Ozymandias, King of Nothing Essay

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Ozymandias, King of Nothing  

In "Ozymandias", Percy Byshe Shelley relates a description of a mysterious land laid to waste as told to a man by an unnamed traveler. Granted, the poem was written after Shelley had seen ruins of the ancient Egyptian Empire imported to England, but in the poem is something greater, a portrait of a man who built himself during the span of his life to a position of great power, only to be discovered centuries later with nothing but eroded stone to his name. The particular words that Shelley chose to describe a lost, grand and ruined kingdom are all words of powerful connotation. Every adjective, every noun, builds an image of something big and strong, something enormous and indestructible.
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What power the statue must have conveyed during the height of its power!


Once the mental image of two stone trees extending from the dunes, not far away from a head made meaner by erosion of sand and wind, has been established, the non-physical attributes belonging to the departed Ozymandias can easily be imparted. Shelley dwells little on the small details of Ozymandias' face, but the triumvirate rule by Ozymandias' frown, wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, delivered in less than two lines, immediately carry to the reader a vision of a cold, callous, yet strong and determined leader. These concrete items are vital to the description, but are not as strong as what can not be seen. Shelley gives a nod to the talent of the sculptor, from whom Ozymandias received a mirror image of his personality, placed in stone.


The passions for power and command are chiseled into a face, but line 8 describes things that are not seen in the eye of the beholder. Shelley describes the hand of Ozymandias, which mocked, and his heart, which fed. This one line sums up the metaphysical aspects of Ozymandias' character, both described and implied. "Mocked" is particularly well worth noting, since it is one of two words which directly relate how Ozymandias, the king of nothing, treated his subjects. A king,
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