The Quote Garden ™
I dig old books. ™
Quotations about Death
O, beautiful upon the grave,
The starlight and the moonbeams lie!
With such sweet watchers o'er our sleep,
Why should we ever fear to die?
~Mary Ann H. Dodd Shutts (1813–1878), "The Broken-Hearted"
Some people say Death's heart is as dead and black as a piece of coal, but that is not true. Beneath his inky cloak, Death's heart is as red as the most beautiful sunset and beats with a great love of life. ~Glenn Ringtved, Cry, Heart, But Never Break, 2001, translated from the Danish by Robert Moulthrop, 2016 [Danish title: Græd blot hjerte –tg]
When some men die it is as if you had lost your pen-knife, and were subject to perpetual inconvenience until you could get another. Other men's going is like the vanishing of a great mountain from the landscape, and the outlook of life is changed forever. ~Phillips Brooks
God pours life into death and death into life without a drop being spilled. ~Author unknown
All say, "How hard it is that we have to die" — a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live. ~Mark Twain
To think of death, to hold ideas or views or beliefs about it, is simply to hold views, ideas, or beliefs about life. The first great idea, perhaps, that we want to hold deeply is that death is not the end of life but simply an event in life. ~Lilian Whiting (1847–1942), "The Unseen World: The Incident of Death," The World Beautiful: Second Series, 1896
How plain that death is only the phenomenon of the individual or class! Nature does not recognize it; she finds her own again under new forms without loss. Yet death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident. It is as common as life... Every blade in the field, every leaf in the forest, lays down its life in its season, as beautifully as it was taken up. It is the pastime of a full quarter of the year. Dead trees, sere leaves, dried grass and herbs — are not these a good part of our life? And what is that pride of our autumnal scenery but the hectic flush, the sallow and cadaverous countenance of vegetation? its painted throes, with the November air for canvas?
When we look over the fields we are not saddened because these particular flowers or grasses will wither; for the law of their death is the law of new life.
Will not the land be in good heart because the crops die down from year to year? The herbage cheerfully consents to bloom, and wither, and give place to a new. So it is with the human plant. We are partial and selfish when we lament the death of the individual, unless our plaint be a pæan to the departed soul, and a sigh, as the wind sighs over the fields, which no shrub interprets into its private grief.
One might as well go into mourning for every sere leaf; but the more innocent and wiser soul will snuff a fragrance in the gale of autumn, and congratulate Nature upon her health. ~Henry David Thoreau, letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1842
After all, what is every man?... a horde of ghosts — like a Chinese nest of boxes — oaks that were acorns that were oaks. Death lies behind us, not in front — in our ancestors... ~Walter de la Mare, The Return, 1910
Death is never a clean break — some stardust always remains. ~Terri Guillemets
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. ~Author unknown
One doth but break-fast here, another dine; he that lives longest does suppe: We must all goe to bed in another World. ~Joseph Henshaw, Horæ Subcessivæ, 2nd edition, 1631
Our Life is like a winter's day;
Some only breakfast, and away;
Others to dinner stay, and are full fed;
The oldest man but sups, and goes to bed...
~Francis Quarles, "On the Life of Man," Divine Fancies, 8th edition, 1687
If you spend all your time worrying about dying, living isn't going to be much fun. ~From the television show Roseanne
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
~Emily Dickinson, c.1863
Emily Dickinson is an empurpled laureate of death. She sees it as an accolade of dignity and democracy — as general as the air, as the rain and the snow. ~Clement Wood, "Emily Dickinson: The Shrinking Seer," Poets of America, 1925
...I am the final goal of every race;
I am the storm-tossed spirit's resting place:
The messenger of sure and swift relief,
Welcomed with wailings and reproachful grief;
The friend of those that have no friend but me,
I break all chains, and set all captives free.
I am the cloud that, when Earth's day is done,
An instant veils an unextinguished sun;
I am the brooding hush that follows strife,
The waking from a dream that Man calls—Life!
~Florence Earle Coates, "Death," in Current Literature, 1889
To man only does anything pass away. To the creating mind and to such as can approach sufficiently near it, is one eternal present. Outward forms addressed to our organs pass away... ~Henry James Slack (1818–1896), The Ministry of the Beautiful, "Conversation I: The Cavern," 1850 [Lyulph speaking —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
Young, loving, and beloved! oh cruel Death!
Couldst thou not spare the treasure for a while?
~Mary Ann H. Dodd Shutts (1813–1878), "The Mourner"
Life, I'm afraid, is such a delicate state. ~The Haunted Mansion (film), 2003, written by David Berenbaum [Ramsley –tg]
We spend all our lives building wings of faith so that we can fearlessly fly off into another world. ~Terri Guillemets
"I will go at once, Father. But you should not be discouraged; one does not die of a cold."
The old man smiled. "I shall not die of a cold, my son. I shall die of having lived."
~Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop, 1931
A man does not die of love or his liver or even of old age; he dies of being a man. ~Percival Arland Ussher (1899-1980), "Alphabet of Aphorism," 1952
Dying ain't pretty. Death is beautiful. ~Terri Guillemets
A death's head on your hand you neede not weare,
A dying head you on your shoulders beare.
You neede not one to mind you, you must dye,
You in your name may spell mortalitye.
Younge men may dye, but old men, these dye must,
'Twill not be long before you turne to dust...
