What are your feelings after reading the poem "Death the Leveller", and why? 

What are your feelings after reading the poem "Death the Leveller", and why?


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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Feelings experienced after reading the poem "Death the Leveller" by James Shirley include:

1. Resignation

2. Sorrow

3. Regret


Regarding Resignation, I have these feelings because I accept the fact that death awaits us all no matter our battles and confrontations in life. We as individuals and as nations, can fight with our real and perceived foes, but in the end, the victor and the vanquished all end up in the grave. It makes one wonder if it is at all worthwhile to engage in conflicts that only bring ruin and harm to humanity. Is all this war, fighting, and conflict worth it in the end? I believe not and I believe what the opening two lines of this poem say, as follows:

“The glories of our blood and state

Are shadows, not substantial things;”


Regarding Sorrow, I have these feelings because I can see and understand how conflict has taken the lives of so many individuals through the centuries and primarily the young men and women of nations – in the prime producing and creative years of their lives. These men and women sacrificed their lives for their respective nations, died young, and never reaped the benefits of living into old age with families of their own to grow old with.

War is a waste of human lives as well as resources. War ruins the beauty of our physical environment. In addition, as is alluded to in the above quoted passage, glorying in wars and battles is not what is important – they are fleeting events -  they are not substantial and they produce no lasting peace or a Utopian society.


Regarding Regret, I have these feelings because at times I have gloried in victories that certain nations have had over diverse adversaries, without really knowing the whole story concerning some conflicts. Upon further study, I have come to realize that each side was fighting for what they believed was right. Each side, and again, mainly these young men and women, were fighting for a cause they believed in, no matter what side they were on.

In addition, these combatants were following orders of their superiors who they no doubt trusted (at least most of the time); they felt it was their duty to country to carry out the actions they were doing. I regret that I have looked down on brave men and women of opposing nations who may have gone to war without really knowing why – but did it because they felt they were duty-bound to serve their fellow citizens.

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