James Shirley

(September 1596 – October 1666 / London, England)

Death's Subtle Ways


Victorious men of earth, no more
Proclaim how wide your empires are;
Though you bind in every shore
And your triumphs reach as far
As night or day,
Yet you, proud monarchs, must obey
And mingle with forgotten ashes when
Death calls ye to the crowd of common men.

Devouring Famine, Plague, and War,
Each able to undu mankind,
Death's servile emissaries are;
Nor to these alone confined,
He hath at will
More quaint and subtle ways to kill;
A smile or kiss, as he will use the art,
Shall have the cunning skill to break a heart.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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