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What is the tone of the poem "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

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kelly2ca | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 5, 2012 at 2:22 PM via web

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What is the tone of the poem "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted May 5, 2012 at 4:00 PM (Answer #1)

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The tone (emotional, non-conscious impression, “flavor,”) of this poem is affected by the narrative structure Shelley chose to give it. Because the poem’s first-person narrator is not the actual story-teller, but is merely repeating the story of the traveler “from an antique land,” the metaphorical character of the anecdote is strengthened for the reader, because the poem’s narrator is passing the story along with a rhetorical or instructive motive, as is Shelley himself, so there are several layers of admonishments against false pride, boasting, self-importance, etc. The story itself has a tone of “lessons learned by travel and absorption of other cultures,” not merely travel-guide rhetoric but rather what can be gleaned from venturing into unfamiliar territory. Also, because the poem’s rhymes are non-intrusive, the tone is subtle and subliminal, as is the lesson to be learned. Finally, the rhythm of the beats of the poem suggest the “lone and level sands”, without feature but with a steady, almost monotonous level, a featureless horizon.

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