The Poetry Place

Ozymandias

 

There is a popular prejudice that poetry means lots of adjectives (especially ‘flowery’ adjectives). A close look at most poems will disprove this. Here is one way of doing so which shows the use of nouns compared to adjectives in a dramatic and visual way.  Use the Word Wall in the Unlocking Literature tools, but before showing it to students, prepare two versions, one showing just adjectives, and one just nouns. Display the first version:  

 

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.'

 

If they are encountering the poem for the first time, describe the theme and setting of the poem (e.g. ‘a traveller in Egypt comes across a huge wreck of a statue of a king which once celebrated his power; now there’s hardly anything remaining’) and ask them to guess which words follow each of the adjectives. If they have experienced the poem before, see what they can remember.  You can reveal some more words as you go along in order to assist.

 

When you have explored the poem sufficiently, reveal it all. Read it through and say just enough about it to convey the meaning.  Use the Undo function in Word to return to the adjectives only version and ask them to count the words.

 

Now ask them to guess the number of nouns in the poem.  If wished, you can use the version currently displayed and see how many they can now find. If you or they are tired of that, simply switch to this version and let them count the nouns – about double the number of adjectives!

 

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.'

 

For further exploration of this theme, see my Adjectives! unit in the Workshop.

 

 

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