Death The Leveller

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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 crookèd 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