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The Corruptive Nature In Ozymandias By Percy Shelley And London By William Blake

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Throughout both Ozymandias and London, the poets portray power through the corruption of both the Egyptian tyrant Ozymandias, and the most wealthy groups of society in Victorian London such as the government, monarchy and the church. Shelley uses Ozymandias’s corruptive nature to highlight how his rule over his empire, led to him becoming an arrogant leader with a love for power and an utter disregard for his own people. The poet suggests that Ozymandias believes he is superior to his people and is not merely a pharaoh but the ‘King of kings’, this poetic technique of irony is used to juxtapose his current situation, in which he is isolated and all that remains is the distant memory and ‘two vast and trunkless legs of stone in the desert. This could also be a reference to Shelley’s personal, atheist views and is ultimately mocking religion by comparing Ozymandias to the all-loving and supreme leader of Christianity. He also envisages himself on a ‘pedestal’ compared to his people as it is suggested he is an elevated version of himself in which everything belongs to him. This creates an uncomfortable tone for the reader as they feel hatred towards this cruel figure who was recognised as a military leader but has destroyed any legacy he left behind with his corruptive nature. The poet intended to highlight his hate for political power through Ozymandias’s rein and that it leads to the downfall of society and in this case an entire civilisation. Therefore, Shelley clearly conveys the power of corruption through the behaviour of the tyrant Ozymandias, and that ultimately, corruption leads to the destruction of a civilisation. Similarly, in London, Blake implies that the church, monarchy and government are corrupted organisations that had the power to enforce change but chose not to out of greed for increased wealth and financial security. Throughout, Blake implies his hatred towards organised religion and even the ‘blackening church appals’ when it comes to caring for its people. This juxtaposes with common associations we would have of the church such as belonging and safety of purity, however, had become corrupt and is permanently stained by the deaths of the young children that should be in their care. The ‘chimney sweepers cry’ out of fear due to the high risk of falling or cancer from their jobs as they have been failed by the social care system at such an early age. Not only is the church corrupted, but the monarchy is also corrupted as it is responsible for the ‘blood [that runs] down palace walls’ because the deaths of the soldiers are at the hands of the monarchy as they gave their lives to expand the empire and sacrificed the powerless for the powerful. Even if soldiers do return, instead of the promises of wealth and love, they receive no support or financial benefits, because the monarchy would have used the money for extravagant purchases instead of helping those in need. Blake even uses the form of an acrostic poem in stanza 3 to subliminally tell the government to ‘HEAR’ what he has to say, therefore enlightening other working-class people to realise the truth about those with political power. The reader may also feel anger towards the main institutions because their love of money and their corruptive nature has blinded them to hardships their own people face. As a result, both Blake and Shelley convey their hate for corrupted organisations and highlight the power in society.

Throughout both poems, Shelley and Blake portray the powerless in both Egyptian and Victorian society. Shelley presents the powerless in society by enforcing the lack of control slaves had in comparison to the Egyptian pharaoh. He had firm control over his people, whilst his ‘ hand mocked them’ because, with just one movement of his hand, he could affect all that is below him, or those who had no influence upon his reign He used his slaves to build large, unnecessary structures that are now a ‘colossal wreck’, this metaphor also implies the downfall of Ozymandias and his powerful image has been destroyed. The poem is written in iambic pentameter to convey the love Ozymandias has for himself and the control he once had over his own people who were powerless.

However, this juxtaposes with the irregular rhyme scheme that represents his current situation as a broken statue, and the lack of power he now has. Ozymandias is now powerless due to nature’s destructive capabilities, and now ‘nothing beside remains’ of the once-powerful civilisation. Shelley intends to highlight that a majority of people in the Egyptian period lived in extreme poverty, similar to which of the lower classes in the 18th century, this could cause the reader to feel sympathy towards the slaves that were forced into unpaid labour and would have taught victorian people about the archaeological discoveries that had taken place 20 years before. Similarly, in London, Blake implies the lack of power of the working-class people who are forced to work in horrific conditions with little money as a result. He highlights that ‘every’ working-class person has marks of weakness and marks of woe’ as everyone had been affected by the Industrial revolution. as consequence, they have been physically marked by hardship due to the working conditions and were likely to be malnourished and liable to disease. The technique of woeful alteration only further highlights the semantic field of despair and sadness. Not only are adults powerless, with little control over their own lives, but young women who have been forced into prostitution are also exploited and have little power in society, they are shamed upon by the church and are accused of ‘Plaguing the marriage hearse’ for accordingly ‘ruining’ the tradition of marriage because young men are going to prostitutes because they are also unhappy. It juxtaposes the idea that women were supposedly required to remain ‘clean’ however now she is plagued with an STD because she was lead into child prostitution as a last resort. However, this could also be inferred as marriage is the death of a women’s freedom because men had control over their wives and were treated like objects instead of people, with no poet to change their own life.

