Similar Ideas Of Ozymandias And Nothing Gold Can Stay Poems

Categories: Ozymandias Robert Frost

Carpe Diem

Impermanence is not an unfamiliar concept to humanity. All life ages and dies and even the material humanity uses to enhance life, fades away. It’s no shock then that poetry often touches on this topic because poetry is the artistic depiction of life and its events. For example, Ozymandias by Percy Shelley and Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost both portray the idea of impermanence through elements of rhyme, metaphor, and alliteration.

Alliteration is often used to create musicality in poetry.

Shelley’s reflective sonnet uses alliteration to not only enhance musicality but to give a sense of strength to the bold statue of Ozymandias. The poem forces the reader to enunciate the line, “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert,” (Shelley) by emphasizing on the letter “s” and “l”, two soft letters that, when lack in emphasis, sound like mush. Because they sound like mush when alliterated without emphasis, the reader is forced to enunciate, creating a strong effect.

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Furthermore, Shelley also describes the face of the statue as having “cold command” (Shelley). The poem now uses hard “c” which creates stone-like imagery. This use of alliteration emphasizes the strength of Ozymandias in order to make contrast against the disappointing end of the poem that reveals how even the strongest do not last forever.

Frost uses alliteration to add fluidity to Nothing Gold Can Stay. The alliteration in the poem starts with hard consonants as seen in the first line with “Green is Gold” (Frost) and then fades into soft consonants as seen with “Her hardest hue to hold” (Frost) and “So Eden sank…” (Frost) before returning to a hard consonant with “Dawn goes down to day” (Frost).

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This may seem like coincidence however the alliteration is used to enhance the poem’s sequence, beginning and tying up with hard consonants in a package of soft consonants. This very much resembles the changing of nature’s foliage as described in the poem, reminding the reader of the temporary nature of all life.

Both poets also use metaphor to portray the impermanence of existence. Frost’s first metaphor is nature, speaking of the foliage of the leaves and how its “first green is gold”, also describing that green is nature’s “hardest hue to hold”. In these two first two lines, he has already introduced an example of the mercurial state of life in a way that all individuals can find connection to. However, the poem does stick solely to the comparison of life and nature. Frost then adds a hint of biblical reference in there as well in the line, “So Eden sank to grief.” Eden is a strong metaphor for ephemeral life because in this line, Frost is bringing the spiritual and impalpable into his description. In the Torah, Eden is a perfect world from which human kind has been cast out from because Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge. To many, Eden is a symbol of a perfect world that changed for the worse and a world that humanity must revive. Frost uses this reference to strengthen his argument, reminding the reader that even humanity’s sacred symbols of perfection are spoken of being temporary and easily changed.

Shelley, ironically being the romantic of the two, uses a much more blunt and cold metaphor for the ephemeral state of existence. The narrator tells of a statue of a king in the middle of the desert. The statue’s subject appears to be bold and strong and the pedestal it stands on reads, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings, look on my works ye mighty and despair!” This statue is supposedly proof of a grand city that no longer exists as Shelley then goes on to describe that “Nothing beside remains.” And that besides the statue that tells of “mighty works” and two “vast and trunkless legs of stone,” there is nothing but the desert. Shelley uses this ruin as proof of the temporary state of not only the living, once powerful, Ozymandias, but the material as well through his description of the lone statue and how it is the only evidence of the city that once was. The poem furthermore reminds the reader, through Ozymandias’ bold declaration of “mighty works” that nothing lasts forever no matter how strong it is at the time of its bloom.

Even Shelley’s rhyme scheme tells of temporary existence through its inconsistent pattern. While Frost’s rhyme pattern in Nothing Gold Can Stay appears to be more for the fluidity of the poem than the portrayal of ephemerality, Ozymandias starts with a rhyme scheme which changes from perfect rhyme to subtle half rhyme before staggering back to a perfect rhyme in the end. This idea of recycling word pattern is also seen in Frost’s poem. However, while Frost uses alliteration to resemble nature, Shelley speaks of man and material, reminding the reader that the foliage of leaves is not the only life that repeats in various ways. Shelley speaks of the ruin of Ozymandias’ civilization but through recycling his rhyme scheme within the poem, is he not hinting at the relevance of this ruin to civilization today? While empires and nations of the world seem to thrive today as though they will last forever, Shelley reminds his readers that everything is impermanent. Ozymandias thought his city would last forever but now it is nothing more than marked lifeless land. Perhaps through rhyme, Shelley foretells a future where the nations thriving today will be nothing more than desert. As morbid as this may be, Ozymandias may be more than informative about the temporary state of life. Perhaps Shelley reminds his readers to be grateful for what is in the present for in the future; it may not be there to be appreciated.

Perhaps neither poet writes on the ephemerality of existence to make one feel gloomy but to point out the mistake many make of taking the present for granted. Shelley and Frost, though different in style and century, speak on the same topic. However, there is a possibility that these poems are not to be seen in a morbid light but in an uplifting light instead. Hiding behind the blunt truth of existence remains a moral lesson of appreciation that Shelley and Frost both portray through different uses of the same literary elements. Life is ephemeral and therefore, humanity must appreciate it in the moment instead of complaining about how it will not last. Carpe Diem!

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Similar Ideas Of Ozymandias And Nothing Gold Can Stay Poems. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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