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Ozymandias poem & questions

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Read and annotate the following poem. Then write a response for each of the 7 questions that follow (in the comments section). Feel free to respond to each other in the questions. (I am happy with that reading more like an online discussion forum for this assignment.)

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Ozymandias
By Percy Bysshe Shelley


I met a traveller from an antique land,

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Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

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Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

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Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

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And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

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Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

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Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

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The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

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And on the pedestal, these words appear:

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My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

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Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

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Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

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Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

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The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


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  1. What do you think is the message of this sonnet? What is Shelley communicating, either directly or indirectly, about the nature of power and the passage of time?
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  1. The sonnet is constructed around a single image. What is that image? How is this image metaphorical? In other words, what deeper ideas or truths does this single image convey?
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  1. Consider the role of interpretation in this sonnet: the sculptor “interprets” Ozymandias in his work; the sculpture is then interpreted by the traveler, whose story is then interpreted by the poet. What meaning can we derive from these different interpretations on display? By giving us these different perspectives, what do you think Shelley is trying to say?
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  1. Compare the “temporary” versus the “permanent” in this sonnet. Based on this comparison, what things in life are ephemeral and what things last forever?
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  1. Analyze the poem’s most ambiguous line, “The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.” Whose hand and heart is the poem referring to? What is being mocked, and by whom?
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  1. Is this poem ironic or tragic? What is the irony or tragedy implicit in this poem? Discuss different ways in which the image at the heart of “Ozymandias” is either ironic or tragic (or both), especially in regard to the nature of power.
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  1. How is Ozymandias a radical poem for its time, both in structure and content?
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DMU Timestamp: August 14, 2020 20:51

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