Flashcards in GCSE English Literature Poetry - OZYMANDIAS (Grade 7, 8, 9 Quotes) Deck (5):
'I met a traveller from an antique land'
When this poem was made in 1818, several readers may believe the described dictator to be Napoleon, a prominent French military leader who met defeat in 1815, which is true. Also, Shelley appears to be criticizing the political ruling class of Britain as the Duke of Wellington who defeated Napoleon was going to become PM so England would be controlled by the military, a change Shelley largely opposed. But, to prevent unpatriotism Shelley distances himself from the 'antique land' and discredits his negative views by stating he 'met a traveller', stating that he got his views from this traveller.
'And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command'
'wrinkled lip' tells us that Ozymandias was losing power hastily, even in the most active parts of his reign, his power was slipping away from him, teaching us readers that we can't always hold on to power as Shelley teaches us that it will soon be vacant (e.g. Napoleon was at the peak of his reign in 1810, only to be defeated 2 years later). Next, 'sneer' conveys to us that rulers born into power will become evil, remorseless monarchs who won't help those below them, with the harsh sibilance 'cold command' emphasizing this as Ozymandias is a perfect example of a ruler mad with power. Therefore, Shelley is trying to encourage a more democratic political system which is less evil.
'The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed'
Shelley intentionally describes the sculptor of the statue in this quote because the sculptor has experienced the entire reign of Ozymandias, therefore, in the first clause, the sculptor is not only attempting to demonstrate the ruler's physical appearance, but he is also trying to replicate Ozymandias's emotions which the ruler isn't aware of, his 'cold command', his lack of sympathy, so here, Shelley is portraying art with more importance, even higher than the political power of men. Next, the 2nd clause is a much more positive one because it shows how the sculptor successfully turned this remorseless ruler into a phenomenal, long-lasting work of art that will gain more and more prominence in the public, from the 'traveller' to Shelley who dictates a poem on it.
'Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
In this quote, Shelley unknowingly puts the sculptor/artist in the main spotlight; 'my works' is usually used to describe the portfolio of an artist or writer, so ironically the artist is celebrated in this saying rather than Ozymandias himself, and the one who is 'mighty and despair', would be the ruler as he is not in the spotlight, and hence, not mighty.