~Anonymous, 1645, letter to Thomas Dudley [Other wordings: "Young men may die, but old men must die." (English proverb, quoted 1629 in Remaines Concerning Brittaine, fourth impression: "Certaine Prouerbes, Poems or Poesies, Epigrams, Rythmes, and Epitaphs of the English Nation in former Times, and some of this present Age." This proverb is not in the first edition of Camden's work, 1605, nor the second, 1614; I do not know whether it is in the third, 1623, but it is in the fourth, 1629.) And later, "The young may die, but the old must die," and "The young may, the old must die." (Richard Illidge, c.1698) —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
It is a fact that a man's dying is more the survivors' affair than his own. ~Thomas Mann, "A Soldier, and Brave," The Magic Mountain, 1924, translated from the German by H. T. Lowe-Porter, 1927
All things are one thing to the earth...
there are so many little dyings that it doesn't matter which of them is death.
~Kenneth Patchen, "And What with the Blunders," c.1939
...when death reaches out his sparkling hands...
~Kenneth Patchen, "And What with the Blunders," c.1939
Death is not warden of life, not thief, nor enemy — but Life's most equal partner. ~Terri Guillemets
And I, I too, shall pass… oh, strange,
Strange thought to me whom youth makes strong,
Strange thought when blood is red and warm
That death shall still my laughter, song...
But evening comes, or it may be
Before the night some fatal thing
Cuts down this body, vibrant now,
In which a thousand high dreams sing...
~George Elliston, "Time, The Conqueror," Cinderella Cargoes, 1929
buried with love and starshine—
a grave ever glowing with memories
It is the greatest wisdom, in time of health and strength, to prepare for sickness and death: he that really doth so, his business of dying is half done. ~Richard Illidge (1636–1709)
As o'er the stormy sea of human Life
We sail, until our anchor'd spirits rest
In the far haven of Eternity,...
~Robert Montgomery, "A Universal Prayer," A Universal Prayer; Death; A Vision of Heaven; and A Vision of Hell; &c. &c., 1829
He wasn't just dying, of course. He was living and dying and being reborn all at the same time... ~Frances Fineman Gunther (1897–1964)
The idea of immortality, that like a sea has ebbed and flowed in the human heart, with its countless waves of hope and fear, beating against the shores and rocks of time and fate, was not born of any book, nor of any creed, nor of any religion. It was born of human affection, and it will continue to ebb and flow beneath the mists and clouds of doubt and darkness as long as love kisses the lips of death. It is the rainbow — Hope, shining upon the tears of grief. ~Robert G. Ingersoll, "The Ghosts"
Don't be feared of them pearly gates...
Go straight on to de Big House,
An' speak to yo' God...
~Sterling A. Brown (1901–1989), "Sister Lou," Southern Road, 1932
[I]s there anyone so foolish, even though he is young, as to feel absolutely sure that he will be alive when evening comes? ~Cicero
Death is a delightful hiding place for weary men. ~Herodotus
The first breath is the beginning of death. ~Proverb
We all feed from Mother Nature's breast until weaned by Death. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897
After a man's long work is over and the sound of his voice is still, those in whose regard he has held a high place find his image strangely simplified and summarized. The hand of death, in passing over it, has smoothed the folds. The figure retained by the memory is compressed and intensified; it stands sharply, rather than nebulously. We cut the silhouette out of the confusion of life, we save and fix the outline in profiled distinction. ~Henry James, "James Russell Lowell," in The Atlantic Monthly, January 1892 [a little altered —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
The light of her earthly existence is now extinguished forever. ~Elizabeth J. Eames, "An Autumn Reverie," October 1840
From my rotting body, flowers shall grow, and I shall be in them. ~Edvard Munch
When we fear death, we are letting him wrap his bony hands around our necks during the best times of our lives, choking us with imaginary threats and preventing us from breathing the pure air of now. ~Terri Guillemets
[T]he Lord graciously released her from the body of clay, and admitted her happy, triumphant spirit to be for ever with himself, according to his gracious promise. ~Joseph Cole, of Hannah Ball, Anno 1796
Always someone gets shot or pierced through the heart with an arrow, and just before he dies he says, I am not going to make it. Where? Not going to make it where? On some level, maybe, the phrase simply means not going to make it into the next day, hour, minute, or perhaps the next second. Occasionally, you can imagine, it means he is not going to make it to Carson City or Texas or somewhere else out west or to Mexico if he is on the run. On another level always implicit is the sense that it means he is not going to make it to his own death. Perhaps in the back of all our minds is the life expectancy for our generation. Perhaps this expectation lingers there alongside the hours of sleep one should get or the number of times one is meant to chew food... ~Claudia Rankine, Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, 2004
The death of someone we know always reminds us that we are still alive — perhaps for some purpose which we ought to re-examine. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1963
We grow almost acclimatized to the next world by the number of our acquaintances who die before us. ~Charles Searle, Look Here!, 1885
We never bury the dead, son. We take them with us. It's the price of living. ~Mark Goffman and Jose Molina, Sleepy Hollow, "The Golem" (season 1, episode 10), original airdate 2013 December 9th, spoken by the character Henry Parrish
Beautiful Death! Sweet transition! — a wild violet growing on my own grave. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), My Little Book of Life, 1912
I pray that the clean trees will accept me
And the clean earth cover me;
That the flowers will accept me in beauty
And the birds in rhythm.
I pray that God will smile upon me
When I come to Him
Purged of error and washed of the stain of life.
~Muriel Strode (1875–1964)
I don't believe it's possible to live the lives we came here to live while being perpetually braced to die. ~Sylvia Browne, End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies about the End of the World, 2008
For Death, with his envenomed sting,
Has laid thee low.
~Henry Heavisides (1791–1870), "To a Linnet"
Death is a debt I owe, and must pay ere long, whenever the great God demands it. ~Richard Illidge (1636–1709), November 1st 1699
In tears alone must my full heart have vent,
And in no language but in sighs lament?
And these my only tribute to thy shade,
And shall thy virtues with thy dust be laid?...
