Shelley's contest-winning sonnet, "Ozymandias" (1817)                                          Dr. Morillo

 

1         [ I met ][a trav] [eller from] [an an] [tique land]                            a         

2          [Who said]: [Two vast] [and trunk] [less legs] [of stone]               b
3          [Stand in ] [the des] [ert . . . Near] [them, on] [the sand,]             a          1st foot = trochaic inversion
4          [Half sunk],[a shatt] [ered vis] [age lies], [whose frown, ]             "b"
5          [And wrink] [led lip,] [and sneer] [of cold] [command, ]                a
6          [Tell that][its sculpt] [or well] [those pass] [ions read ]                 c
7         [ Which yet] [survive,] [stamped on] [these life][less things,]          d          3rd foot= trochaic inversion
8          [The hand] [that mocked] [them, and] [the heart] [that fed:]         c           perfect iambic pentameter line
9         [ And on] [the ped] [estal] [these words] [appear:]                        e         3rd foot = pyrrhic
10        ['My name] [is Oz] [yman] [dias, king] [of kings:]                           d
11        [Look on] [my works,] [ye Might] [y, and] [despair!' ]                    "e"
12        [Nothing] [beside] [remains.][Round the] [decay   ]                       f          feet 1 and 4 = trochees
13       [Of that ] [colos] [sal wreck,] [boundless] [and bare ]                     e          1=pyrrhic
14        [The lone] [and lev][el sands] [stretch far] [away. ]                      f            4 =  spondee

 

 

       RED syllables = stressed   BLACK = unstressed

       every line has five feet. The meter is consistent pentameter.

       Shelley varies the iambic baseline or template with trochees and pyrrhics, and a spondee

in line 1:  in British English c.1817  traveller would be elided from a 3-syllable word to one that sounded like TRAVler ; also, our iamb pronounced anTEEK would be a trochee, ANTic

The first four lines suggest a quatrain, but also enjamb lines 4 into 5 "whose frown and wink" and avoid any full stop after the word frown. This leads the reader to then expect either a second quatrain or that the first  quatrain isn't really one, but is instead part of an octave (8-line group).  At line 5 the continued 'a' ryme fits the octave theory, but then the pattern moves back to 'c', suggesting a new quatrain, and the 'd' fits that, but the

now expected c-d-c-d quatrain is instead c-d-c-e. Now the 'e' leads off an e-f-e-f true quatrain. The final lines are not, however, the expected couplet.  The form hovers between English and Petrarchan, with elements of 4-4-4-2 mixed with elements of 8/6, especially in the denial of any final couplet.

 

One losing sonnet on the same subject, by Horace Smith:

 

[In E][gypt's sand][y si] [lence, all] [alone,]                                  a

[Stands a] [gigan] [tic leg,] [which far] [off throws]                      b          opening trochaic inversion

[The on] [ly sha][dow that] [the des][ert knows.]                         b          dow, that, the  pyrrhic plus?

['I am] [great Oz][yman][dias', saith] [the stone,]                         a          opening trochaic inversion

['The King] [of Kings][ this might][y cit][y shows]                          b

[The wond][ers of ][my hand.] '[The cit][y gone;]                         a          ers of = pyrrhic

[Nought but] [the leg] [remain][ing to] [disclose   ]                       b

[The site] [of this] [forgott][en Bab][ylon.]                                   a          end of octave =a pyrrhic foot

[We won][der, and] [some hun][ter may] [express]                      c

[Wonder] [like ours,][when through] [the wild][erness]                 c           another end pyrrhic

[Where Lon][don stood,] [holding] [the wolf] [in chase,]                d

[He meets] [some frag][ment huge,][ and stops][ to guess]           c

[What pow][erful] [but un][record][ed race]                                 d

[Once dwelt][ in that] [anni][hila][ted place.]                                d                      sestet but with final couplet

 

Smith is less skilled with managing and varying form.  His variations on feet are less controlled, with weak pyrrhics dominating. Unlike Shelley, he also sometimes breaks form in the last foot in the line, the foot that usually controls the baseline meter and sets the rising or falling rhythm. Like Shelley he works to mix a final couplet from English sonnets with an opening octave from the Italian form, but his opening octave is not a hybrid, forcing the mixture into only the last six lines of the poem, thus making the final couplet look more forced as well.

is "stands a" a pun on stanza? and "I am" a pun on iamb?


For more information on Shelley and Smith. thanks to Ms Audrey Plasse's students at Green Mountain Christian School for this link.