Power + Conflict Poetry


Ozymandias- Summary

  • Written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1871
    • Romantic poet
    • Radical politically
    • Disapproved of British monarchy
  • Suggests poem is criticism of wielding power in an undemocratic way and ruling as a tyrant

Ozymandias- another name for famous ancient egyptian pharaoh Rames II

  • Poem describes the narrator's meeting with a traveller from a foreign land
    • traveller told him a story about finding the shattered remains of an ancient statue of a king in the desert
  • Inscription beneath the statue indicates that the king was:
    • arrogant
    • proud
    • boastful
  • Overarching message- human power is temporary
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Ozymandias- Key Ideas

Arrogance of Rulers-

  • arrogance of Ramses and other leaders, power has led to pride and the mistreatment of others

Power of Art-

  • art, language and literature are more enduring than human power
  • nothing remains of Ozymandias except a statue and an inscription

Timeless messages still relevant today-

  • Abuse of power
  • Temporary nature of political power
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Ozymandias- Themes

Ozymandias as a corrupt ruler / misuse of power-

  • repetition of 'king' in 'king of kings' - wishes to portray himself as omnipotent
    • suggest he is trying to deify himself
  • imperative verb 'look' indicates how controlling the king was

Negative portrayal of Ozymandias-

  • negative language used to describe ruler e.g. "sneer", "frown", "wrinkled", "stamped
    • reflects poets own feelings towards the king + those who rule in a cruel manner
  • alliteration of harsh 'c' and 'b' sound in 'cold command' and 'boundless and bare'

Human power is ephemeral (temporary)-

  • caesura (line break) after "remains" in line 12 -Ozymandias' power has come to an end
  • juxtaposition of "colossal" and "wreck" - contrast between former power and current state
  • ruined statue is a metaphor for political power
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Ozymandias- Irony and Rhythm

  • No regular rhythm or rhyme scheme- fragmented structure reflects king's 'shattered' power
    • could reflect how temporary and breakable human structures are
    • mixing of different sonnet forms could reflect Shelley's rebellious ideas
    • line 10- Ozymandias’ voice breaks iambic pentameter- reflects the king’s belief that he is above the law.
    • enjambement and caesura throughout - sense of fragmentation
    • mirrors broken statue/ how Ozymandias' power has crumbled
  • Second hand account- speaker is telling a story told to him
    • highlights insignificance of Ozymandias -how few people have seen for themselves the statue he created to be immortalised.
  • Poem is in sonnet form 
    • Traditionally a love poem
    • Writer's joking- suggest Ozymandias' love for himself/ego
  • Irony-Ozymandias thinks his power will be immortal but instead it crumbles like the statue
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Ozymandias- Key Comparisons

Powerful individuals, misuse of power and corruption-

  • My Last Duchess
  • London

Power of nature vs power of humans-

  • Storm on the Island
  • Exposure
  • Tissue
  • The Prelude
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Exposure - Summary

  • Written by Wilfred Owen in 1917
    • point of view of a WW1 soldier describing living through the misery, boredom and icy weather conditions during a night in the trenches
  • Key Idea - Weather is the real enemy of the soldiers


  • Could refer to weather, soldiers were 'exposed'
  • Owen also 'exposes' harsh, undignified aspects of conflict - never portrayed in propaganda or poems glorifying war


  • Most well-known WW1 poet,
    • famously anti-war
  • fought in the war himself, his poem is a realistic, unheroic portrayal of fighting
    • Went to war on 2 occassions, killed on the 2nd
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Exposure - Key Ideas

Misery in War

  • Similar theme in Owen's poems - focus on unglamorous aspects of war
  • Unlike propaganda materials focused on glory of war (soldiers become heroes)
    • reveals the horrific day-to day misery experienced by those who went to war

Loss of humanity / dignity

  • suggested through phrases such as Slowly, our ghosts drag home” and “we cringe in holes”
  • antithesis to images of heroism soldiers would have seen before war

Pointlessness of war

  • emphasized throughout, speaker in poem seems to have lost what he is fighting for

Weather and boredom

  • Weather presented as real enemy of the soldiers- soldiers are anxious and afraid and each new day brings no hope but more misery and despair
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Exposure - Key Ideas 2

Lasting effects of war-

  • speaker hints at the fact that war changes the soldiers irreversibly as they no longer fit in when they return home
    • negative consequences of war are lasting
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Exposure - Use of personification

  • Weather is personified throughout to make it sound menacing and deadly
    • characterises weather as real enemy of soldiers

“Our brains ache in the merciless ice east winds that knife us”

  •  sibilance also highlights the intensity of the pain and the brutality of the weather.

“Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow” 

  • nature is presented as more damaging and deadly than the bullets

“Pale flakes with fiingered stealth come feeling for our faces”

  • The assonance (repetition of consonant sounds) here reflects the ferocity of the weather
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Exposure - Personification of Dawn

  • Dawn is personified in these lines: “Dawn amassing in the East her melancholy army / Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of grey.


  • Dawn, usually associated with ideas of light and hope, is here hostile and brings even more suffering.

Colour imagery-

  • The colour imagery “grey” conveys ideas of despair and boredom

Military vocabulary- 

  • “Ranks” is a military term and is repeated, reminding the reader that the weather is the soldiers’ enemy
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Exposure - Themes

  • Owen uses bleak imagery to highlight the misery of the soldiers in war
    • “War lasts, rain soaks and clouds sag stormy”
    • “The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow"
  • The pointlessness of war is emphasised throughout the poem, the speaker seems to have lost sight of what he is fighting for-
  • Rhetorical Questions
  • make the reader question why we allow soldiers to be exposed to such suffering:
    • “What are we doing here?”
    • “Is it that we are dying
  • Repetition
    • Repetition of “but nothing happens” throughout the poem gives the readers a sense of the boredom caused by waiting
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Exposure - Themes 2

Loss of humanity: Metaphors -

“Slowly, our ghosts drag home”

  • suggests that war has sucked all the life out of the soldiers
  • reminds readers that they are on the brink of death

'All their eyes are ice"

  • describes the extreme effects of the weather
  • implies the soldiers have lost their humanity and are close to breaking point

“Slowly, our ghosts drag home”“Slowly, our ghosts dra

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Exposure- Form, Structure and Rhythm


  • The poem is made up of five line stanzas
    • The form mirrors the repetitive and never-ending nature of war
    • It also mirrors the ongoing boredom and misery of the soldiers
  • The ABBAC rhyme scheme is repeated, which reflects the monotony of war
    • But the last line of each stanza creates an unsettling feel. This is possibly to mirror how destabilised and on edge the soldiers feel waiting for the enemy to attack

First Person Narrative:

First person narrative

  • The poem is written in the first person. It has many collective, possessive pronouns, such as “we”, “us”, “our”.
  • This hints at the collective suffering of the soldiers in WW1. It also encourages the reader to share in their pain.
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Storm on the Island - Summary

Written by Seamus Heaney in 1966

  • Irish poet who often wrote about his country and nature.
    • Storm on the Island describes a community's response to a storm
  • First eight letters of the title also spell the word 'STORMONT'.
    • Stormont is a suburb of Belfast. It was the site of Parliament House from 1928–30.
    • The poem has also been interpreted as a metaphor for the conflict in Northern Ireland


  • The speaker describes a storm attacking the island he lives on. - The community thought they were prepared. But as the poem goes on, it becomes clear that the storm was powerful and frightening.
  • Their feelings of security turn to fear.
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Storm on the Island - Key Ideas

Key Ideas-

  • The poet explores ideas about the inhospitality and the cruelty of nature.
  • Man is presented as insignificant compared to the natural world. The poem emphasises these feelings of helplessness.
  • The poem encourages readers to question the source of human fear: is it the unknown that frightens us the most?
  • The poem acts as a reminder of human vulnerability.
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Storm on the Island - Form + Structure

Direct Adress-

  • The poet directly addresses the reader in the poem.
  • This involves the reader more and makes the storm seem more threatening, as though it is happening to you too.

Structural Change-

  • The poet moves from creating images of safety, to danger and destruction.
  • Finally, the poet contemplates how strange it is that something that cannot be seen or touched is the source of such great fear.

