Reading - Poetry Analysis and Sample

An analysis assignment and a sample using Shelley's "Ozymandias"


Write an analysis of a poem. Ten lines. You may focus on one poetic element or use more than one.


Take a look at one way to do an analysis of a poem while discussing word choices.

The actual poem is in bold

OZYMANDIAS by Percy Byshe Shelley

I met a traveler from an antique land [all land is old (antique), so it’s more about the age of the country the traveler’s from]

Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone [vast and trunkless—size is immense; ‘legs of stone’ implies strength, immobility]

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, [desert is middle of nowhere]

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,[shattered—dual meaning (physical and emotional) ; frown—reader wonders why]

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, [cold command—without feeling, alliteration with c’s]

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read [passions of cold command, or maybe of the frown—possibly anger, but at least control or strength]

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, [survive—the image of some leader’s emotions still survives in art, thought he is long dead]

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. [hand—usually it’s a mouth that mocks]

And on the pedestal these words appear – [pedestal—can have dual meaning as the device used to hold something, or promoting someone more than deserved]

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: [ king of kings—the best of the best; from research I know it’s another name for Ramses from Egypt]

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" [ye Mighty is in caps—does it mean God? Or just any other king who thinks he might be better]

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay [nothing—can be a powerful word when what’s expected is greatness; decay--more of a physical/human sounding word than weathered

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare [colossal—large size, reminiscent of colossus of Ancient Wonders, as well as coliseum... better than ‘that big broken thing,’ anyhow]

The lone and level sands stretch far away.' [lone and level—alliteration with l’s, calling attention to loneliness of destruction and how it’s pretty much been covered up, or leveled. Far away could mean in time as well as space]