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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

James Shirley (1596–1666)

Death the Leveler

THE GLORIES of our blood and state

Are shadows, not substantial things;

There is no armor 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.