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. He is appealing to the reader’s imagination of what could have been by describing the fallen kingdom that is. He is looking back on time that has passed. In contrast, in Spring and Fall, Hopkins is talking of time that is currently passing, rather than looking back on time that has gone already. Unlike Shelley, Hopkins is talking to a certain person, rather than just any audience who happens to be reading the poem. Spring and Fall is a very personal account of the passage of time, and though less foreign, it is also less familiar in the reader’s mind. In Spring and Fall the poet is looking forward rather than back at the passage of time, and talking directly about it to a person, rather than telling a story about one and his experience of time, as in Ozymandias.

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In Ozymandias, because the passage of time is over, there is nothing remaining. It is a descriptive poem, rather than a reflective one, and talks of human civilisation over time in such an explanatory way that there is little room for emotion. The reader can feel the emotion from the past from the use of words such as “sneer” and “mighty”, but over time that emotion has been lost and the last line – “the lone and level sands stretch far away” shows that the passage of time has changed what once was, and the landscape is now emotionless ...

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