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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Elizabethan Verse. 1907.

Death’s Emissaries

James Shirley (1596–1666)

VICTORIOUS men of earth, no more

Proclaim how wide your empires are;

Though you bind on 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 undo 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.