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04_OZAMANDIS_class 10

 

Summary

  • The speaker recalls having met a traveller “from an antique land,” who told him a story about the ruins of a statue in the desert of his native country.
  • Two vast legs of stone stand without a body, and near them a massive, crumbling stone head lies “half sunk” in the sand.
  • The traveller told the speaker that the frown and “sneer of cold command” on the statue’s face indicate that the sculptor understood well the emotions (or “passions”) of the statue’s subject. The memory of those emotions survives “stamped” on the lifeless statue, even though both the sculptor and his subject are now dead.
  • On the pedestal of the statue appear the words, “My name is Ozymandias, King of kings: / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” But around the decaying ruin of the statue, nothing remains, only the “lone and level sands,” which stretch out around it.
  • This sonnet from 1817is probably Shelley’s most famous and most anthologized poem—which is somewhat strange, considering that it is in many ways an atypical poem for Shelley, and that it touches little upon the most important themes in his oeuvre at large (beauty, expression, love, imagination).
  • Still, “Ozymandias” is a masterful sonnet. Essentially it is devoted to a single metaphor: the shattered, ruined statue in the desert wasteland, with its arrogant, passionate face and monomaniacal inscription (“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”).
  • The once-great king’s proud boast has been ironically disproved; Ozymandias’s works have crumbled and disappeared, his civilization is gone, all has been turned to dust by the impersonal, indiscriminate, destructive power of history. The ruined statue is now merely a monument to one man’s hubris, and a powerful statement about the insignificance of human beings to the passage of time.
  • Ozymandias is first and foremost a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of political power. ButOzymandias symbolizes not only political power —the statue can be a metaphor for the pride and hubris of whole humanity, in any of its manifestations.
  • It is significant that all that remains of Ozymandias is a work of art and a group of words; as Shakespeare does in the sonnets, Shelley demonstrates that art and language long outlast the other legacies of power.
  • Of course, it is Shelley’s brilliant poetic rendering of the story, and not the subject of the story itself, which makes the poem so memorable.
  • Framing the sonnet as a story told to the speaker by “a traveller from an antique land” enables Shelley to add another level of obscurity to Ozymandias’s position.
  • Rather than seeing the statue with our own eyes, so to speak, we hear about it from someone who heard about it from someone who has seen it.
  • Thus the ancient king is rendered even less commanding; the distancing of the narrative serves to undermine his power over us just as completely done by the passage of time.
  • Shelley’s description of the statue works to reconstruct the figure of the “King of kings”.Firstwe see the “shattered visage,” then the face itself, with its wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command”.Thenwe are introduced to the figure of the sculptor, and are able to imagine the living man sculpting the living king, whose face wore the expression of the passions now inferable.Thenwe are introduced to the king’s people in the line, “the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.”
  • The kingdom is now imaginatively complete, and we are introduced to the extraordinary, prideful boast of the king: “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” With that, the poet demolishes our imaginary picture of the king, and interposes centuries of ruin between it and us: “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ / Nothing beside remains. Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, / The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 

 

Questions & Answers

 

Q.1    What did the traveller tell the poet in the octave (first eight lines) of the poem?

Ans.   The traveller told the poet that he saw a broken statue in the desert. Two trunkless legs stood mounted on the pedestal but its trunk was nowhere to be seen. Its half-buried face with a cold expression revealed the sculptor’s talent and the king’s arrogance.

 

Q.2    What do the ‘trunkless legs’ and ‘shattered visage’ signify?

Ans.   The ‘trunkless legs’ and ‘shattered visage’ bring out the formidability of ‘Time’. Man cannot immortalize himself by getting statues carved out as passage of time will shatter them and pass traces of his glory into oblivion.

 

Q.3    ‘The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed’. Whose hand and heart has the poet referred to in this line?  

Ans.   The expression, ‘The hand that mocked’  refers to the sculptor’s skill in reproducing king Ozymandias’s face expressions in stone and ‘the heart that fed’ refers to the arrogance of the conceited king Ozymandias who considered himself to be the mightiest of the mighty.

 

Q.4    Describe the expression of Ozymandias as captured by the sculptor?

Ans.   The sculptor captured the cold hostility of the frowning scornful face. The knitted brow and the wrinkled lip brought out the arrogance of the king.

 

Q.5    “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings.” Why does Ozymandias refer to himself as ‘king of kings’? What quality of the king is revealed through this statement.

Ans.   Very proud of his power, position and glory, Ozymandias thought himself to be the greatest of all kings. Hence he calls himself “king of kings”. The statement reveals the pretentiousness of this arrogant king.

 

Q.6    “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”Who is Ozymandias referring to when he speaks of ye Mighty? Why should they despair?

Ans.   By ‘ye Mighty,’ Ozymandias refers to his fellow kings who consider themselves to be very powerful, mighty and great. He feels that the magnitude of his own greatness is so enormous, that it would pale their achievements into insignificance and give them reasons to feel ashamed and dejected.

 

Q.7    What is your impression about Ozymandias as a king?

Ans.   Ozymandias appears to be a very conceited king who looked down upon the other kings and considered himself to be the greatest of all. His irrational approach to immortalize himself by getting a colossal statue carved out shows his short-sightedness.

 

Q.8    Why did Ozymandias get such pompous and bombastic words inscribed on the pedestal?

Ans.   Ozymandias’s conceit made him get such pompous and bombastic words inscribed on the pedestal. His short-sightedness made him believe that he would be remembered by posterity.

 

Q.9    ‘Nothing beside remains.” What does the narrator mean when he says these words?

Ans.   The narrator means that Ozymandias’s existence passed into oblivion and not a single trace of his glory could be seen anywhere. There is an element of irony in this statement – the King aimed to achieve immortality through his statue and his works, but not a trace of them is left in the world.

 

Q.10  What message is conveyed through the poem?

Ans.   Through this poem, the poet brings out the vanity of human glory and power. The attempt of mighty kings to immortalize their names by building statues is bound to fail, for they too, are subject to decay and ruin. Thus the poem compels us to think of the futility of vanity and pretentions. It makes us look modestly at ourselves impressing upon us the short-lived nature of human pomp and glory.

 

Q.11  What did the traveller notice in the desert?

Ans.   The traveller saw a huge dilapidated statue whose legs were still mounted on the pedestal. Its face was half-buried in the sand but its trunk was nowhere to be seen.

 

Q.12  What must have happened to the trunk of the statue?

Ans.   The passage of time must have taken its toll. The trunk must have been broken and buried in the sand somewhere.

 

Q.13  Why do you think Ozymandias got such a colossal statue carved out?

Ans.   Ozymandias being very arrogant and pompous got a very huge statue of himself carved out to immortalize himself. He chose to have such a gigantic size of the statue as he wanted it to match with the magnitude of his achievements.

 

Q.14  How  does  the  phrase,  “Nothing beside  remains”  highlight Ozymandias’s short-sightedness?

Ans.   Ozymandias had foolishly thought that by getting huge statue of himself carved, he would be able to perpetuate his name. Little did he realise that time will wipe out everything and the fragments of his statue would lie neglected in the sand.

 

Q.15  Bring out the irony in the poem.

Ans.   The traveller sees the half-broken statue of Ozymandias which tells quite a different tale than that which Ozymandias had hoped it would. Ozymandias had commissioned a sculptor to build an enormous statue, representing enduring power, but only a broken heap of stones ravaged by time remains. The face of the statue is ‘shattered,’ and, though his ‘sneer of cold command’ persists, it no longer commands anyone or anything. The forces of mortality and mutability have led to death and decay.

 

 

Q.16  The proud Ozymandias lies forgotten in the desert. Comment.

Ans.   In the inscription on the pedestalOzymandias calls himself the “King of kings” while also implying that his “works” – works of art like the statue, pyramids, are unsurpassed and will be remembered for eternity. The proud Ozymandias thinks highly of himself and of what he has achieved, both politically and artistically.

          The statue is a symbol of Ozymandias’s ambition, pride, and absolute power.

The value derived from the poem is that kingdoms and political regimes will eventually crumble, leaving no trace of their existence except, perhaps, pathetic statues that no longer even have torsos.

 

WORKSHEET

 

  1. I) Answer the following in about 40 words:

 

  1. a) Describe the statue as seen by the traveller.
  2. b) What was the contrasting element near the statue and what does it convey to humanity?
  3. c) Whose greatness is glorified? Was it the appearance of the king on the statue or the sculptor who made the statue or the force of nature? Justify your answer.
  4. d) What did the traveller tell the narrator about what he saw in the ancient land?
  5. e) What kind of expression did the human face have? What did it tell of the sculptor and the human being after whom he had carved that statue?
  6. f) What else remained there beside the broken statue? What does it signify?
  7. g) What is the message given indirectly in the poem?

 

  1. I) Long answer type questions:
  2. The futility of human beings is exposed in this poem. Discuss
  3. What is the central idea of the poem?
  4. The poem portrays the short living political power as against the force of time and nature. Discuss
  5. What does the traveller tell the narrator of what he saw in a desert?

 

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