Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. III. Sorrow and Consolation
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume III. Sorrow and Consolation.  1904.
 
V. Death and Bereavement
Death the Leveller
James Shirley (1596–1666)
 
   [These verses are said to have “chilled the heart” of Oliver Cromwell.]

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        5
      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;        10
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,        15
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:        20
      Your heads must come
      To the cold tomb;
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet, and blossom in their dust.
 
 
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