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Analysis of poetic and sound devices in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias"


"Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley employs various poetic and sound devices, including alliteration, assonance, and consonance, to enhance its themes and rhythm. The poem's use of imagery, irony, and a sonnet structure underscores the transient nature of power and human achievement, while the rhythmic devices contribute to its memorable and musical quality.

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What poetic devices are used in "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

The poem "Ozymandias" describes a statue that has collapsed in the middle of a desert. The statue serves as a symbol for human pride and power. It was commissioned by Ozymandias (the Greek name for the Egyptian pharaoh, Rameses II) to represent his power, but the fact that it has now collapsed and is seen by nobody other than an occasional traveller implies that human pride and power are temporary and inevitably become meaningless in time.

In the fourth and fifth lines of the poem, the poet uses triplism to emphasize the despotic nature of Ozymandias. The face of the statue is described as comprising a "frown, / And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command." The alliteration of the phrase "cold command" also creates a harsh tone (because of the hard "c" sound), which echoes the harsh expression of the statue's face.

In the eighth line, there is a juxtaposition between "The hand that mocked them" and "the heart that fed." This juxtaposition of one phrase which implies cruelty and another which implies kindness points to a more complex character than the hitherto described cruel tyrant.

In the eleventh line, the speaker says that on the pedestal of the statue there is written, "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" This imperative, exclamatory sentence implies Ozymandias's forceful, demanding tone, again compounding the impression of a ruler who ruled with, as it were, an iron fist.

The very next sentence, "Nothing else remains," is a short, simple sentence which undercuts the exclamatory sentence before it. The boastfulness implied by the exclamatory sentence is made to look somewhat ridiculous or pathetic when the speaker reminds us that there is now nothing that remains of Ozymandias's power.

In the thirteenth line, there is an example of alliteration in the phrase "boundless and bare," which describes the desert which now surrounds the statue. The alliteration of the words "boundless" and "bare" emphasizes the mutual connotation of emptiness, and so again reminds the reader that Ozymandias's power has been reduced to nothing. This idea is emphasized in the final line with the alliteration in the phrase, "lone and level sands."

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What poetic devices are used in "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

Shelley uses the device of enjambment, the continuation of a sentence beyond a line break. Strictly speaking, enjambed lines do not contain even a pause, including a comma. So in "Ozymandias," lines six into seven are enjambed, as are lines twelve and thirteen before the terminal punctuation in the final, fourteenth line.

Shelley also makes use of imagery, describing the visage of the degraded sculpture of Ozymandias with its "frown," "wrinkled lip, and sneer," and the giant legs that lack a torso.

Symbolism is evident in the vast wasteland that surrounds the abandoned sculpture. Despite Ozymandias's boast "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!"—he, too, like all mortals, has passed on, and his "kingdom" is an empty landscape.

And lastly, Shelley employs caesura in line twelve. This break is especially resonant because it follows "Nothing beside remains." This full stop, mid-line, underscores Ozymandias's mortality and the limits of the power of his rule.

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What poetic devices are used in "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

The first device used by the poem is the formal one of rhyme and meter. The poem is written in the form of a sonnet, albeit with a slightly irregular rhyme scheme. The lines of the poem are written in the meter of iambic pentameter, meaning that each line has five feet, with each foot consisting of a weak followed by a strong syllable. The rhyme scheme is an odd hybrid of a Shakespearean octave and Petrarchan sestet, with minor variations; the actual rhyme pattern is  ABAB ACDC EDEFEF

There are a few instances of alliteration in the poem, including "cold command" and a fair amount of sibilance:  "stone ... Stand ... sand ... sunk  ... sneer ... sculptor ... survive ... stamped."

We have two instances of synecdoche, in which the part stands for the whole, as "hand" and "heart" are used to stand in for elements of Ozymandias' character.

Finally, there is the irony of the grandeur of the inscription on the pedestal and the current state of decay of the sculpture itself and the kingdom over which Ozymandias ruled.