~Ophelia, "To the Memory of a deceased Friend," The Gentleman's Magazine, June 1751
[M]y prayer is that many of the poems in this book may help to bring joy and peace and understanding to those souls who may be grieving for loved ones whom they call "dead" but who, in reality, are still living in a real world of beauty, being able to manifest to their dear ones of earth when the door is opened for them to come in. ~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "Preface," Poems at Random, 1948 [Buckingham received from Spirit the gift of poetic talent at about age sixty, a few months after the death of her daughter Doris to whom the book is dedicated. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
'Tis done:—the soul hath left its soft abode;
How pale the cheek where warmth and beauty glow'd!...
Say, does thy soul with dazzling glories bright,
Exult and 'spatiate in the fields of light?...
Such sweetness lost demands a parting tear...
The gen'rous wish, the feeling soul was thine.
Lamented stroke! O lost so late, so soon!
'Twas Heav'n bestow'd, and Heav'n recall'd the boon...
We saw but late thy op'ning roses glow,
Like fruit that blushes on the bending bough;
But late th' unfolding blossoms breath'd perfume,
Till Death stept in, and lopt them in the bloom...
Life soon expires; and tho' 'tis fancy'd long,
Youth dies a child, and age itself is young:
Pass but one cloudy scene,—'tis quickly done,
We leave the earth, behold the rising sun,
Mount o'er the skies, love, triumph, and adore,
Where Grief shall blast, and Death shall sting no more.
~John Ogilvie, "To the memory of Mrs S—," 1754
When it comes, you'll be dreaming
that you don't need to breathe;
that breathless silence is
the music of the dark
and it's part of the rhythm
to vanish like a spark.
Only a death like that. A rose
could prick you harder, I suppose;
you'd feel more terror at the sound
of petals falling to the ground.
~Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), "I'm Working on the World," Calling Out to Yeti (1957), translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh
life blooms right through death
and they beautify each other
It is high time that dying was restored to a measure of conversational respectability. Of late years there has been a rather hush-hush attitude toward it, as if it were not only top secret (as indeed in a sense it is) but unmentionable in a polite society which long since... has ceased to be polite. Why is it that so absorbing, not to say vital, a subject has been thus banned? Can it be that by refusing to admit its reality we hope to think it out of existence? ~Cid Ricketts Sumner, "Hush-hush!," A View from the Hill, 1957
It is Death that makes the sun so red,
The moon so round:
It is Death that makes the blue and yellow
Spring from the ground,
To catch our senses and confound.
~Mary Carolyn Davies, "Artist Death," Youth Riding, 1919
And then as when we rise from Sleep we put on our Clothes, so when we rise from Death we shall be cloath'd with Immortality. Thus you see that Death and Sleep are Brothers. How is it then that we love the one, and dread the other? How can we go to Bed and not remember we must go to our Graves? ~John Thomas, Sermon III on the Death of the Rev. Philip Egerton, 1726
Death and Sleepe have both one mother,
Sleepe makes Death a younger brother:
So like they are, you scarce know him, from him,
Save of the two, Death some what is more grim.
~Witts New Dyall: or, A Schollers Prize, 1604
The saddest three words in the English language: "Rest in peace." ~Pelican, 1939
I think when loved ones die, we absorb something from them that makes us who we are so we can continue on. ~Reginald VelJohnson
Man is a self-survivor ev'ry year.
Man, like a stream, is in perpetual flow.
Death's a destroyer of quotidian prey:
My youth, my noontide his! my yesterday;
The bold invader shares the present hour.
Each moment on the former shuts the grave,
While man is growing, life is in decrease,
And cradles rock us nearer to the tomb.
Our birth is nothing but our death begun,
As tapers waste that instant they take fire.
~Edward Young (1683–1765)
So, too, there are moments of midnight waking, when we lie on our bed as in a grave, and feel the awful thought of death borne in upon us with unutterable, intolerable horror. Then the darkness which shuts out those objects that in the day-time distract the attention of our outward eye, and of our mind, serves only to make our mental vision doubly keen, and to concentrate all our faculties, as to one inward focal point of light, on that hateful thought. Then do we seem to feel the earth rushing swiftly on its way, as if eager to hurry us to our own dissolution; and then do we stretch forth impotent hands and vain, striving hopelessly to stay it on its course. Yet ever is our striving of none avail: Death, hideous and inexorable, stares us in the face — a wall of vast and impenetrable night, which closes in upon us on every side. We gasp and choke as though some bony and cruel fingers lay clutching at our throat. "Is there no way," we cry, with heart strained unto bursting, "is there no way by which we may escape the Inescapable? — no loop-hole through which we may creep, and elude this black and grisly thing?" But from the hollow womb of night comes back the sullen answer, "Escape there is none," and then, like doomed criminals who snatch greedily at a day's reprieve, we thrust the ghastly thing away from us, and strive to distract our thoughts in folly. ~Coulson Kernahan, A Dead Man's Diary, 1890
O Death! the poor man's dearest friend,
The kindest and the best!
Welcome the hour my aged limbs
Are laid with thee at rest!