Rhythm and rhyme-

  • The rhythm and rhyme scheme are unpredictable, reflecting the unpredictable nature of the storm
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Storm on the Island - Key Themes

Safety vs Danger: Imagery

  • Heaney uses contrasting images of safety (at the beginning) and danger (towards the end) to emphasise this irony, and how powerless man is compared to nature
  • Images of safety
    • “Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate”.
    • “Wizened earth”.
    • “Never troubled us”.
  •  Images of danger
    • “Blows full blast”.
    • “It pummels your house too”.
    • “Exploding”.
    • “Spits like a tame cat / Turned savage”.
    • “We are bombarded”.
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Storm on the Island - Key Themes 2

Violence of Nature:

Man is presented as being insignificant compared to the natural world 

Military metaphors:

  • "We just sit tight while wind dives / And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo. / We are bombarded by the empty air."
  • "Salvo", "strafe", and "bombardment" are associated with air attacks.
    • The military imagery emphasises how violent and aggressive the storm is.


  • The use of the simile – “spits like a tame cat / Turned savage” gives the impression that the storm is wild and uncontrollable
  • It also reminds readers that something that seems innocent can be deadly.
  • The use of enjambment here further highlights how the storm cannot be contained or controlled
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Storm on the Island - Key Themes 3


  • Heaney uses irony to show how weak man is compared to nature


  • The contrast between “huge nothing” and “rock” at the start of the poem makes the storm seem even more menacing because human preparation is not sufficient protection


  • Despite huge physical preparations, ultimately it is only air (something that cannot even be seen or touched) that is frightening
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Storm on the Island - Key Themes 4

Irony- Safety:

  • One of the main ironies of the poem is that the islander's think they are safe at the start. This is ironic because the storm completely overpowers them

Strong statement-

  • The poem opens with a strong statement“We are prepared”. - This emphasises the confidence and sense of security of the islanders


  • The use of caesura in the opening line reinforces the idea that the islanders feel safe.
  • It conveys the speaker’s certainty, as well as the sense that they are safely barricaded in their homes.
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Storm on the Island - Key Comparisons

Power of nature vs power of humans-

  • The Prelude.
  • Exposure.
  • Tissue.

Unpleasant and/or powerful experiences-

  • The Prelude.
  • Exposure.
  • London.
  • Remains.
  • Bayonet Charge.
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Bayonet Charge - Summary

Written by Ted Hughes in 1957

  • Describes the thoughts and actions of a WW1 soldier as he charges towards the enemy in battle
  • He is “going over the top” (emerging from the trenches onto the battlefield) armed with a bayonet (a rifle with a long knife attached to the end.)
  • The poem depicts his transformation into more of a machine than a human.

Meaning of poem-

  • challenges the rhetoric of war (promoting ideas of bravery, patriotism and courage) and instead presents is as chaotic and terrifying


  • Hughes’s father served in WW1.
  • Hughes himself spent 2 years working as a mechanic in the RAF.
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Bayonet Charge - Key Ideas

Challenging patriotic ideals-

  • Traditional patriotic ideals are challenged and undermined.
  • Glory, honour, and serving one’s country are shown to be irrelevant and meaningless when faced with the horrific reality of conflict.
  • The soldier’s overwhelming emotion is fear

Negative portrayal of war-

  • The poet depicts the terrifying, chaotic and unpredictable nature of war.
  • This is intensified through focusing on the thoughts and feelings of one individual as he goes ‘over the top’
  • He is presented as confused and disorientated in the second stanza as he questions his actions for a moment and his place in the conflict.
  • Readers are encouraged to consider the destructive elements of war in terms of the human sacrifice and the impact of war on nature.
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Bayonet Charge - Key Ideas 2

Machine-like soldiers-

  • The soldier seems conditioned to fight.
  • Much like the soldiers in ‘Charge of the Light Brigade', his personal agency is lost, and he becomes machine-like in his movement towards the enemy.
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Bayonet Charge - Key Themes

Danger and brutality of War:


  • “Threw up a yellow hare that rolled like a flame / And crawled in a threshing circle, its mouth wide / Open silent, its eyes standing out.”
    • This is a gruesome image of brutality of war.
  • “Bullets smacking the belly out of the air”
    • highlights the danger of the battlefield.