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Not only can women be heard cursing, but ‘infants also cry’ due to the constant suffering both in the present and throughout their whole life, the oral imagery is so vivid that we can infer that instead of enjoying their youth, they are working in workhouses without a chance of a happy future. The child has no way of escaping poverty, with little chance of ever being able to enjoy their youth and has been born into a world of fear and inequality. He shares his personal experience to entice the reader, this leads the reader to feel sympathetic towards the poorer classes, especially women and children because they were powerless. Readers at the time might have even felt inspired to protest or revolt in order to gain new rights to protect those in danger. Blake successfully portrays life in London as a horrific place where the government controls everything.

The power of nature is also implied through both Ozymandias and London but differs in both poems in the quantity of power nature has. Throughout the poem, Shelley clearly emphasis that nature has claimed back what is rightfully theirs and even though it was not immediate, it will always dominate over mortals. Even though the’ Shattered visage’ of broken power is still visible, the once-powerful civilisation has been destroyed and he is now a fraction of the leader he once was because nature has prevailed and will continue to do so. The sibilance used here imitates the wind whistling over the sand to further create a sense of eeriness and unimportance. Even though power corrupted him, it is ironic that nature continues to erode at his legacy until only ‘sands’ remain and that the desert created by nature imprisons the statue, possibly giving Ozymandias time to reflect on what he has done. His ‘works’ are no longer recognisable due to nature’s destructive capabilities, nature has not only taken his physical properties but has enforced that the moral of the poem is that, whilst power and wealth are substantial at the moment, more is needed to create a legacy that will be left behind. The poet intends to reveal the little power humans have in comparison to nature, in order for the reader to realise that we rely on natural sources to survive and its recourses should be used wisely instead of being wasted on tyrant figures such as Ozymandias. Therefore, Shelley clearly conveys the power of nature because Ozymandias’ civilisation is no longer, and it is a consequence of the immense power nature has over humans and will ultimately take back everything. Unlike Ozymandias, Blake implies that the government have control over everything in society, including nature and it is powerless in this case. The poem begins with Blake ‘Wander[ing] through each chartered street’ of London. This is the opening line which tells us this is a personal monologue of experiences whilst living in London at the time of the Industrial Revolution. Every street is mapped by the rich government whilst the peasants who live in the streets have poor conditions. Not only have the government got control over the land of the city, but they also have maintained a level of control over the river Thames as it does continue to ‘flow’ even though it is ‘chartered’ It is an oxymoron

because it juxtaposes the freedom of the river and the control the government has over everyone’s life and even natural things such as a river. The repetition of the word chartered puts emphasis on the fact that nature can no longer go free and has too managed to be controlled. This differs from the poem Ozymandias, as nature has currently got no power, however, due to London being set in Georgian England, that is quite recent in caparison to Ozymandias so there is still time for nature to take back control. With the immense population increase, forests and other natural sites would have been destroyed in order to build new factories on the land, and space for agricultural sites. Therefore, Blake indicates that nature has little power in society, by expressing his personal views to highlight for the reader that not only does the government have power over the people, but natural things too.

In conclusion, both poets consistently portray the theme of power in society, by the corruptive nature of those who rule over the people, how in one case nature prevailed but in ‘London’ it remained powerless and they both explore the lack of power in both London and Ancient Egypt which was symbolic of the Georgian period. Shelley and Blake were both advocates of the romantic movement and portray strong emotion throughout their poetry to make their poetry more memorable and more emotional for the reader. The poems have a long-lasting message that people can connect to even in 2020, and until there is no corruption or social class gap, people will continue to do so. Therefore, both poets intend to use their popular platform as an advantage to highlight to their audiences that something must be done about corrupted figures at the top of society, the powerless must be helped and people should not exploit nature’s natural recourses.

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The Corruptive Nature In Ozymandias By Percy Shelley And London By William Blake. (2021, September 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
“The Corruptive Nature In Ozymandias By Percy Shelley And London By William Blake.” Edubirdie, 16 Sept. 2021,
The Corruptive Nature In Ozymandias By Percy Shelley And London By William Blake. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Sept. 2023].
The Corruptive Nature In Ozymandias By Percy Shelley And London By William Blake [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 16 [cited 2023 Sept 22]. Available from:
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