~Robert Burns, "Man Was Made To Mourn: A Dirge," 1784
He thought for a long time of how the closed eyes of dead women could still live—how they could open again, in a quiet lamplit room, long after they had looked their last. They had looks that survived—had them as great poets had quoted lines. ~Henry James, "The Altar of the Dead," 1895
Your white hair
on the thin rack
of your shoulders
it is hard to
look into the eyes
of the dying
who carry away
a part of oneself —
a shared world
~John Montague (b.1929), from "Omagh Hospital"
All our enterprises have but a beginning; the house that we build is for our heirs; the morning wrapper that we wad with love to envelop our old age, will be made into swaddling-clothes for our grandchildren. We say to ourselves: "There, the day is ended!" We light our lamp, we stir our fire; we get ready to pass a quiet and peaceful evening at the corner of our hearth; tic, tac, some one knocks at the door. Who is there? It is death; we must start. When we have all the appetites of youth, when our blood is full of iron and alcohol, we are without a cent; when our teeth and stomach are gone, we are millionaires. We have scarcely time to say to a woman: "I love you!" at our second kiss, she is old and decrepit. Empires are no sooner consolidated than they begin to crumble: they resemble those ant-hills which the poor insects build with such great efforts; when it needs but a grain to finish them, an ox crushes them under his broad foot, or a cart under its wheel.... You do not take a step that you do not raise about you the dust of a thousand things destroyed before they were finished. ~Claude Tillier (1801–1844), My Uncle Benjamin: A Humorous, Satirical, and Philosophical Novel, 1843, translated from the French by Benjamin R. Tucker, 1890
Death never came so nigh to me before,
Nor showed me his mild face: oft had I mused
Of calm and peace and deep forgetfulness,
Of folded hands, closed eyes, and heart at rest,
And slumber sound beneath a flowery turf,
Of faults forgotten, and an inner place
Kept sacred for us in the heart of friends;
But these were idle fancies, satisfied
With the mere husk of this great mystery,
And dwelling in the outward shows of things.
Heaven is not mounted to on wings of dreams,
Nor doth the unthankful happiness of youth
Aim thitherward, but floats from bloom to bloom,
With earth's warm patch of sunshine well content:
'Tis sorrow builds the shining ladder up,
Whose golden rounds are our calamities,
Whereon our firm feet planting, nearer God
The spirit climbs, and hath its eyes unsealed.
True is it that Death's face seems stern and cold,
When he is sent to summon those we love,
But all God's angels come to us disguised;
Sorrow and sickness, poverty and death,
One after other lift their frowning masks,
And we behold the seraph's face beneath,
All radiant with the glory and the calm
Of having looked upon the front of God.
With every anguish of our earthly part
The spirit's sight grows clearer...
~James Russell Lowell, "On the Death of a Friend's Child," 1844
Life is the jailer, Death the angel sent
To draw the unwilling bolts and set us free.
~James Russell Lowell, "On the Death of a Friend's Child," 1844
Funny, what a little space lies 'twixt the quick and the dead. So teeny it would take more than a mikerscope to see it, so weeny a cobweb couldn't catch it. ~Cid Ricketts Sumner, Tammy Out of Time, 1958
Death is not poison but merely life's final remedy. ~Terri Guillemets
I condole with you, we have lost a most dear and valuable relation, but it is the will of God and Nature that these mortal bodies be laid aside, when the soul is to enter into real life; ’tis rather an embrio state, a preparation for living; a man is not completely born until he be dead: Why then should we grieve that a new child is born among the immortals?...
We are spirits. That bodies should be lent us, while they can afford us pleasure, assist us in acquiring knowledge, or doing good to our fellow creatures, is a kind and benevolent act of God—when they become unfit for these purposes and afford us pain instead of pleasure—instead of an aid, become an incumbrance and answer none of the intentions for which they were given, it is equally kind and benevolent that a way is provided by which we may get rid of them. Death is that way.
We ourselves prudently choose a partial death. In some cases a mangled painful limb, which cannot be restored, we willingly cut off. He who plucks out a tooth, parts with it freely since the pain goes with it, and he that quits the whole body, parts at once with all pains and possibilities of pains and diseases it was liable to, or capable of making him suffer...
Our friend... was first ready and he is gone before us. We could not all conveniently start together, and why should you and I be grieved at this, since we are soon to follow, and we know where to find him. ~Benjamin Franklin, letter to Elizabeth Hubbart, 1756
And dying — to let go, no longer feel
the solid ground we stand on every day...
~Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926), "The Swan," translated by Stephen Mitchell
Boy, when you're dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody. ~J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, 1951
Philander lives, but on what distant shore?
Philander lives, but lives to me no more....
More than Ophelia lost Philander gain'd,
A friend I lose, that friend has heav'n attain'd....
~Ophelia, "To the Memory of a deceased Friend," The Gentleman's Magazine, June 1751
Coffin.— The cradle in which our second childhood is laid to sleep. ~"Specimens of a Patent Pocket Dictionary, For the use of those who wish to understand the meaning of things as well as words," The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1824
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? ~Khalil Gibran, The Prophet, 1923
Death is just a final breath. ~Terri Guillemets
Ah, still, at least, whate'er the proud world saith,
Even one debased as I may reach the dignity of death!
I think the meanest life can somehow save
A trace of hidden grandeur for its grave...
I, if I went like that, might thrill to see
Eternity between my shame and me!—
~Edgar Fawcett, "At a Window," Songs of Doubt and Dream, 1891
We need more courage to die alone. Everybody wants to die with the regiment. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)
All stories end in death, and he is no true storyteller who would keep that from you. ~Ernest Hemingway, as quoted in A. E. Hotchner, The Good Life According To Hemingway, 2008
But he, sad-eyed and ashy-cheeked,
When slips the pen from grasping,
Sees, as he struggles, gasping,
With fame the far horizon streaked
Behind Death's raven gory-beaked.
~J.J. Britton (1832–1913), "A Bookworm," A Sheaf of Ballads, 1884
It must be that his spirit had been so far gone out into unmarked time everlasting that he had to draw it back with care and tenderness lest it snap away and be gone forever into the kind of time that made eternity. ~Cid Ricketts Sumner, Tammy Out of Time, 1958 [near-death experience—tg]
Let dead men sink into the dusk of things. ~Edwin Markham, "Wail of the Wandering Dead"
Time was when death
Seemed mountain, or myth;
Alien to world;
Green oceans away.
