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In Ozymandias and Spring and Fall how do Shelley and Hopkins explore the passage of Time?

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Lula Teunissen, 10H                01/05/07

In Ozymandias and Spring and Fall how do Shelley and Hopkins explore the passage of Time?

Ozymandias and Spring and Fall are two poems, which at first glance have little in common. Ozymandias is a traveller’s tale, a story that reminds the reader of something they have read before, perhaps in a children’s book, long ago. This is shown in the first line – “I met a traveller from an antique land”. It sounds like the beginning of a well-known story and the reader can tell instantly that it will be about the past by the use of the word “antique”. The description of the place is a description of somewhere foreign, unfamiliar in everyday life as the word “desert” is used, yet in the reader’s mind it was once a place of happiness, somewhere they could escape to as a child when they read books. However Shelley has taken it years later and it is now a dismal place – “boundless and bare” is used to show how little remains.

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In contrast, because Spring and Fall is talking about something that is currently happening as time passes, at this very moment, that makes it seem a lot more emotional because it does not seem like a lifetime ago, the way Ozymandias does. This is also helped with the use of words such as “grieving” “wanwood” and “weep”. The fact that the poet is talking to a young child also helps as it brings a sense of innocence and vulnerability into the reader’s mind, and makes them feel even more emotional about the fact that time is passing and so the child cannot be innocent forever. The last line – “it is Margaret you mourn for” sums this up very well. It shows that, though the poem is about mourning for an environment changing as time passes, the real mourning is for the one who is doing the other mourning in the poem – the young child, because as time passes she will have to grow up and lose her blissful ignorance.

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        In conclusion, Shelley and Hopkins explore the passage of time in various ways, some similar and some different. Both use strong words, often ones that appeal to the emotions or senses, for example “decay” in Ozymandias or “sigh” in Spring and Fall. Both use irregular rhyming patterns to mirror the way time works whilst using mourning tones to get across what the poets feel about the passage of time – that it does end and there is nothing that can be done, so they are both fairly pessimistic. They also both use people in their poems to show what they are saying about the passage of time more clearly. However they explore the passage of time in different ways in that in Ozymandias the passage of time is yet to pass, whilst in Spring and Fall it already has. The people are used by the poets in different ways too, in Ozymandias Shelley talks about a person in a past passage of time, as though they are telling a story, whilst in Spring and Fall Hopkins talks to a defined person about the passage of time. Both these poems use many techniques to effectively explore the passage of time.

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