“Death the Leveller” is a wonderful poem by James Shirely. This poem tells us that mortality is a power that haunts any human being. It’s what helps readers care of their brief life on Earth. Death levels everyone in this world. He’s treating us the same. Death is still going to hover over us. The theme of this poem is that death is a fact that everybody can face in their lives. This poem lets the reader embrace this fact without any defence.

In the opening lines of the first stanza , the poet tells us of the futility of the glory of war and victory. The kings and the peasants are reduced to ashes. Death is indeed imminent for all, and it always serves as a great leveller. The glory, our birth and our state are just like shadows, not substantial, not concrete. They’re not going to last long. We can not avoid the cold hand of death. He would not deem someone to be a high birth or a low birth. And we must be gracious enough to acknowledge the truth of life.

Some men fight bravely and capture lands, destroy people and become triumphant. But sooner or later, all their strength is lost. By the end of the day, they became prisoners of death. The successes and glories of one’s life can linger only until the moment of death. The honour and pride of men winds up in the cemetery. Any earthly success has been short-lived. People can only remember our good deeds and our acts. These good deeds and acts are like roses. Thus, the author implicitly encourages the reader to do virtuous deeds. All that do good things are going to have a nice smell. Positive deeds are blossoming in the ashes.

The poem has used fine imagery. There are figures of speech like personification as in “Death lays his icy hands on kings”, and metonymy is used in “scepter and crown” and ‘seythe and spade’. Oxymoron is used in ‘victor-victim bleeds’ and metaphor is used in the line, ‘glories are shadows’ and actions of the just to flowers. The poem employs a beautiful rhyme scheme ababccdd.

Thus all the images and devices used by the poet provide a lot of clarity for the readers to realize the message of the poem. It is applicable to everybody to lead a good life doing good deeds. In my opinion, the poet has succeeded in making the point, “Death is the Leveller”.

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