Death the Leveller by James Shirley

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”, ( 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.

About kevinmorris101

I live and work in London and blog as a hobby. If you would like to contact me please send an email to animalia at (the address is rendered in this manner in order to try and defeat spammers)!
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