A few extra thoughts:
1) Is the traveller amazed by what he/she has discovered? Think about their tone of voice. How is it different from Browning’s Duke in My last Duchess?
2) There is a sense of perplexity perhaps as the details of the fallen statue reveal. It seems SURREAL that in the middle of a ‘desert’ in ‘an antique land’ there is a discovery that underlines man’s age-long quest to be immortal, to be remembered at any cost. Think about the irony and cruelty of FORGETTING in the other poems. How is Shelley’s poem different would you say?
3) Where does the ‘I’ who is the poet or the poet’s framing narrator, meet the ‘traveller’ and why? This is a story within a story. This creates distance and increases the sense of mystery and the enigma that is history.
4) Consider the differences between the role of the artist in Browning’s poem and in this poem. Shelley’s traveller compliments the sculptor’s ability to capture the ‘sneer of cold command‘ and the ‘wrinkled lip’ of Ozymandias. His cruelty has endured even though his body is long rotted away and his image has fallen and now lies awaiting complete disappearance/burial amonsgt the desert sands. What sort of testimony to the ego does it represent?
5) Does Duffy’s Medusa inspire compassion as her voice reveals hurt? SHE has become an object of universal disgust and repulsion due to the vengeful interventions of the gods. How does Duffy’s use of the dramatic monologue differ in its exploration of power and cruelty from either Shelley or Browning?
6) All three poems are an ‘EVENT’ in terms of the literal story or the EMOTIONAL STORY. Which is the most sympathetic and why? What role does SUFFERING have in all THREE? Who is the most cruel ‘colossal wreck’ of them all and WHY?
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
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”.
There is something rather surreal about the imagery in this poem. I am not particualrly visual and yet the combination oft he ‘trunkless legs of stone’ and the ‘lone and level sands’ conjures up something between Salvador Dali and Monty Python for me. It is this juxtaposition between the indifferent timelessness of the natural world with the futile architecture of ambition -that make the poem so arresting. We stop as readers and spectate on this ancient debris testifying to the accidental and most transitory nature of power. It is another illustration of the death bed revelation. And what we wonder would we have written beneath our own severed head? How far would our strivings stretch before us, mocking and all too aware of our futility and insignficance?
What also is revealed here in this ironic sonnet through the fragmentation of the original mighty ‘body’ of Ozymandias? Fragmentation underlines the incoherence of Ozymandias’ identity and values. Dictatorship perhaps had already ‘dismembered’ his human self, so that this monument to his power and ostensible immortaility emphasises his inhumanity and personal estrangement from his community.
And he is so lonely now. How isolating is such ambition ?
His first circles of hell?
Marooned in a shifting desert that is slowly burying his vanity forever, an unnamed traveller returns to testify to Ozymandias’ fate. How ironic too that such a traveller is unnmaed and probably without fame or fortune yet returns to civilisation like a missiionary with news. And then we do not know if the narrator of the poem is Shelley the poet or another figure trapped within the narrative. Stories captured within stories so truth and myth slip and slide bewteen each other and all that we remember of the once powerful Ozymandias are his trunkless stone legs.
A poem without shelter or solicitude?
The Woman in Black
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