way in which he does this differs widely from Shelley’s mourning over spring’s end. Keats’ poem almost seems to directly challenge Shelley’s notion of autumn as the death and funeral of spring in his remark, “Where are the songs of Spring? … / Think not of them, thou hast music too” (lines 23-24). Here, the speaker is challenging the need to compare the seasons and to see autumn’s beginning through the perspective of spring’s ending. This assertion that fall “hast thy music too” suggests the inherent value in autumn regardless of its relation to any other season. Here, it seems Keats is both acknowledging and opposing an evidently common notion of spring as being superior to autumn—a notion that has formed the very basis of Shelley’s work.
Despite a few similarities, Keats’ “To Autumn” and Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” offer portrayals of autumn that are in vivid contrast to one another. Shelley’s ode goes to great lengths to invoke a sense of morbidity and sickness, stressing the speaker’s view of autumn as the death of spring. Keats’ ode, meanwhile, presents autumn as a symbol of life through images of harvest and abundance. Taken together, the juxtaposition of these two images highlights the duality of the season of as a time of both positive and negative change within the natural world. Shelley’s intensely pessimistic view of Autumn as the death of spring combined with Keats’ perception of fall as the bringer of life and harvest effectively conveys the cyclical nature of the natural world, in which each new change serves as both a beginning and an end.
“Ozymandias”: A Close Reading
Percy Shelley’s sonnet “Ozymandias” (1818) is, in many ways, an outlier in his oeuvre: it is short, adhering to the fourteen line length of most traditional sonnets; its precise language, filled with concrete nouns and active verbs, contrasts against the circuitous, abstract language of “O World! O Life! O Time!” (1824); and, most saliently, it does not seek to radicalize or shock, like the “The Necessity of Atheism” (1811) or The Cenci, his 1819 closet drama about incest and murder. Shelley’s often combative, politically-charged style makes “Ozymandias” seem tame in comparison to most of his other poems. That said, a close reading of the sonnet reveals its political and theological heart. Shelley’s core beliefs—like the importance of atheism, the impermanence of man-made societal structures, and the unpreventable certainty of oblivion—thematically buttress the foundation of “Ozymandias.” With uncharacteristic subtlety and nuance, Shelley uses the poem’s eponymous statue to evidence the ephemerality of power and civilization as a whole.
Structurally, “Ozymandias” does not adhere to one specific form, although it does contain elements of both the Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnet. It operates in a loose iambic pentameter, with every line consisting of ten syllables, except for the first and tenth, which have eleven. Lines three and twelve, meanwhile, open with trochees, ignoring the idea that a sonnet must solely consist of iambs. The rhyme scheme, too, is abnormal, conforming to no historically precedented pattern. Shelley’s frequent use of enjambment further obfuscates the rhymes and makes them less pronounced. Additionally, “Ozymandias” is not broken into an octave and a sestet. Instead, it is presented in one block of cohesive text. As a result, the poem has a tight, prose-like quality to it, reading smoothly and quickly. Shelley’s disregard for conventional forms reinforces the poem’s themes. He does not consider the Petrarchan or Shakespearean sonnet an immortal form, just like Ozymandias’s kingdom cannot possibly stand forever.
The sonnet’s litheness leaves no room for abstractions. Accordingly, Shelley’s language is precise and concrete, making the poem dense with specific imagery. Lines two and three—“‘two vast and trunkless legs of stone/Stand in the desart’”—situate the reader geographically and establish the dilapidated state of Ozymandias’s statue. The two lines that immediately follow describe the statue’s partially obscured head, which is “Half sunk” in the sand. Ozymandias’s “frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command” is the first instance of Shelley planting dramatic irony into the poem: Ozymandias’s facial features are frozen in a menacing expression of confidence and power, yet his kingdom has long since crumbled, and his statue is not even whole anymore. Shelley adds a subtle critique on Christianity to this argument in line ten by having Ozymandias declare himself the “King of Kings,” a moniker often assigned to Jesus. This conspicuously loaded word choice further reinforces the overarching project of “Ozymandias”: no one is immortal, and no civilization or construct can stand forever. Shelley is not simply content to display the intrinsically fleeting nature of power, he also wants to highlight the hubris of individuals who believe they can defy this inevitability. He accomplishes this through an obvious use of irony: the “colossal Wreck” of the deserted statue declares, “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,/Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” The irony, of course, lies in the fact that the statue is now surrounded only by nothing but “lone and level sands.” Going further, Shelley implies that the sculptor had subversive intentions when carving the “sneer of cold command,” knowing that the exaggerated expression would speak to Ozymandias’s misplaced pride, instead of his all-encompassing power. Shelley’s use of the word “mocked” when describing the sculptor’s technique functions as a double entendre: “mocked,” in this context, means both to copy and to deride. While Ozymandias saw his statue as an imposing manifestation of his power, the sculptor saw it as an example of his subject’s overwhelming hubris. This hubris is most obvious in the pedestal’s inscription in lines ten and eleven, which works on two levels: when the statue was erected, it was ostensibly part of a prominent kingdom, making the inscription read as a boast, an assertion that Ozymandias’s empire is unsurpassably vast and majestic; when the statue’s current state is taken into account, though, the inscription reads more like a warning, a declaration that even the mightiest kingdoms will eventually disintegrate.
The conceit of the poem—that the speaker “met a traveler from an antique land” who described the “shattered” statue of Ozymandias—conceptually evidences Shelley’s project: the speaker hears about the statue secondhand, which means the reader receives the information thirdhand, opening up the possibility that the details may have been distorted in the transmission process, as is often the case with orally communicated stories. In reality, the actual inscription on the statues reads, “I am Ozymandias, king of kings; if anyone wishes to know what I am and where I lie, let him surpass me in some of my exploits.” Admittedly, Shelley likely augmented the inscription so it could more easily fit the meter of the poem, but that does not trivialize the fact that Ozymandias’s authoritative words—which were deliberately chosen to exhibit his power—appear paraphrased in the body of the poem. This makes his declaration more of a distorted echo than a resounding assertion of power, undercutting his intended message. Likewise, and for the same reason, it is significant that the poem is called “Ozymandias”—and that the statue, and the emperor it is portraying, is referred to as Ozymandias—because it is a Greek transliteration of the name Ramses II. This is another example of Shelley showing the reader that Ozymandias’s power is gradually fading away.
Shelley denounces the hopeful—and widely held—idea that people, even a “King of Kings,” can become immortal through their accomplishments. In doing so, he is offering a critique of both church and state, showing that everything that is erected will eventually collapse, be it a physical statue or an abstract concept, like Christianity. Even though “Ozymandias” does not contain the radical language that Shelley is famous for, it addresses the same themes as his more overtly political poems.