Comparison of Ozymandias and Jade Flower Palace

April 9, 2021 by Essay Writer

‘Ozymandias’ is a sonnet written by Percy Bysshe Shelley and it was released in 1818. It is known as Shelley’s most famous short poem. “Jade Flower Palace” was written by a Chinese poet named Tu Fu in 757. Tu Fu was known as “the greatest non-epic, non dramatic poet who has survived in any language”. Both of these poems have many similarities, but there are also some differences.

In the opening line of “Ozymandias, the speaker recalls that he met a traveler “from an antique land”(Shelley 1), who told him about a deteriorating statue in the desert. The traveler then starts to go into more detail about the statue by saying it has two legs without a body. Near the remnants of the statue, lies a half-sunk head that has a patronizing appearance on its face. The half-sunk face was no doubt rendered on a real person, most likely a king who used to have a kingdom. The pedestal of the statue says, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair”(Shelley 10)! This is ironic because when a statue is first built, people are expected to praise the new creation. This is the same for “Ozymandias”; people were expected to respect the power that the statue represented. However, around the decaying ruins, nothing remains; only the “lone and level sands,”(Shelley 14) and the empty desert remains.

“Jade Flower Palace” is a poem about a traveler who comes across a deteriorating palace. The opening lines of “Jade Flower Palace” starts to describe how the palace looks. Above the palace are pine woods and it is near a stream. But, as we go deeper into the first stanza, we start to get a feeling that the palace is falling apart when it says “gray rats scurry over broken tiles”( Fu 2). The last line of stanza 1 suggests that the traveler does not know who built the palace, which also suggests that maybe no one knows. As we progress to the next stanza, the traveler continues to describe how the palace is falling apart. Some of the black rooms are being lit up by a green light and the pavements around the palace are being washed away. Starting at line 8, the poet starts to contrasts the palace with sounds that emerge from the earth. The poet never clarifies what he means by this, but maybe the music is the rustling of leaves since the last lines talks about the scattering of red autumn leaves. As we enter the third stanza, the poet starts to contrast the palace right now and how the palace used to look. Everything that made the palace special and beautiful has now fallen apart. The beautiful women who used to ride in his chariots are gone. The poet then says that their beauty was fake because their face was covered in makeup. Starting at line 14, the poet says that of all the respect and riches that surrounded the palace owner, only a stone horse remains. As we enter the last stanza, the traveler starts to reflect on what he has just witnessed. The traveler sits down on the grass and starts to cry because he is moved by the sense of brevity of life. Life moves in an blink of an eye, and for humans, old age comes very fast. Nothing in the world lasts forever.

Vanity by definition means “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements”. Decay by definition means “to become gradually damaged, rot or decompose, or to decline”. Both “Ozymandias” and “Jade Flower Palace” shows the image of decay. But, only one poem shows both the images of vanity and decay: “Ozymandias”. Like I said before, vanity means “excessive pride in one’s own achievements”. In “Jade Flower Palace”, there is no mention of a king or queen who has excessive pride in themselves. “Ozymandias”, on the other hand, is very egotistical and disrespectful. This is shown when it says “Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command”(Shelley 4). A’frown’ usually represents dissatisfaction or annoyance, while ‘sneer’ usually represents mockery and insolence for others. Being ‘cold’ is usually associated with being unaffectionate. This just shows that he was never concerned with the feelings or opinions of his subjects. Another quotes that shows his excessive pride is when it says “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair”(Shelley 10)! This quote shows Ozymandias’ arrogance and vanity. He is very proud of his works and takes pride in calling himself the “King of Kings.” He then asks the other rulers to give up the hope of ever competing with him in power or achievements. This just shows that “Ozymandias” was a very self-absorbed ruler who gained pleasure of being the strongest ruler. This also shows the reasons why “Ozymandias” presents a more compelling vision of vanity and decay”.

The two poems called “Jade Flower Palace” and “Ozymandias” are very identical in theme. The theme of these two poems are that they both talk about rulers who did great things, but the representations of their success and power are disintegrating. In “Jade Flower Palace”, the poem conveys a fear of future failures. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias”, on the other hand, conveys an untraditional feeling; it ridicules and disparages.

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