Percy Shelley’s work “Ozymandias” explores a barren landscape where once was life. Conversely, Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess” conveys an individual’s dark reflection of a portrait on a wall. In these two poems, the power of nature emerges as a prominent theme underlining both works.
The power of nature is conveyed in these poems through considerations of mortality and immortality. In “Ozymandias,” the power of nature is most thoroughly recognized its religious connotations. In this way, it is as if Ozymandias initially has ultimate power. This is evident through his legacy ”Look at my works, Ye Mighty, and despair” he is comparing himself to God who is mighty. He is yet reduced to a half sunken statue this lifeless. This depicts that although the kind had all the power, he faces the same fate of all humans and that his works are truly not immortal. Conversely, in the poem “My Last Duchess”, the themes of natural power and immortality are displayed through the duke implying that he is God, he ”gave commands and all smiles stopped”. The duke is implicitly conveying that it is in his power to take life. This is ironic since the Duke himself is a mortal. Of course, one also recognizes Duke’s power over women. The Duke states, “I gave commands;/ Then all smiles stopped together.” In this way, he was the ultimate power over the Duchess’s life, making himself a God-like figure.
The way these poems utilize the power of nature to convey their underlining messages also has similar and contrasting elements in relation to poetic form. In terms of form, both poems are the same in that they convey their theme and the power of nature through an iambic pentameter structure, with ten syllables per lines. This overarching structural control indirectly may reference the nature of power in both works through attempts in both instances of the individual to achieve control over their environment.
We can do it today.
Conversely, the rhyme scheme of the two poems diverges. Shelley’s poem implements a 1/3 rhyme scheme at different junctures during the power, but not consistently through the entire work. For example, Shelley writes, “Round the decay/ Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare/ The lone and level sands stretch far away” (Shelley, 11-13). Here, the rhyming occurs between decay and away, which lyrically highlights the destructive power of nature on the surrounding landscape over time. Conversely, Browning implements a 1 / 2 rhyme scheme at various junctures, “Paint/ Must never hope to reproduce the faint/ Half-flush that dies along her throat” (Browning, 17-18). In this example, paint and faint are rhymed as a means of showing the natural power that the woman’s lived-physiology has over her otherwise immortal representation in the image. Of course, one also recognizes the use of enjambment in this poem (and throughout the work), which may operate as a means of showing the Duke’s inability to exert control and power over himself. The tighter rhyme scheme in this work compared to Shelley’s may also function as a means of showing the closer power control relationship that exists in this poem as compared with Shelley’s work.
In conclusion, this research has compared and contrasted Percy Shelley’s work “Ozymandias”, with Robert Browning’s work “My Last Duchess” in relation to the ways the poets utilize the power of nature. Both poems implement this natural imagery in relation to the overriding theme of mortality and immortality. Ultimately, the use of natural imagery in these poems is effective because it has a timeless quality that remains relevant even centuries later.
- Browning, Robert. (2018). My Last Duchess by Robert Browning.
- Shelley, Percy. (2018). Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley.