Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Death the Leveller

                             Death the Leveller

 Death the Leveller

[The idea conveyed by the poet in this poem is that death is a great leveller and it does not have any prejudice for or against a king or a pauper, the mighty or the weak, the rich or the poor. All bow before Death’s power. Everyone has to yield and submit before the might of Death. Hence man should not be proud of his great deeds.]
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. -James Shirley
[James Shirley was born in 1596 in London. Educated at Oxford and Cambridge, he worked as a schoolmaster most of his life. His reputation as a writer rests largely on his plays. He wrote about forty plays including tragedies, romantic comedies and comedies of manners. His famous songs and lyrics are found in his plays.]


blood – birth, parentage

sceptre – rod or staff carried by a ruler as a sign of power or authority.

laurels –emblem of the conqueror, symbols of victory

captives – prisoners

victoc -  victim – the conqueror as well as the vanquished.