The Powerlessness of Soldiers:


  • “He lugged a rifle numb as a smashed arm”.
    • The image suggests the rifle is useless and therefore emphasises how vulnerable he is.
    • It could also foreshadow the injuries he might gain because of war.
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Bayonet Charge - Key Themes 2

Harsh Alliteration-

  • “Cold clockwork”
    • This is potentially a reference to fate governing the soldier and his powerlessness to it.


  • "His sweat heavy, / Stumbling across a field of clods"
    • “Stumbling” indicates his lack of control as he is caught up in the chaos of war.
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Bayonet Charge - Challenging Ideals


  • The poet lists things that seemed important to the soldier before the war – “King, honour, human dignity, etcetera / Dropped like luxuries in a yelling alarm / To get out of that blue crackling air”.
  • The poet lists them to show how futile all these things now are when faced with death.
  • The pointlessness of these things is reinforced through the choice of the word “etcetera”


  • "The patriotic tear that had brimmed in his eye / Sweating like molten iron from the centre of his chest”.
  • The soldier’s patriotic ideals are useless now he is faced with the reality of conflict.
  • The contrast between “brimmed”, with its positive connotations of abundance and pride, and “sweating” highlights this contrast.
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Bayonet Charge - Challenging Ideals 2

One Soldier-

  • Only the soldier is described
  • This is startling, as war would be a place full of people.
  • Hughes’ decision not to mention any other people intensifies the sense of the soldier’s isolation
  • It also highlights the idea that everything other than his own fear has become irrelevant
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Bayonet Charge - Soldiers as machines


  • “The patriotic tear that had brimmed in his eye / Sweating like molten iron from the centre of his chest”.
    • Comparing the tears to iron dehumanises the soldier and likens him to something mechanical


  • The juxtaposition of natural images with mechanical ones highlights the conflict and contrast between man and nature.
    • E.g. “green hedge / that dazzled with rifle fire”.
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Bayonet Charge - Form + Structure

  • Irregular structure and form of Bayonet Charge reflects the unpredictable nature of war

In media res-

  • The poem begins  in media res (in the middle of action). This creates a sense of urgency and highlights the chaos of war

Irregular rhythm-

  • The poet uses different techniques to make sure the poem lacks uniformity. He does this to reflect the unpredictable nature of war. These are:
    • Free verse.
    • Irregular line length.
    • Enjambment (sentences flowing over the line).
    • Caesura (breaks in the line).
  • The use of enjambment also quickens the pace of the poem
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Bayonet Charge - Key Comparisons

Reality of conflict-

  • War Photographer.
  • Charge of the Light Brigade.
  • Remains.
  • Exposure.

Internal conflict-

  • Kamikaze.
  • Poppies.

Conflict between man and nature-

  • Storm on the Island.
  • The Prelude.
  • Exposure.
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The Prelude - Summary

Written by William Wordsworth in 1799

  • Autobiographical, first-person account of experiences in Wordsworth’s own life


  • In this extract, Wordsworth describes a Summer’s evening taking a boat out across a lake.
  • At first, nature appears wondrous and enchanting. But when the speaker sees a large peak emerge, the speaker is frightened and turns back.
  • The experience haunts the speaker for years to come.

Key Ideas-

  • Wordsworth explores the power of nature, presenting it as untameable and awe-inspiring.
    • Mankind’s inability to understand nature is also explored.
  • The reader also gets the sense that Wordsworth is trying to comprehend his own place in the universe
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The Prelude - Summary 2


  • Romantic poet.
  • He was interested in themes such as:
    • youth,
    • imagination
    • nature
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The Prelude - Form + Structure

Dramatic monologue-

  • The poem is written in the form of a dramatic monologue (form of poetry where an imagined speaker addresses a silent audience).
  • It reveals the inner thoughts and feelings of the speaker as he describes a significant event from his childhood and how it shaped him

Three-part structure-

  • The poem is split into three main parts:
    • Describing taking the boat out and the speaker’s positive reaction to nature.
    • The turning point, when the speaker sees the peak and turns around.
    • The poet’s reflections on how the experience changed him.
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The Prelude - Rhyme + Rhythm

  • Wordsworth creates a speech-like rhythm to stress that this is the speaker's real life experience.
    • He sometimes breaks the rhythm to show the effect nature has on the speaker.

