|Prewriting for Comparison Essay
“On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness” “Ozymandious”
Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943;1936) Author Percy Shelley (1792-1822; 1818)
“the Vanity of Earthly Greatness” Theme Vanity of worldly fame
The reader may associate with the Over-all effect The reader, as the traveler,
author, who seems to consider his is given reason to consider the vanity
demise. of striving for power, fame, and great accomplishments.
Lyric, rhyming couplets, Form imitative of an Italian sonnet,
Perfect form not quite perfect
Greatness, uses objects:
a mastodon and bear, Charlemagne Topic a fallen giant statue of a mighty king
lighthearted, playful Tone lofty
informal Language elevated
many ironies Stylistic Devices one profound irony, or paradox
trivializes the great sound devises > memorable lines
Similarities: theme and, to some extent, effect, although the tone is quite different
Differences: All other areas are different.
Organization for comparison essay:
*Subject at a time: the simplest poem first (use points as follows)
Point at a time: form, language and tone, literary devices, end with similar theme and effect.
On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness by Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)
The tusks that clashed in mighty brawls
Of mastodons, are billiard balls.
The sword of Charlemagne the Just
Is ferric oxide, known as rust.
The grizzly bear whose potent hug
Was feared by all, is now a rug.
Great Caesar’s bust is on my shelf,
And I don’t feel so well myself.
While “On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness,” and “Ozymandias” share a common theme—the vanity of earthly fame and power—each author’s approach to the subject is quite different. “On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness” is a lyric, with simple rhyming couplets. It speaks of beasts and great men—a mastodon and bear, Charlemagne and Caesar, all of which people readily associate with greatness. The bouncy rhythm and simple rhyme, along with the objects, give the poem a lighthearted, playful tone. Each couple presents a irony, that the great and might die and become a common thing: “The tusks that clashed in mighty brawls / Of mastodons, are billiard balls” (1-2). Furthermore, Charlemagne’s sword becomes rust (3-4); a grizzy bear is now a rug (5-6). The final couplet personalizes the theme: “Great Caesar’s bust is on the shelf, / And I don’t feel so well myself” (7-8). The structure of “Ozymandias” is loftier, the form imitative of an Italian sonnet. The topic is the fallen and crumbling statue of “Ozimandias, king of kings,” the poetic name that Ramsey II of Egypt purportedly gave himself. The language too is more elevated. Rather than a playful rhyme about things that have died and been trivialized, as bears becoming rugs, “Ozymandias” uses words as “vast” and “visage” (2,4). Sound devises abound but not with a singsong effect. Instead, the rhyme is an alternating ABAB, often with a imperfect or missed rhymes, as in “stone” and “frown” (2,4), which seem natural for the narrative and the imperfection may underscore the theme of decay. The multiplicity of sound devises—alliteration, assonance, and consonance—make lines memorable. The scene surrounding the fallen statue is described as a “colossal wreck, boundless and bare / The lone and level sands stretch far away” (13-14 emphasis added). Everything in the poem is distant and remote, the traveler, the place, the ancient king and kingdom. The reader is left with a more subtle and thought provoking irony, as the kings words—“Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair”—meant to create despair because Ozymandias’ works were so much greater than anyone else’s, instead are left to despair because their works too will one day crumble and be forgotten. In the end, both poems make the point that even the mightiest meet the same end as us all: we all revert to mere dust; nonetheless, because of its loftier style and form, “Ozymandias” is more thought provoking, and in my estimation, the more memorable.
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