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What poetic devices are used in "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

In this poem, a traveler has told the speaker about an ancient ruin. The speaker relates this experience to us. He says that the sculptor had created a monument to Ozymandias, also known as Ramses II. Ozymandias was a proud, condescending ruler. The sculptor read (understood) these "passions" well and therefore "mocked" them in the sculpture. The speaker of the poem speaks of the "hand that mocked them." Using "hand" and "heart" to stand for the sculptor himself are examples of synecdoche. This is when a part of something is used to stand for the whole.

The "sneer of cold command" uses alliteration (with the hard "c") to emphasize the hardness of Ozymandias' personality.

The irony is that Ozymandias wanted this sculpture to stand as an impressive monument for all time, but it has eroded and is now a "colossal wreck." This phrase is an antithesis or an oxymoron. These literary devices use opposing terms. In this case, "colossal" refers to the once great sculpture and "wreck" refers to what it has become.

This sonnet is ironic. There is situational irony from the perspective of Ozymandias. He expected this monument to be impressive for an endless amount of time, but the opposite has happened. It has decayed and become a ruin.

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What is the theme and some of the literary devices used in Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "Ozymandias"?

A primary theme of the poem is the impermanence of human endeavor and how fame and power are as fleeting as the human body. Nothing remains of this king (also known as Ramses II) but a decaying statue which depicts his "shattered visage." Not only is the great ruler dead, but his monument is crumbling as well. The man, the artist, and the art will all pass away.

One striking literary device that Shelley uses in the poem is verbal irony. The traveler remembers that the statue's pedestal read, "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, / Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!" There is an incongruity between what the pedestal says and what we know to be true.

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Please explain the theme of "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley using literary devices and techniques.

Ozymandias is a complex poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley that focuses on the nature of power. 

Consider the character Ozymandias who was a self-assured powerful man. He had a statue erected of himself given a stern expression that states "Look on me works, ye mighty, and despair" yet behind him is not a grand city ornate with treasure. Rather, it is a barren desert. This stark contrast makes the situation ironic. No one would feel  This once great man has been reduced to a broken statue and all that is remembered of him is his self-importance. The story teller or traveller here notes that the expression on the king's face indicates someone who was ruthless, unforgiving and mocking. The diction that the author uses "decay" "wreck" "boundless" and "bare" indicate the negativity associated with this king.

The rhyme scheme here is ABABACDCEFEGEG, and it is an Italian sonnet which means the resolution to the piece is in the last two lines. The resolution in this piece is that even those with celebrity will die and leave behind their  

The speaker in this poem is a traveller talking to the persona or narrator of the poem. The structure of the poem indicates that this king is being talked about, he is from a strange land and no one knows of Ozymandias except to discuss what remains. We do not know the identity of either the persona or traveller. The pair at the end seem to be contemplating their own ends and what will be remembered of them.

The theme of the poem therefore is that power is quick to end will not provide immortality to those in power. 

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What are some sound devices in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias"?

In “Ozymandias,” Percy Shelley uses alliteration, as noted above. Like most poets, he also employs several other sound devices that are similar to alliteration.

In line four Shelley is describing the ruins of the statue of Ozymandias:

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

The sound device here is called “consonance.” Like alliteration, consonance uses consonant repetition to achieve its effect. However, unlike alliteration, consonance is not limited to using consonant sounds at the beginnings of words. In the line above, we have the “s” sound five times, twice as the first letter of a word, twice in the middle, and once at the end. Poets like to give the work an appealing sound, and this is one way they do it.

Shelley also uses a couple of different types of rhyme in his poem. Lines 1 and 3 end with the words “land” and “sand.” These words are called exact rhymes, because their ending sounds are exactly the same. However, lines 2 and 4 are a little different. They end with “stone” and “frown.” These words do not rhyme exactly—they sound similar, but a little different from each other. Rhymes like this are called by several names: slant, approximate, half-rhyme, and inexact. Poets use them when the words they want to use do not have an exact rhyme to pair with, or when they do not want their poem to sound too forced or regimented. Some poets, like Emily Dickinson, use them almost exclusively.

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What are some sound devices in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias"?