Time was when the end
Seemed a pouring of sand;
And the last fine grain—
That glittered the most.
Time was; time is;
And this morning death says:
Stand there, I am here;
I am all that will be...
~Mark Van Doren, "Time Was When Death," 1957
A firm belief in immortality is the surest anæsthetic for the pains of death. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
Farewell friends! Yet not farewell;
Where I am, ye, too, shall dwell.
I am gone before your face,
A moment's time, a little space.
When ye come where I have stepped
Ye will wonder why ye wept;
Ye will know, by wise love taught,
That here is all, and there is naught.
Weep awhile, if ye are fain—
Sunshine still must follow rain;
Only not at death—for death
Now I know, is that first breath,
Which our souls draw when we enter
Life, which is of all life center.
~Edwin Arnold, "After Death in Arabia," The Light of Asia, or, The Great Renunciation, Being the Life and Teaching of Gautama, Prince of India and Founder of Buddhism (As Told in Verse by an Indian Buddhist), 1880
[W]e all lie down in our bed of earth as sure to wake as ever we can be to shut our eyes. ~Joseph Hall (1574–1656), Bishop of Norwich, The Breathings of the Devout Soul (XXXIV), 1644
If this curiosity was so tenacious, it was because people do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were travelling abroad. ~Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin
Sweeping up the petals
I see your face
all our faces
by life's good
~Alice Walker, from "Word Has Reached Me," Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, 2010
Come now, don't make such a funeral face. It isn't dying that's sad; it's living when you're not happy. ~Octave Mirbeau, "The Garden," The Torture Garden, 1899, translated from the French by Alvah C. Bessie, 1931
Done with the work of breathing; done
With all the world; the mad race run
Through to the end; the golden goal
Attained and found to be a hole!
~Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Word Book, 1906
EMBALM, v. t. To cheat vegetation by locking up the gases upon which it feeds... many a dead man who ought now to be ornamenting his neighbor's lawn as a tree, or enriching his table as a bunch of radishes, is doomed to a long inutility in his modern metallic burial casket... the violet and rose are languishing for a nibble at his glutæus maximus. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Word Book, 1906 [a little altered —tg]
...free from the trammels of clay, time, and space... ~James Gillingham (1838–1924), The Seat of the Soul Discovered or the World's Great Problem Solved, with Objections to the Same Answered, second edition, 1870
If we may assume as an experience admitting of no exception that everything living dies from causes within itself, and returns to the inorganic, we can only say 'The goal of all life is death', and, casting back, 'The inanimate was there before the animate.' ~Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 1922, translated by C.J.M. Hubback
He died that day because his body had served its purpose. His soul had done what it came to do, learned what it came to learn, and then was free to leave. ~Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain, 2008
Edith. Death! I see only fresh-bursting joyous life. I should like to begin the immortal now, before death.
Lyulph. You have done so, you are a dweller in eternity, and have immortality within. From infancy you have had glimpses of the eternal. You have had thoughts, feelings, and aspirations, twining themselves about the everlasting. With the first of such you entered the precincts of the immortal, and the more they increased, the further you advanced into that ever-abiding land.
Edith. I feel that is indeed true. I am, we all are, at once mortal and immortal, inhabitants of time, and dwellers in eternity. ~Henry James Slack (1818–1896), The Ministry of the Beautiful, "Conversation I: The Cavern," 1850 [a little altered —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
I sing of Death; yet soon, perchance may be
A dweller in the tomb. But twenty years
Have wither'd, since my pilgrimage began,
And I look back upon my boyish days
With mournful joy; as musing wand'rers do,
With eye reverted, from some lofty hill,
Upon the bright and peaceful vale below.—
Oh! let me live, until the fires that feed
My soul, have work'd themselves away, and then,
Eternal Spirit, take me to Thy home!
For when a child, I shaped inspiring dreams,
And nourish'd aspirations that awoke
Beautiful feelings flowing from the face
Of Nature; from a child, I learn'd to reap
A harvest of sweet thoughts for future years.
~Robert Montgomery, "Death," A Universal Prayer; Death; A Vision of Heaven; and A Vision of Hell; &c. &c., 1829
You toss in your bed, thinking over and over of that strange thing — Death: — and that perhaps it may overtake you... and you sob out those prayers (you scarce know why) which ask God to keep life in you. ~Ik Marvel (Donald Grant Mitchell, 1822–1908), Dream Life: A Fable of the Seasons
Whether he still walks the earth or slumbers in its bosom, I know not... ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), "The Sexagenarian," of Monsieur d'Argentville
No one ever really dies as long as they took the time to leave us with fond memories. ~Chris Sorensen
Every word affords me pain. Yet how sweet it would be if I could hear what the flowers have to say about death! ~E.M. Cioran, translated from the French by Richard Howard
Death bumps into life many times as just a passerby — says excuse me then goes on his way. ~Terri Guillemets, "Fortunate misfortunes," 1997
Why fear death; 'tis just as natural
As a tiny baby's birth,
When it's brought from Heaven's portal
To its new home on the earth.
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham (1880–1971), "Why Fear Death?"
Death is a sudden silence — one of those deafening silences that leaves ringing in your ears. ~Terri Guillemets
She died that night. Her last breath took her soul, I saw it in my dream. I saw her soul leave her body as she exhaled, and then she had no more needs, no more reason; she was released from her body, and, being released, she continued her journey elsewhere... ~Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain, 2008
A death-blow is a life-blow to some
Who, till they died, did not alive become;
Who, had they lived, had died, but when
They died, vitality begun.