Speech-like rhythm (through use of):

  • Blank verse (non-rhyming).
  • Iambic pentameter.
  • Enjambment (when sentences flow over lines)
  • Caesura 
    • The use of iambic pentameter also gives the poem a sense of seriousness. It indicates how significant this was in the speaker’s life.

Rhythm breaks:

  • The poet breaks iambic pentameter in some places.
    • E.g. “The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge”.
  • This could show how overwhelming the experience was and how nature’s power cannot be tamed.
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The Prelude - Personification of Nature

Wordsworth personifies nature as kind and gentle:

  • “one summer evening (led by her)”
    • Although nature is powerful, indicated by the verb “led”, it is also benevolent and gentle.
  • “I unloosed her chain, and stepping in / Pushed from the shore”
    • This reinforces the idea that nature is kind and gentle.
    • The enjambment (sentence flowing over a line) could reflect the sense of freedom felt by the poet as he takes off across the lake in the boat

Wordsworth explores the power of nature, presenting it as untameable and awe-inspiring:

  • "For so it seemed, with purpose of its own / And measured motion like a living thing, / Strode after me."
    • The personification here suggests the mountain is powerful.
    • The alliteration of “measured motion” highlights the mountain’s control.
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The Prelude - Personification of Nature 2

“The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge, / As if with voluntary power instinct, / Upreared its head.”

  • This is different from earlier on in the poem, where nature was characterised as benevolent (all loving).
  • Nature is now personified and characterised as something menacing and frightening.
  • “Black” is associated with ideas of power and death.
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The Prelude -Imagery

  • There are contrasting images of beauty and darkness to show the two sides of nature

Beauty of nature-

  • The poet creates positive images of beauty at the start of the poem. This presents nature as awe-inspiring and magical:
    • “Small circles glittering idly in the moon, / Until they melted all into one track / Of sparkling light”.

Haunting effect of nature-

  • “There hung a darkness”.
    • This dark imagery highlights the haunting effect of the experience on the speaker.
    • The verb “hung” indicates that the narrator was unable to get rid of these disturbing thoughts and feelings.
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The Prelude - Themes

Fear and Foreboding-

  • "I struck and struck again".
    • Violent language is introduced into the poem for the first-time, signifying man’s battle with nature.
  • The repetition of “I struck and struck again” highlights the speaker’s panic and fear.
    • The poem ends on a highly negative note. The repetition of “no” highlights how nature, in the eyes of the speaker, has lost all its former beauty and glory.
    • Instead, it has become a source of pain
  • There is a sense of foreboding early in the poem, indicated by contrasting words, “troubled pleasure”
    • This could also suggest that the narrator feels some sort of guilt.
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The Prelude - Contrast: Confidence + Uncertainty

  • contrast between the speaker’s confidence and contentedness at the start of the poem as he rows out onto the lake, and his fear and disorientation at the end of the poem after being confronted by the mountain
  • There are hints of confidence, even arrogance, in the first section of the poem.
    • E.g. “proud of his skill”
    • At this stage, the speaker implies his younger self was in control in the face of nature
  • At the end of the extract, the language used by the narrator to describe the effect of the experience is vague.
    • E.g. “….and were a trouble to my dreams.”
    • This highlights how the narrator is confused and unsettled by the experience
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The Prelude - Key Comparisons

Power of Nature-

  • Storm on the Island.
  • Exposure.
  • Ozymandias.

Powerful, unpleasant and significant experiences-

  • Storm on the Island.
  • Exposure.
  • London.
  • Kamikaze.
  • Remains.
  • War Photographer.
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WOW! These have been so helpful in my revision! i wouldn't know what I'd have done without them. Thank you so much xmillie-dx!



@13pattenp No problemio ! 

Cool amber


Im currently doing the poem ozymandias and this has helped me so much



Helped me to understand the poems better

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