The Glories of Our Blood and State

By James Shirley 1596–1666 James Shirley
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.

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Poet James Shirley 1596–1666

POET’S REGION England

Subjects Living, Time & Brevity, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Biography

James Shirley dominated the last generation of English Renaissance drama with an industrious fluency unapproached by any other playwright during the reign of Charles I. Others, notably John Ford, wrote plays of greater power and more enduring interest; Shirley’s taste was too sure to attempt anything as memorable or extreme as ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. His instinct for experiment and innovation was slight, and the general ethos . . .

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Poems by James Shirley

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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