“Ozymandias” — The Correct Memorization Version

Here is the correct version of the poem — “Ozymandias”, by Percy Bysshe Shelley — that we will use together.

The rules:

  • Students must memorize/reproduce the poem (on paper) on Friday, Jan. 16 for a quiz grade.
  • Each student must also submit a perfect reproduction  for a ‘major’ grade before the 3rd quarter ends.
  • Students may attempt this as many times as needed.  This can be done anytime Mr. Long is free.  A single mistake (spelling, missed word, capitalization, punctuation, etc) will require the student to start over.
  • In lieu of a student successfully completing this challenge, the student will receive either a zero (for a ‘major’ grade) or the quarter grade will remain ‘incomplete’ until the student eventually completes this assignment.


This is the same version that is found on page 731 in the ‘purple’ literature text.  For this memorization challenge, do not use the ‘green’ literature text version (due to alternative punctuation, etc.).


(1)   I met a traveler 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,

(5)  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:

(10) “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.

Consider all of the following strategies to help you successfully memorize this poem:

  1. Focus on the visual nature of this poem. Become the “I” (speaker) and imagine that its taking place with you in it.  Stand in the desert.  Picture the horizon line (and “[t]he lone and level sands” as they “stretch far away” from you.  Picture the pieces of the great statue (“two legs” and the body/face of the King) in the sand.  Picture the 2-line phrase that the King says (which is actually etched into the stone itself for others to read, admire, fear).
  2. Divide the poem into sections.  For instance, consider: a) the moment you meet the “traveler”, b) what the traveler describes (first the legs and second the body/face of the statue), c) the sculptor who tried to create a statue that would last forever (including the phrase that he etched into the stone), d) what Ozymandias said (in quotes), e) the irony of the fact that nothing of the king’s power really remains (in the 3-word sentence of line 12), and f) the way the sand stretches out forever around the “decay / Of that colossal wreck”.
  3. Think about the punctuation:  this includes where the various punctuation points exist and why they are being used.  For instance, notice in line 2 that no quotation marks exist following the full colon.
  4. Note that the first word of every line is capitalized.
  5. Consider writing down the last word of all 14 lines on your paper immediately when you come to class on Friday (so that you have 14 ‘targets’ if you suddenly draw a blank). You might also do this with the first word of each line.
  6. Figure out the 2-3 phrases that are going to be a challenge.  Most students make mistakes with line 4 (“a shattered visage”), lines 6 & 7 (“Tell that its sculptor well those passions read / Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things”), and line 12 (“Nothing beside remains.”).
  7. Consider the short/strong pattern of phrases from lines 3-5 that describe what the statue looks like.
  8. Think about how line 2 and line 14 give the impression of something stretching out forever (“vast”, “sands stretch far away”).
  9. Consider pairs of words (“boundless and bare”, “lone and level”) that use alliteration to help your recall.
  10. Be aware of the rhyme scheme at the end of each line.  Also notice that they are not always ‘rhymes’ to the ear; they do, however, work as ‘visual’ rhymes.

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