If you are going to focus on sound devices, one of the clearest ways in which Shelley uses sound devices as you call them in this excellent sonnet is through alliteration, which is the name given for the literary term that denotes repetition of consonant sound at the beginning of words. There are a number of examples in this poem that are used to give emphasis to certain parts of the content.

Consider how the statue is described with its sneer of "cold command." The harshness of the "c" places importance on the harshness of the face of the statue. Likewise, the "boundless and bare" and "lone and level" sands that the traveller can see as far as he is able highlights the irony of the poem by exaggerating that sand is all that is left of Ozymandias's great empire and likewise his desire for immortality. From dust we come and to dust we will return.

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What are some sound devices in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias"?

There are a few poetic devices in the poem which are not covered in previous answers, or which are covered only briefly. Probably the most important device in this poem is the symbolism of the statue. Shelley was writing at a time of tremendous scientific and technological advances, during what became known as the Age of Enlightenment. This poem, and lots of other literature at this time, including his wife's novel, Frankenstein, can be read as allegories warning against the dangers of the excessive pride consequent of these scientific and technological advances. The statue in the poem can thus be read as a symbol representing the pride of mankind. The statue, like the excessive pride of man, comes to nothing.

Another device found in this poem is a semantic field. A semantic field describes a pattern of language which feeds into a common theme. In this instance, we have language such as "shattered," "lifeless," "Nothing," "decay," "boundless," and "bare." These words all connote the emptiness and desolation that, so the poem suggests, inevitably follows excessive human pride.

There are also, in the eleventh line of the poem, two techniques which help us to formulate an impression of the eponymous "Ozymandias." In this line, the speaker reveals the second line of words inscribed on the statue's pedestal: "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair." This is at once an imperative sentence and an exclamatory sentence. An imperative sentence is phrased as an order, and in this instance, it implies Ozymandias's demanding, forceful character. This impression is compounded by the fact that the sentence is also exclamatory.

One other point worth noting is that the name Ozymandias is a charactonym. In other words, the meaning of this name reflects the character who bears it. Ozymandias is the Greek name for the Egyptian pharaoh, Rameses II. This Greek name derives from two words. The first part, "Ozy," derives from the word ozium, meaning oxygen, or air, and the second part, "mandias," derives from the word mandate, meaning to rule. Thus, the Greek name for Rameses II roughly translates as "he who rules the air." This seems fitting given what we learn about him during the poem.

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What are some sound devices in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias"?

Shelley uses the poetic form of the sonnet, a 14- line lyrical form that structures the poem into an eight-line octet followed by a six-line sestet.

The speaker uses apostrophe, a literary device in which the speaker addresses an unknown person or an object. In this case, the speaker seems to be addressing a friend to whom he is telling a story in a conversational way, beginning the poem with, "I met a traveller." This technique pulls us into the story as if we, too, were listening to it. The speaker also uses ellipses—"Stand in the desert . . . Near them"—which also adds to the illusion that we are hearing the pertinent parts of a longer narrative, with the more tedious parts omitted.

The speaker uses imagery, which is descriptive language that uses the five senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell, to offer us a visual glimpse of Ozymandias's face: it has a "wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command," something we can see and which communicates that the ruler was arrogant.

Near the end of the sonnet, Shelley uses a series of alliterations, which is when words beginning with the same consonant are placed close together: I have bolded them below so you can note the repeated b, l, and s sounds that add a sense of rhythm to the poem's end:

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
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What are some sound devices in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias"?

"Ozymandias," a classic work of Romantic poetry by Percy Bysshe Shelley, employs many poetic and literary devises to tell its tale of a fallen monument to a past king's greatness.

Rhythm: The poem is written in iambic pentameter, a poetic meter in which each line is composed of ten syllables, falling into five pairs, or iambs, alternating between unstressed and stressed. You can see this in the first line of the poem, "I met a traveler from an antique land" (emphasis added).

Rhyme: The rhyme scheme begins as alternating but breaks in line nine.