~Emily Dickinson, 1875
Dii tibi dent annos, de te nam cætera sumes... With the variation of one word only, I will with great truth say it to you. I will make the first part conditional, by changing, in the second, the nam into si. May you live, as long as you are fit to live, but no longer! or, may you rather die before you cease to be fit to live, than after! ~Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, letter to his son, 1749 [translation of the Latin saying: "May the gods prolong your life, for other things you must get from yourself." —tg]
The mind has unceasing fears, but the soul is immortal and consequently indifferent to the concept of death. ~Morris Hyman, M.D. (b.1908), paraphrased
The grapes are round and dark
Like eyes that mark
Each thing I do.
The sun has made them sweet and round;
The wind will pull them to the ground.
— I shall die, too.
~Mary Carolyn Davies, "A Day: V: The Grapes," Youth Riding, 1919
Angels in disguise are flitting about everywhere, but hospice workers are the pure light of angels unmasked. ~Terri Guillemets, "Jane," 2007
And as to you Death, and you bitter hug of mortality, it is idle to try to alarm me....
And as to you corpse, I think you are good manure, but that does not offend me,
I smell the white roses sweet-scented and growing,
I reach to the leafy lips — I reach to the polished breasts of melons.
And as to you life, I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths,
No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before.
~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
When he died, Daddy went to the Wildlands for sure... He rode a tornado to get there. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018
Can't we friends, compare the passing
And the life of this cocoon
To man's lowly, dark existence
'Neath the stars, the sun, the moon
Ere he sheds his shell of matter,
Tries his Spirit wings in flight,
Leaves the house that he has lived in,
And goes forth, where all is bright?
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "The Cocoon" (1940s)
The graveyards are full of people the world could not do without. ~Elbert Hubbard, in The Philistine, 1907
Into the winter's gray delight,
Into the summer's golden dream,
Holy and high and impartial,
Death, the mother of Life,
Mingles all men for ever.
~William Ernest Henley, "XIV: Ave, Caesar!", In Hospital
The last breath is as sacred as the first. ~Terri Guillemets
Who abdicated ambush
And went the way of dusk,
And now, against his subtle name,
There stands an asterisk
As confident of him as we;
Impregnable we are –
The whole of Immortality
Secreted in a star.
~Emily Dickinson, 1882
He himself had still the pale evening red of yesterday's joy on his face; but this very indifference to the gradual extinguishing of his days, this growing feebleness and faintness of tone in his conversation, caused Victor to turn away his eyes from him whenever they had for some time rested upon him. Emanuel looked down calm as an eternal sun on the autumn of his bodily life; nay, the more the sand fell from his life's hourglass, so much the more clearly did he look through the empty glass. And yet the earth was to him a beloved place, a fair meadow for our earliest plays of childhood; and he still hung upon his mother of our first life with the love wherewith the bride spends the evening full of childish remembrances on the bosom of her beloved mother, before on the morrow she goes to meet the bridegroom of her heart. ~Jean Paul Friedrich Richter, Hesperus, or Forty-Five Dog-Post-Days: A Biography, translated from German by Charles T. Brooks, 1865
Death has its own treasure map with different riches than Life. ~Terri Guillemets
There's nothing that death is e'er able to do
But sever the cord that binds body to you...
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "We Do Not Grow Old" (1940s)
If it weren't for death, life would be unbearable. ~Malcolm Muggeridge, 1983
swooping death flies off with its prey
silently but for the rustle of wings —
a feather drifts down from the empty sky
for left-behind hearts to remember by
He had the unmistakable sensation of being wounded so near to death that he felt his soul slide out of him, then slip back. ~Norman Mailer, preface to 1976 reissue of Advertisements for Myself, referring to Ernest Hemingway #NDE
This morn, I hear as the clock strikes three
A lingering chime, while the house is still;
I hear, and I know it is God's decree
That some of my blood obey death's will.
Relentless beat, with swift repeat,
Never late, and ever complete...
The hour is three, the clock out-calls;
The hour is three! screams the chanticleer;
The hour is three, from the death-bell falls,
And it falls to summon my kindred dear.
Relentless beat, with swift repeat,
Never late, and ever complete...
~Sara L. Vickers Oberholtzer, "The Death-Bell," Come for Arbutus, and Other Wild Bloom, 1882
Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die. ~Leo Buscaglia, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages, 1982
Small bird, forgive me.
I'll hear the end of your song
in some other world.
~Anonymous, in More Cricket Songs: Japanese Haiku Translated by Harry Behn, 1971
What man fears is himself, not death. There is no death when you meet death. When the body sinks into death, the essence of man is revealed. Man is a knot, a web, a mesh into which relationships are tied. Only those relationships matter. The body is an old crock that nobody will miss. I have never known a man to think of himself when dying. Never. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, 1942, translated from the French by Lewis Galantière
Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee;
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie
Thou art slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And doth with poyson, warre, and sickness dwell.
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more, death thou shalt die.
~John Donne (1572–1631), "Holy Sonnets: VI," 1609, published posthumously in and quoted from Poëms, By J. Donne. With Elegies on the Author's Death, 1633
This thing of being a hero, about the main thing to do is to know when to die. Prolonged life has ruined more men than it ever made. ~Will Rogers (1879–1935)
no matter which end-of-life decisions were made,
there are always regrets, there is always that guilt —
live parts of me holding onto memories of a dying you
dead parts of me holding onto living memories of you
The night I understood
this is a world of dew,
I woke up from my sleep.
