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Death The Leveller

Wandlebury Wander Sunday am XIV (Woodland Thicket) (1 of 1)

I’ve just been looking through my old sketch books from when I was 15 and came across James Shirley’s poem. I’d like to share it with you for no other reason that it had such an effect on me then as such it has now, never did it seem more pertinent, or prescient in my mind:

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.