Irony In Poem ‘Ozymandias’ by Ozymandias

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Besides the poetic devices and smart diction in the poem, irony is also used to give the audience a contrast between the prosperous past and bleak present which emphasizes the futility of arrogance and past grandeur. Ozymandias was once believed as a mighty emperor, the “king of kings”. In order to present his majesty, he asked the sculptor to carve on the pedestal that: “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” This quote implies that no one would ever surpass his accomplishment, and shows his dominant power. However, as a contrast, far from the grandeur of Pharaoh Ozymandias, the author mentions in the previous text what he heard from a traveler about the statue: “ Two vast and trunkless legs of stone…”This verbal irony alludes to the decadence of Ozymandias and the futility of his arrogance and might. In additional, dramatic irony is also used in the poem. Ozymandias used to believe so firmly that the statue would reveal his greatness, and he thought that the sculptor “well those passions read.” Ozymandias didn’t even realize the hideous look on the statue because he was formerly told that he would be commemorated. However, the sculptor deliberately showed his arrogance and savageness by carving on the “wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command.” as a respond to the deviltry of Ozymandias. The use of verbal and dramatic irony in this poem reveals the sarcastic tone of the poet and emphasizes the contrast between the past and present which reminds the audience that nothing can beat the nature no matter how powerful it used to be.

To make the poem more impressive, the author uses smart diction to impart the audience his sarcastic tone towards Pharaoh Ozymandias. As we can see from the sentence “Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command.” The plethora of deeply negative language( “sunk”, “shattered”, “frown”, “wrinkled”, “sneer”) shows the fragmentary of the statue deserted scenery around it which gives the audience a sense that the majesty of Ozymandias is outlived by the nature. It also states that the poem is an attack and not a praising up of the powerful king. The word “mock” in the sentence “The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:” is also a great example of pragmatic use of diction in the poem. “Mock” here has two meanings, one is to imitate and the other one is to gibe and deride. “The hand” stands for the artists who molded the statue, meaning that the sculptor both belittled and copied the passion of Ozymandias. Continue to read, in the sentence “Nothing beside remains: round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/The lone level sands stretch far away”, the size of the statue—-“colossal” indicates the ambition of Ozymandias as well, because in Ozymandias’s mind, he was the “king of kings” and was invulnerable and “colossal” best describes that kind of feeling he used to hold. In order to complete the barren scenery, the author describes the environment as “lone and level sands stretch far away”, the “sands” are “lone” implies that nothing else is left beside, which also gives us a sense that no one’s looking upon the might of Ozymandias. The smart diction use doesn’t only portray the scenery more vividly, but also reflects the sarcastic tone of the author towards Ozymandias and make the poem more animated and attractive.

Poem ‘Ozymandias’ is in an iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme of ‘ABABACDCEDEFEF’. It has many poetic devices and techniques involved, such as alliteration, anastrophe and enjambment. The use of alliteration starts from the second sentence “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone.”, as the double “T”(two and trunkless) and “L”(trunkless and legs) appear in order to convey the bleak and deserted environment around the statue which implies that nobody’s paying attention to the grandeur of Ozymandias. Same technique is used when the author wants to describe the façade of statue Ozymandias “ And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command” In this case, the author uses double hard “C” sounds to rhyme the words “cold” and “command” which indicate the harsh nature of how arbitrary Pharaoh Ozymandias used to be vividly.

Three sentences below, “ The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:” is an exemplary use of alliteration as we can see from the poem that the consecutive “Th” sounds appear alternatively in the sentence: “The”-“that”-“them”-“the”-“that”, and also the two “h” sounds: “hand” & “heart” which make the sentence melodious to read aloud. Also, as we go down the poem, scenery around the statue “boundless and bare” and “long and level sound stretch far away.” are portrayed animatedly with alliteration uses. In the poem, anastrophe is also used when the authors says “Well those passions read.” Normally, we say “Read those passions well” but in this case, the author uses anastrophe to make the verse fit in the poem better in a more rhythmic way. Further techniques are used as enjambment occurs in the verse “Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,” and continues the sentence in the next line “And wrinkled lip…” Same case can be found in the ending of the poem as the authors conveys “Nothing besides remains. Round the decay” and then goes to the next line “Of that colossal wreck…” In both cases, enjambment is used in order to pull the reader from verse to verse and reinforce the idea of nature will always outlives the majesty of a person. These techniques used compact the verses and reinforce the theme, meanwhile, they decorate the poem and makes it more melodious and fluent to read.

Poem ‘Ozymandias’ is a sonnet written by the English romantic poet Percy Shelley and has been included in his collection ‘Rosalind and Helen, A Modern Eclogue’. In this poem, Shelley criticizes the futility of arrogance by talking about how the statue of Pharaoh Ozymandias has outlived by the nature using poetic devices, and sarcastic ironies which make the poem impressive.


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