Calchas' Hymn at the Funeral of Ajax


The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses

by 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.

Garnett, Richard and Edmund Gosse, Eds.
English Literature, An Illustrated Record. Vol 2, Part 2.
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1904.  362.


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