Insignificance of Human Beings to the Passage of Time

Topics: Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sonnet Pages: 3 (959 words) Published: April 29, 2008
Insignificance of Human beings to the passage of time
"Ozymandias" is a sonnet written by Percy Bysshe Shelley, published in 1818. It is probably one of Shelley's most famous poems and has been anthologized countless times since mid-nineteenth century. From meeting a traveler from “an antique land” (line 1) to “sands stretch far away” (line 14), this masterpiece is full of ironic descriptions and delivers a theme that is the insignificance of human beings to the passage of time. In “Ozymandias”, the hubristic, passionate face and monomaniacal inscription turned into dust and debris by the impersonal, indiscriminate, destructive power of history. No matter how influential or redoubtable the once-great king was, the shattered, ruined statue in the desert wasteland is the only thing he could have left, which is viewed merely a monument to his arrogance. Shelley has conveyed this theme throughout various ways; however, the irony, manifested from an allusion, the structure of a sonnet and even the poem as a whole, is the most fundamental element which needs to be concerned about. The title of the poem, “Ozymandias”, is another name of Ramesses II, Pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt. “ ‘Ozy’ comes from the Greek ‘ozium’, which means to breath, or air. ‘Mandias’ comes from the Greek ‘mandate’, which means to rule,” noted by Biterman in his analysis of the poem. The derivative of the great Ozymandias's name is Ruler of Air which unquestionably overstates his position and power. Shelley’s purpose of choosing Ozymandias instead of Ramesses II as the king’s name is to use a literary device, allusion, to stress the king’s prideful boast. Hence, an ironic situation is created by stating the exaggerated power and “the decay Of that colossal wreck”. (line 13) Doesn’t it sound ironic that the Ruler of Air turns into remains “Half sunk” (line 4) on the ground? In addition, all his works have crumbled and disappeared within the elapsed time and his civilization...
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