~Retsuzan, 1826, in Yoel Hoffmann, Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death, 1986
But a day must come when the fire of youth will be quenched in my veins, when winter will dwell in my heart, when his snow flakes will whiten my locks, and his mists will dim my eyes. Then my friends will lie in their lonely grave, and I alone will remain like a solitary stalk forgotten by the reaper. ~Heinrich Heine, "Ideas: Book Le Grand," 1826, translated from German by Charles Godfrey Leland, Pictures of Travel, 1855
life is a graceful soaring
death a graceful landing
The fakir described in the Franco-Americain, might have gone far enough to say that this willpower of man is so tremendously potential that it can reänimate a body apparently dead, by drawing back the flitting soul that has not yet quite ruptured the thread that through life had bound the two together. ~Yelena Petrovna Blavatskaya, Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, 1877
For [the materialist] the soul has no existence, and the human body may be regarded simply as a vital engine—a locomotive which will start upon the application of heat and force, and stop when they are withdrawn. To the theologian the case offers greater difficulties, for, in his view, death cuts asunder the tie which binds soul and body, and the one can no more be returned into the other without miracle than the born infant can be compelled to resume its fœtal life after parturition and the severing of the umbilicus. ~Yelena Petrovna Blavatskaya, Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, 1877
I see thy soul shake off its earthly load,
Spring into life, immortal, half a god.....
~Ophelia, "To the Memory of a deceased Friend," The Gentleman's Magazine, June 1751
Life, at the end, is that upon which Things pound, until death brings cool release. ~Clement Wood, "Emily Dickinson: The Shrinking Seer," Poets of America, 1925
Fear of death
is fear of life—
and fear of life
is fear of all that is.
We all fear what we don't know... It's natural... Yet, you were not afraid when Spring became Summer. You were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death? ~Leo Buscaglia, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages, 1982
Grandmother Hannah comes to me at Pesach
and when I am lighting the sabbath candles.
The sweet wine in the cup has her breath.
The challah is braided like her long, long hair....
When someone dies, it is the unspoken words
that spoil in the mind and ferment to wine....
It's a little low light the yahrtzeit candle
makes, you couldn't read by it or even warm
your hands. So the dead are with us only
as the scent of fresh coffee, of cinnamon,
of pansies excites the nose and then fades,
with us as the small candle burns in its glass.
We lose and we go on losing as long as we live,
a little winter no spring can melt.
~Marge Piercy, "A candle in a glass," Available Light, 1988
We must be fulfilled in our own most deeply needed ways, then we can pass gracefully and without regret beyond our life on this earth. ~Terri Guillemets, "Breathing past fear into nature," 2011
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here's no great matter;
And I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
~T. S. Eliot (1888–1965), "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, June 1915
Immortality—dazzling idea! who first imagined thee! Was it some jolly burgher of Nuremburg, who with night-cap on his head, and white clay pipe in mouth, sat on some pleasant summer evening before his door, and reflected in all his comfort, that it would be right pleasant, if, with unextinguishable pipe, and endless breath, he could thus vegetate onwards for a blessed eternity? Or was it a lover, who in the arms of his loved one, thought the immortality-thought, and that because he could think and feel naught beside!—Love! Immortality! ~Heinrich Heine, "The Hartz Journey" (1824), Pictures of Travel, translated from German by Charles Godfrey Leland, 1855
Man does not die, for death's not true;
We'll just pass on to joys anew...
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham (1880–1971), "There Is No Death"
Necessity is the mother of not only invention but death. ~Terri Guillemets
The believer, having passed through this brief probationary existence, at length enters into his rest... He will find his solicitude lulled to peace. He will breathe freely... as one who, having been long haunted by fears, and tortured by a thousand gloomy anticipations, on a sudden feels them dispelled; and exchanges for tremblings and agitation a free and placid calmness of the soul. My brethren, what a transporting prospect this, for the tempest-tossed spirit of the struggling servant of God! In that blessed abode, doubt is an emotion that is unknown. It is all glorious certainty. There is a salvation from the bondage of that fear, which, on earth, was such a prolific source of torment. ~Rt. Rev. Manton Eastburn, sermon preached in Trinity Church, Boston, 1843 February 18th, on occasion of the interment of Rt. Rev. Alexander Viets Griswold
So she at these sad signs draws up her breath
And sighing it again, exclaims on Death.
'Hard-favour'd tyrant, ugly, meagre, lean,
Hateful divorce of love,'—thus chides she Death,—
'Grim-grinning ghost, earth's worm, what dost thou mean
To stifle beauty and to steal his breath,
Who when he lived, his breath and beauty set
Gloss on the rose, smell to the violet?
If he be dead,—O no, it cannot be,
Seeing his beauty, thou shouldst strike at it:—
O yes, it may; thou hast no eyes to see,
But hatefully at random dost thou hit.
Thy mark is feeble age, but thy false dart
Mistakes that aim and cleaves an infant's heart.
Hadst thou but bid beware, then he had spoke,
And, hearing him, thy power had lost his power.
The Destinies will curse thee for this stroke;
They bid thee crop a weed, thou pluck'st a flower:
Love's golden arrow at him should have fled,
And not Death's ebon dart, to strike dead.
Dost thou drink tears, that thou provokest such weeping?
What may a heavy groan advantage thee?
Why hast thou cast into eternal sleeping
Those eyes that taught all other eyes to see?
Now Nature cares not for thy mortal vigour,
Since her best work is ruin'd with thy rigour.'
