Thursday, July 31, 2014

An Analysis of Ozymandias

By Laurie Epps

Welcome back. Sorry I've been gone so long, but we're going to continue on our with our studies of Romantic Poetry. Today, we'll be talking about Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Percy Bysshe Shelley:

  • Born August 4, 1792 at Field Place near Sussex, England.
  • He was the eldest son to Timothy and Elizabeth Shelley.
  • Therefore, he was due to inherit a large estate. (1 Brother-4 Sisters)
  • Percy attended Eton College for six years beginning in 1804 where he began to write poetry.
  • He transferred to Oxford but was expelled less than a year later for his co-authorship of "The Necessity of Atheism." (Co-authored with Thomas Jefferson Hogg.)
  • That pamplet was so tragic for Shelley because it also estranged him from his father for two years (which left him in dire financial straits).
  • When he came of age at 19, Percy reconciled with his father and wed Harriet Westbrook by elopement in Scotland.
  • In December 1816, Percy's wife Harriet committed suicide.
  • Three weeks later, he married Mary Godwin, most commonly known for her authorship of Frankenstein.
  • Due to his quick re-marriage, it was considered to be free love, Percy lost custody of his two kids that he had with Harriet.
  • Tragically, he died a year later attempting to sail from Leghorn to La Spezia, Italy on his schooner the Don Juan.
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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.”


Ozymandias is the Greek name for Ramses II of Egypt in the thirteenth century B.C.E. The author is talking about a statue of a king found out in the middle of the desert. This torso-less body has a commanding and condescending face yet it's left out in the desert. The sculptor seems to understand this guy with the mean, proud face. The irony, of course, is the brokenness of the statue, but yet it was once a great empire. In life, we build up our kingdoms, and, for what?

Ozymandias is written by Percy Shelley, and it's both tragic and hopeful. This poem talks about a great ancient king (Ramses II), but he was also a very violent, and domineering king. The main object of the poem is really a relic, or just a statue in the middle of the desert. Crumbling and fractured, this statue is decomposing across the desert sand. The author gives us a choice though: 1. You can be sad for the loss of the icon, and the lost civilizations lack of presence or remembrance. --OR-- 2. Instead, you can choose to be hopeful by  remembering it's dark history, an the the tyranny the people lived under; so this becomes a new symbol, reminding us that this, too, shall pass.

Laurie Epps is a recent graduate of Anderson University majoring in Creative Writing. Already Laurie is most published as a feature article writer, essayist, and poet. A seeker of beauty and world traveler, Laurie hopes to grow into a career in travel writing illuminating the many stories that make us human despite our differences. Currently, Laurie also has a Monday Morning Book Club column dedicated to writers everywhere.

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