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Death The Leveller Appreciation | Appreciation Of The Poem 'Death The Leveller'


Death The Leveller Appreciation

Death The Leveller Appreciation | Appreciation Of The Poem 'Death The Leveller'

James Shirley had done a very effective evaluation of human nature in his poem "Death and the Leveller". The idea he pointed out is that death levels the high and low and there is no escape from death The greatness of our family and position are like our shadows. They don't last but perish quickly.

There are no Weapons to fight against the fate of life. Death holds its cold icy hands upon kings; their royal baton and the crown will shake and fall. The kings and the farmers who use the poor scythe and spade will turn equally to dust.

Some men who hold the sword may hope to harvest in the field where they use their sword to kill. They gain honours and praises in the same place but their strong courage also must surrender.

They may teach the skills to each other but later they submit to fate. And they must give up their last breath as prisoners of death.

The honouring decoration on the dead body will dry off and nobody boasts about their great work. On the purple alter death; both the victor and the victim had their blood. You attend carefully to the silent tomb.

There in those dusty graves, only the actions of the righteous give out the sweet smells and the blooming flowers. The poem has been arranged according to the perfect rhyming scheme and it.

Could be smoothly read and heard. There are couplets in the poem and figures of speech such as personifications. Metonymy and oxymoron.

The message of the poem is that deeds speak louder than words. Good deeds will be remembered forever.

The poem is absolutely suitable for the modern era where we hate and kill our neighbor for a small benefit. We never bother that we will also die soon. This poem might give the readers a thought for a change from wherever they are to do some good deeds.

Appreciation of the poem – DEATH THE LEVELLER

“Death the Leveller” is a powerful poem by James Shirley. The poem teaches us a good lesson. It says that death is a great leveller. It says that our earthly glories are mere shadows.

There is no shield against Fate. Death comes to all. The high and the low, the mighty and the meek, the rich and the poor are all equal before death. Therefore, it is useless to boast of the glories of one’s birth, caste, religion, and position.

The poet says that ‘there is no armour against fate’ because death comes to everyone. No one can resist it. 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 only thing which remains after death is just and noble deeds. So, man is remembered for his good actions. Therefore, we should always be right in our actions. Our just actions are the only substantial things that give us a place in the memory of people.

The poem uses fine imagery. There are figures of speech like personification as in “Death lays his icy hands on kings”, and metonymy is used in “sceptre and crown” and ‘scythe and spade’.

Oxymoron is used in ‘victor- victim bleeds’ and metaphor in the line, ‘glories are shadows’ and actions of the just to flowers. The poem is structured in three stanzas that consist of eight lines each. The poem employs a beautiful rhyme scheme ababccdd. The rhyme scheme of the poem is consistent throughout the poem.

Death The Leveller Appreciation Questions And Answers PDF

The activity I (Read and respond)

Why does the poet think that the glories of our blood and state are shadows?

The poet thinks that the glories of our blood and state are shadows because they are not substantial or concrete things. They don’t last. Death comes to everyone regardless of the glories of their blood and state.

What do 'sceptre and crown', and 'scythe and spade' stand for and what do they symbolize?

A crown is what a king wears on his head, and a sceptre is a staff of authority that a king holds in his hand. Scythe and spade stand for the tools of poor people. Sceptre and crown symbolize kings whereas scythe and spade symbolize ordinary people.

Why does the poet say that 'there is no armour against fate'?

The poet says that ‘there is no armour against fate’ because death comes to everyone. No one can resist it. No armour will protect you against death.

'Some men with swords may reap the field'. What does this mean?

It means great warriors with their mighty weapons might attack other lands and occupy them.

What is the fate of the men with swords who hope to reap the field?

They yield to death as others do. They cannot avoid death. They also die. They will surrender before death one day.

What does 'Death's purple altar' refer to?

The altar of the death is purple in colour. The altar is stained with blood. Also purple is used to describe clotted blood. We all become captives in the hands of death and creep to the altar. The line refers to the fact that no one can escape Death. Every person has to meet death there. They will bleed on the purple altar of death.

What does the phrase 'victor-victim' mean?

It means even the great warriors who defeated others and the defeated all eventually die.

What can survive death? What are the things that blossom in the dust? Why?

Only just and good actions will survive after death. The good actions blossom in the dust. They will be like sweet-smelling flowers.

Why Death is called the Leveller?

Death is certain and everyone has to die one day. The high and the low, the mighty and the meek, the rich and the poor are all equal before death. It is impartial and powerful as stated in the poem. It makes all people equal.

Activity II (Read and reflect)

Elaborate the ideas in the following lines:

Only the actions of the just Smell sweet and blossom in the dust.

Only just and good actions will survive after death. They will be remembered even after death. The good actions blossom in the dust. They will be like sweet-smelling flowers. They always remain immortal.

The glories of our blood and state Are shadows, not substantial things; There is no armour against Fate;

The poet thinks that the glories of our blood and state Are shadows because they are not substantial or concrete things. They don’t last. Death comes to everyone regardless of the glories of their blood and state.

The poet says that ‘there is no armour against fate’ because death comes to everyone. No one can resist it. No armour will protect you against death.

The following words are taken from the poem. Parse them with the help of a dictionary.

Armour: noun

But: conjunction

Murmuring: adjective

Boast: verb

Where: adverb

Cold: adjective

Bleeds: verb

Wither: verb

Tame: verb

Stoop: verb

Crumble: verb

Reap: verb

Sweet: adjective

Noun - A noun is a word that represents a person, place, or thing.

Examples: "lion," "cake," "computer"

Adjective - Adjectives are words that describe nouns. Example: A wooden boat.

Verb - a word used to describe an action. Example: Mary bought a ticket.

Adverb- An adverb is a word that can modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

Example: She swims quickly.

Activity III (Analysis)

Examine the rhyme scheme of the poem. What effect does it produce?

The rhyme scheme of the poem is ababccdd. It gives the poem a highly musical quality. It is consistent throughout the poem.

Couplet: A couplet consists of two lines of poetry that rhyme with each other and are of the same length. e.g. 'Sceptre and crown must tumble down,’

“Early or late, They stoop to fate”

“murmuring breath creep to death”

“actions of the just blossom on their dust”

Identify the figure of speech in 'Death Lays its icy hand on Kings:'

– Personification

Pick out examples of metaphor, metonymy and oxymoron in the poem. Discuss the poetic effect of these figures of speech.


Glories are shadows. It shows the insubstantial nature of glory.

Actions of the just smell sweet: The actions of the just are flowers.


Sceptre and crown mean kings, rulers or people with high authority.

Scythe and spade = ordinary people Oxymoron:

Victor-victim bleeds. Normally it is only the victims that bleed. Activity IV (Appreciation)

Men are mortal. Triumph and failures are a part and parcel of life. However, we have to think of the consequences of our actions before we do something. The effect of our mistaken deeds cannot often be rectified.


........................ Think and add your views.

Life is a mixture of happiness and sorrow. It is like a coin. Pleasure and pain are the two sides. Only one side is visible at a time. The other side is waiting for its turn. There are ups and downs in everybody’s life. We should not be overjoyed with our victory. In the same way, we must not feel too disappointed in

our failures. We have opportunities to do good and bad. If we do good things, future generations will remember us as good people. But if we do bad things, people will curse us even after our death. Being and doing good is the best choice. If you experience bad things by doing good, no worries. Keep doing good and being kind.

Also read: Essay on poem The Road Not taken

Also read: A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever poem

Also read: Poem on Gallantry Award Winner Veer Gatha Project Poem



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