~William Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis, c.1593
The old man I lookt upon to be Fate; the grave Matron, Providence; the Stairs, distinct Times and Ages; the Children running up and down the Stairs without fear of danger, do signify foolish Man and Woman, who regardless of their salvation, sport and play with it so long, till they slipt into Eternity. So have I been careless of that which should have been my greatest care, though I knew (but would not know) that the least and lightest touch of death were sufficient, in a moment to translate me from Time to Eternity... ~Richard Head, The English Rogue, 1665
But, on the other hand, if we look on the Death of a good and righteous Man, we shall perceive 'tis so far from a Curse, that 'tis his only Rescue out of the Miseries of this frail State, and the Beginning of never-failing Pleasures in the other. This is the Bridge that carries him over from Time to Eternity, from Sorrow to Joy, from Care and Fear, to Peace and Security, from a far Country to his Father's House, from Earth to Heaven. O happy Messenger, may the good Man say when Death seizes him; welcome thou Ambassador of my Father, thou Finisher of Sadness, and Fountain of Happiness! I willingly deliver up the uncertain Tenure of this Carcase into thy Hands, who, I hope, will one Day restore it me freed from those Ills and Maladies, those Aches and Pains, which I now endure by it... and elevate my Soul above Flesh and Blood... ~William Whiston, "Of Death," 1689
For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity. ~William Penn (1644–1718), Fruits of Solitude, in Reflections & Maxims relating to the Conduct of Human Life
A headstone is just a bookmark in our unfinished lives. ~Terri Guillemets
But in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world. ~Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
Old persons are sometimes as unwilling to die as tired-out children are to say good night and go to bed. ~Sheridan Le Fanu (1814–1873), as quoted by Frederick Parkes Weber
free from the mask;
to be beautiful forever
~Terri Guillemets, "True form," 2018, blackout poetry created from Danielle Steel, Fairy Tale, 2017, pages 92–93
You are not dying. You are being heaven-made! Made for heaven. That was the meaning of death, then. Not losing life, but finding it. ~Etta Merrick Graves, The Castle Builder, 1916 [a little altered —tg]
Death is just another stage of life, although the one you kind of hope comes last. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
Death is your dancing soul returning to the heavens. ~Terri Guillemets, "Sessile," 1989
On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone will drop to zero. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, 1996
Hope follows death. It has to, or death serves no purpose. ~Terri Guillemets
I take a few steps into the field, and it feels so good, so nice to be in the cool air, to smell the smells all around me. To feel the sun on my coat. I feel like I am here... I gather my strength and I start off and it feels good, like I have no age at all, like I am timeless. I pick up speed. I run... Off into the field, into the vastness of the universe ahead, I run. ~Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain, 2008
Death is just —
one life and
And when my flutt'ring soul shall break away,
Spurn this low world, and seek the realms of day,
If then some ready minister of love
Thy nod commissions from the throne above,
To guide my flight amidst the worlds that roll,
In shining circles round the glowing pole,
O! to my friend, that grateful task assign,
And let his kindred spirit mix with mine;
Together then we'll gain the blissful shore,
Exchange the joys of heav'n, and part no more.
~Ophelia, "To the Memory of a deceased Friend," The Gentleman's Magazine, June 1751
Death: the longest of our long-term goals. ~Terri Guillemets
And there came a day, I its reckoning keep,
When mother, worn out, just dropped asleep,—
Her voice melting into an angel's song:
"I shall wait at the Gate, so don't stay too long."
~Adelbert Farrington Caldwell (1867–1931), "The Barefoot Time"
For did he think by this one paltry deed
To cut the knot of circumstance, and snap
The chain which binds all being?
~Amy Levy, "A Minor Poet," c.1884
My Stature, Feather Youth
Could not Withstand
The force of Death armed with
All flesh is Grass, the Lovelyst
Flesh and Flowers
Which though it flourish
this may fade next houre.
~Epitaph to the Memory of Mary Wodhull, at Thenford, d. 1669
Well, right now... I'm not dead. But when I am, it's like... I don't know, I guess it's like being inside a book that nobody's reading.... An old one. It's up on a library shelf, so you're safe and everything, but the book hasn't been checked out for a long, long time. All you can do is wait. Just hope somebody'll pick it up and start reading. ~Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
Our heart dies with us
But our soul lives on
Born into weightless spirit
Becoming colors of the dawn
DEATH... To stop sinning suddenly. ~Elbert Hubbard
There isn't much sudden death — there's usually time to square yourself. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)
This is what I would like. To play in those fields for a little longer. To spend a little more time being me before I become someone else. This is what I would like. ~Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain, 2008
Though he has charmed a world with fire and soul,
His lowly grave is never visited.
Sad? Strange? Well, not so very, on the whole—
You see, this charming man is not yet dead.
~Alice Wellington Rollins, Aphorisms for the Year, 1894
Anyhow, it's not so bad.... I mean, when you're dead, you just have to be yourself. ~Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
Well: Death is a huge omnivorous Toad
Grim squatting on a twilight road.
He catcheth all that Circumstance
Hath tossed to him...
Who fears the hungry Toad? Not I!
He but unfetters me to fly...
~Sidney Lanier, "Strange Jokes," 1867
Death marches on — an army inexorable, its tireless soldiers obeying orders of fate. ~Terri Guillemets
Traveler dost thou hear the tidings
Borne unto thy weary ear,
Soft as angel's gentlest whisper
Breathing from the upper sphere,
Thy redemption now is near.
~Alfred Alexander Woodhull, M.D., c. 1836
On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death. Instead of the sympathy, the friendly union, of life and death so apparent in Nature, we are taught that death is an accident, a deplorable punishment for the oldest sin, the arch-enemy of life, etc.... But let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory for, for it never fights. All is divine harmony. ~John Muir (1838–1914), A Thousand-Mile Walk To the Gulf
corpse A human been. ~Kay Goodman, as quoted in Leonard Louis Levinson, Webster's Unafraid Dictionary, 1967
After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. ~J. K. Rowling, "The Man with Two Faces," Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 1997 [Dumbledore —tg]
Happy the man who dies before he prays for death. ~Publilius Syrus
Last saved 2022 Mar 21 Mon 14:39 PDT