Frame Tale: More often thought of as a general literary device than as a poetic one, a frame tale is when a story is contained within a larger story. Shelley couches his description of the statue of Ozymandias in a frame tale of having been told to the speaker by "a traveler." The majority of the poem is then presented as having been spoken by the traveler's voice, rather than the speaker's own.

Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of the same sound at the start of several words. There are three really notable examples of this in the poem: "King of Kings," "boundless and bare," and "lone and level."

Enjambment: Enjambment is when a thought is continued from one line of verse to the next. To identify enjambment, look for line breaks that lack punctuation, like lines 2, 6, 12, and 13 here.

Irony: Irony is a huge device in this poem—specifically, the irony of a statue meant to proclaim the might and power of a king, fallen into complete wreckage and disrepair. No one is going to look at the ruins of this monument and "despair."

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What are some sound devices in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias"?

Format and Rhythm

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Ozymandias follows a closed form, meaning that it is subject to a fixed structure and pattern, as follows:

It is a 14-line sonnet, metered in iambic pentameter, with a rhyme pattern of ABABA CDC_D EFEF. Note that the rhyme pattern is broken in line 9 with half rhyme, perhaps symbolizing the brokenness of the king from his pedestal.

Adding to the rhythm, Shelley uses enjambment at the end of lines 1, 2, 6, 12, and 13. This lack of end punctuation helps the pacing of his poem flow where his wants ideas to blend, while the lines with end punctuation slow us down where we are to pause and take notice.

Sound Effects

Shelley applies numerous techniques that add to the soft, romantic flow of the poem. Here is a sampling:

Assonance: Line 1 - "traveler from an antique land" Line 3 - "stand...sand"

Alliteration: Line 5 - "cold command" Line 13 - "boundless and bare"

Consonance: Line 5 - "wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command"

Onomatopoeia: Line 5: "sneer" (It’s just so easy to wrinkle your lips or nose when saying this, isn’t it?)

Euphony: Line 14 - The combination of vowels and consonants here flow with beautiful harmony.

The Meanings of Words

The language is so subtly manipulated that you have to look closely to catch these deeper meanings:

Epithet: The "trunkless legs" and "shattered visage" are unusual descriptions that speak volumes.

Synecdoche: The "hand" and "heart" refer to the sculptor himself, whose work has partly survived him.

Antithesis: In line 13 the "colossal wreck" displays the contrast between the once-prodigious king and his now time-ravaged statue.

Circumlocution: Ozymandias’ order to "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" is spoken to God, which is suggested by the capitalization of Mighty. Yet this king was so prideful, boasting of his own greatness, that he chose a roundabout way to refer to God, whom he felt superior to.

Apostrophe: Lines 10 and 11 are spoken to God, who is not physically present. Observing the ruin of Ozymandias’ kingdom, Shelley’s largely Christian audience of the 19th century would have sarcastically pointed out that God was clearly not present with this king during his reign, either.

Irony: There is situational, verbal, and dramatic irony resulting from Ozymandias’ words. He bragged of the great kingdom he built, and he felt that his power would surpass that of God. Yet when we follow his command to look, all we see is what is left of his sneering face, fallen at his own feet. His trunk, which would have housed his heart, is not even present, and his mighty kingdom has returned to dust.

Symbolism: Shelley’s message is not really to Ozymandias; it’s too late for him. Yet we can take a great life lesson from this poem, if we see that the vastly stretching desert represents life and time. Ozymandias stands in for any ruler, even us as we command our own lives. The pedestal, then, is all that we build our lives on and feel so proud of.

Tone: On the very surface, Shelley presents this egocentric king in a very satirical way. We hear the poet’s sarcasm as he describes the haughty face that is decaying in the sand at its own feet. The laughingly absent kingdom that Ozymandias boasts of begins to feel a little tragic, especially when we view our own lives through the filter of this poem.

Yet if we dig another level deeper, we might feel Shelley’s compelling tone about how to live life, not based on pride, cold command or tangible objects, but on things that will outlast us. If someone were to sculpt you one day, would his hand and heart mock you? And what motto would you leave behind for others to consider?

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