Blood and State

For various reasons, I have been reading this poem a lot recently (click here for a version with correct spacing). For more on James Shirley, click here.

James Shirley: The Glories of our Blood and State

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.

4 thoughts on “Blood and State

  1. 16th and 17th century, my absolute favourites in English Lit. Thanks for posting this. A common theme of the time but still valid in our 21st!

  2. Oh, it’s a magnificent period. I’ll be (futilely) applying for a position to teach that kind of stuff in autumn. One of many doomed attempts to find someone to let me teach 😀

    • Teach where? University, school? Will the PhD be finished by then?

      Those who can do, those who can’t teach. 🙂

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