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How life goes on: the analyzing of diction and imagery in “ Ozymandias” The poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley is about a traveler telling the speaker about a statue in the desert. This statue is half sunk in the sand and the traveler explains that the “sneer of cold command” on the statue’s face shows that the sculptor understood the passions of the statue’s subject. This man sneered at the people who were not as powerful as him, but he fed his people because of something in his heart. The Traveler goes on and says that on the pedestal of the statue, it is written, “My name is Ozymandias’, king of kings: / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” But when you look all around the statue for the “works” there is nothing but sand and a bare desert. In this poem, Percy Bysshe Shelley creates the image of destroyed sculptures to show that nature destroys all and his choice of diction is quite interesting. The diction in this poem creates a strong sense of imagery.
The notable diction is combined with alliteration to create even more powerful imagery, such as the “Sneer of col command”. Ozymandias’-“ozy” meaning air and “mandias” meaning King/God, is a sonnet, a fourteen lined poem metered in iambic pentameter. Percy Bysshe Shelley uses words such as, Trunk-less- torso is gone, visage- another name for face, and colossal- which is an allusion of the colossus of roads. He uses this choice of diction to interest the reader furthermore by being more descriptive and letting the readers imagination go wild. The poem “Ozymandias” has two voices. The first is the speaker, who tells the entire poem. The other is the traveler, who tells the main speaker about the poem. The speaker tells us the traveler is from an “antique land,” which is a metaphor for the old age of his country. Antiques are valued mainly for their age and are almost always not modern. The traveler is described as well-traveled, knowledgeable, and wise.
The Traveler’s whole speech is about a statue that he once saw in the middle of a desert. He tells us that the “trunk” of the statue is gone; The head of the statue lies in the sand at the feet of the legs and the expression on the face is still visible. There is a lot of death in this poem. The figure represented in the statue is dead, along with the civilization to which it once belonged. The Traveler says that the lip is “wrinkled”, but he says this is not because of old age but it is the “sneer of cold command”. This leaves the reader with an impression that Ozymandias’ was a cold ruler and had no trouble giving orders. In this octave though it is suggests that the stone is “lifeless”, but on it is some “passions”. The reader, most likely imagines that these passions are greed, conceit, and other passions that are appropriate to a harsh, power-loving ruler.
These same passions are said by the traveler to “survive” the “hand that mocked them,” which would be the sculptor, and the “heart that fed” them, which is Ozymandias’.The poem is consistent to a single metaphor: the shattered, ruined statue in the desert wasteland, but another metaphor is “the heart that fed”. Ozymandias’ heart “fed” these passions. The heart seemed to be compared to a powerful figure and the passions seemed more like an animal the master throws some food to, but I think the sense is more that Ozymandias’ heart fed on the passions.
When you look at it like this, Ozymandias’ heart becomes a killer and the passions his prey. It seems obvious then that the passions kept the heart alive and beating, the passions are sustenance to the heart. The passions don’t seem to be suggested to be bad, but Ozymandias’ feeding on these passions of greed and conceit resulted in evil, the same evil we see on the statue’s face. His image of the broken sculpture shows how things change over time and that human beings and materialistic values are seasonal and are bound to end. They are all prone to be affected by the laws of time.