I was reminded of James Shirley’s poem, “death the Leveller” by a comment from a reader regarding my post, of 25 May 2011 concerning the poem “On the Tombs in Westminster Abbey”, (http://kevin-morris.co.uk/2011/05/25/on-the-tombs-in-westminster-abbey-by-francis-beaumont/). As pointed out by my reader, both poems share simalarities. In “On the Tombs in Westminster Abbey” and in “Death the Leveller” we are reminded that death is no respector of rank, however powerful one is in the material world all are reduced to the same dust by death, the great leveller. Nothing is permanent, all will pass away and all will become equal in the grave.
Death the Leveller by James Shirley
The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and Crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.
Some men with swords may reap the field,
And plant fresh laurels where they kill:
But their strong nerves at last must yield;
They tame but one another still:
Early or late
They stoop to fate,
And must give up their murmuring breath
When they, pale captives, creep to death.
The garlands wither on your brow;
Then boast no more your mighty deeds!
Upon Death’s purple altar now
See where the victor victim bleeds.
Your heads must come
To the cold tomb:
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.