Paradox in “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley
In poetry, poets focus on arresting the attention while provoking the fresh thinking of their audience. It is done through paradox, which refers to the tensions exposed at the surface of verses in the poem that result in deceptive irony and insincerity a poem. Cleanth Brooks strongly believed that a poem has a paradoxical structure while ignoring the existence of restraints of imagination and power brought into poems by the poets (Brooks 48). This essay explains Brooks’s concept of paradox in the poem Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley. It aims at explaining paradox, its contribution to the meaning, and why paradox is important in expressing its meaning in the poem.
In the poem Ozymandias, a paradox is manifested when Shelley depicts the speaker meeting with a traveler who comes from an antique land. The traveler specifies an old ruin known as the statute of Ozymandias, which was once a strong emblem of a despot ruler’s reign, but is presently a ruin in the desert due to time. At first glance, the poem seems to advocate the written word’s ability to oppose legislative abuse and safeguard art from the progression of time. However, a deep examination of the poem’s design and content reveals that writing’s undertaking to safeguard art is a naturally paradoxical act.
Shelley lays out the poem’s paradox through its structure, writing both in and against its custom. The Ozymandias poem is fourteen long lines in the old-style sense, yet it goes amiss from the standard work design by utilizing an irregular rhyme scheme (Brooks 51). The poem has an incomplete octet and sestet with more than two pauses near the middle of the lines and numerous vague rhymes. The fragmentary style highlights the uneven structure of the poem. Indeed, even the deep-rooted sonnet form is inclined to adjust and break the destructive structure, showing how art is not protected from the effects of time.
Since the guest perceives Ozymandias’ interest in the sculpture’s “wrinkled lip” and “sneer,” he praises the sculptor’s expertise (5). In this case, the poem demonstrates comprehension of language’s shortcomings and the variety in implying what happens in various time frames. Assuming the facial feelings portrayed in sculptures had similar importance today as when they were made, the figure could not have possibly been inherent in the primary spot. The traveler’s viewpoint and depiction of the ruin are generally affected by the ongoing time frame and setting. Likewise, an irony in the poem undermines famous clarifications and understandings. The irony of this assertion gives off an impression of being situational, with the words “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair” carved on a sculpture covered in dust (11). Truly, for situational irony to work, the composed words should take on another significance considering their surrounding elements. Ozymandias’ heritage is kept through composition; nonetheless, this conservation allows the expressions of Ozymandias to be eliminated from their unique setting.
The paradox contributed to the meaning of Ozymandias through its attention to language’s flaws, which indicates the reader’s appreciation. The speaker did not depend on the traveler’s capacity to comprehend the sculpture or the sculptor’s capacity to decipher the king’s wishes. In addition, the readers cannot wander from their understanding of the verse, which their social foundation impacts. However, safeguarding the text has freed it for different readings beyond its nearby setting. Although written words are kept, their implications are, in any case, impacted by time and thus change. This line’s irony is not just situational; it is additionally self-intelligent, where a text perceives and satisfies its restrictions. Subsequently, the poem’s familiarity with language’s blemishes arraigns the reader’s cognizance. The reader is changed into the picture of Ozymandias while inspecting the poem with divided and brief control. Finally, understanding the poem drives the reader to emulate the sad king’s words, “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings” (10).
In the poem Ozymandias, it is important to express this meaning through paradox since it targets the generation of tension in the contemplations of the readers by gathering words or expressions that violate the laws of rationale or perceived reality. The utilization of logical inconsistency in language encourages the audience to think about the fundamental meaning of such a contradicting remark on a more profound level. According to Brook (54), the authors who use paradox comprehensible stating reveal some reality inside a misleading expression. The engraved words support Shelley’s writing as a preservation act, yet its significance is weakened and inclined to change. Additionally, the poem has protected Shelley’s composition, broadly anthologized and taught in English courses for quite a long time. However, saving the text has freed it for different readings beyond its nearby setting. Although composed words are kept up with, their implications are regardless of time and change.
In conclusion, considering everything, the reader’s passions are derided in the poem’s voice because of the reader’s wish to settle the text. The essay describes Ozymandias as a poem that coerces the reader to wrestle with language restrictions and the capacity to get a handle on any predestined importance. It is paradoxical for Ozymandias to accept that a text can be controlled, relegated to an unequivocal translation, and make a sculpture trying to handle something substantial.
Brooks, Cleanth. The language of paradox. na, 1947: 48-59.
Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “Ozymandias of Egypt.” The Golden Treasury (1875).