What is the shift in "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The first eight lines in "Ozymandias" set the stage. The person speaking in the poem relates the comments of the "traveler," who describes the incredible remains s/he encountered, half visible and half buried, in the desert sand. The traveler attempts to explain the appearance of the pieces of stone and the impression created as to the attitude of the person portrayed by the now-broken statue.

The next three lines shift dramatically, as the words of the statue come alive to proclaim that attitude to all who observe it. In reading the legend on the pedestal, the impression of a "sneer of cold command" is confirmed; one can almost hear the mocking attitude which the frowning lips would have conveyed as the statue's model proclaimed, "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings! Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

The final three lines shift back to the original position. The traveler reports that nothing but the pieces of broken rock remain. The power and might of Ozymandias, now a "colossal wreck" in "decay," are being covered by the "lone and level sands."


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