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Quotations about Death
O, beautiful upon the grave,
The idea is to die young as late as possible. ~Ashley Montagu
'Tis very certain the desire of life prolongs it. ~Lord Byron
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
No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow. ~Euripides
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"
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, 1945
While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die. ~Leonardo Da Vinci
Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it. ~Alice Walker
I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived. ~Willa Cather
Death is a distant rumor to the young. ~Andrew A. Rooney
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)
A man's dying is more the survivors' affair than his own. ~Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
There are so many little dyings that it doesn't matter which of them is death. ~Kenneth Patchen
Death is not warden of life, not thief, nor enemy — but Life's most equal partner. ~Terri Guillemets
If man were immortal he could be perfectly sure of seeing the day when everything in which he had trusted should betray his trust, and, in short, of coming eventually to hopeless misery. He would break down, at last, as every good fortune, as every dynasty, as every civilization does. In place of this we have death. ~Charles Sanders Peirce
Death, the sable smoke where vanishes the flame. ~George Gordon, Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
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
God himself took a day to rest in, and a good man's grave is his Sabbath. ~John Donne
The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity. ~Seneca
Years, following years, steal something every day;
At last they steal us from ourselves away.
Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life. ~Albert Einstein
Death may be the greatest of all human blessings. ~Socrates
In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight....
Not people die but worlds die in them.
~Yevgeny Yevtushenko, "People"
Death never takes the wise man by surprise; He is always ready to go. ~Jean de La Fontaine
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)
Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time. ~Attributed to George Carlin
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
Death does not wait to see if things are done or not done. ~Kularnava
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"
Healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death. ~Erik H. Erikson
Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. ~Susan Ertz, Anger in the Sky
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
We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance. ~Marcel Proust
Thou art not dead! Thou art the whole
Of life that quickens in the sod.
~Charles Hanson Towne
Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing. ~Robert G. Ingersoll
We all feed from Mother Nature's breast until weaned by Death. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897
Time rushes towards us with its hospital tray of infinitely varied narcotics, even while it is preparing us for its inevitably fatal operation. ~Tennessee Williams, "The Rose Tattoo"
We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love. ~Madame de Stael
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
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 am in them and that is eternity. ~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 from 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
There's nothing certain in a man's life except this: That he must lose it. ~Aeschylus, Agamemnon
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
Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. ~Norman Cousins
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, 1960
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)
Let life be as beautiful as summer flowers
And death as beautiful as autumn leaves.
Death is a debt we all must pay. ~Euripides
Death is a debt I owe, and must pay ere long, whenever the great God demands it. ~Richard Illidge (1636–1709), November 1st 1699
They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice... that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person. ~Arthur Schopenhauer
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
He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
People living deeply have no fear of death. ~Anaïs Nin, Diary, 1967
[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.
When I think of ages past
That have floated down the stream
Of life and love and death,
I feel how free it makes us
To pass away.
To die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly. Death of one's own free choice, death at the proper time, with a clear head and with joyfulness, consummated in the midst of children and witnesses: so that an actual leave-taking is possible while he who is leaving is still there. ~Friedrich Nietzsche, Expeditions of an Untimely Man
'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
Death is for many of us the gate of hell; but we are inside on the way out, not outside on the way in. ~George Bernard Shaw
If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever. ~The Crow, written by James O'Barr, David J. Schow, and John Shirley, 1994
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
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
I knew a man who once said, "death smiles at us all; all a man can do is smile back." ~Gladiator, written by David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson, 2000
Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep,—
He hath awaken'd from the dream of life.
Our birth is nothing but our death begun. ~Edward Young, Night Thoughts
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 is not poison but merely life's final remedy. ~Terri Guillemets
I want a priest, a rabbi, and a Protestant clergyman. I want to hedge my bets. ~Wilson Mizner
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
No one knows whether death is really the greatest blessing a man can have, but they fear it is the greatest curse, as if they knew well. ~Plato
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? ~Khalil Gibran, "The Prophet" (Thanks, Roxalanne)
Life and death are balanced on the edge of a razor. ~Homer, Iliad
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)
Death is the surest calculation that can be made. ~Ludwig Büchner, Force and Matter
Suicide is man's way of telling God, "You can't fire me — I quit." ~Bill Maher, on Politically Incorrect, 1995
Suicide is... the sincerest form of criticism life gets. ~Wilfred Sheed, The Good Word, 1978
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
After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. ~J.K. Rowling
if i should sleep with a lady called death... ~e.e. cummings
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
You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. ~The Epic of Gilgamesh
Death hath ten thousand several doors
For men to take their exits.
~John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi
My soul is full of whispered song;
My blindness is my sight;
The shadows that I feared so long
Are all alive with light.
~Alice Cary, Dying Hymn
[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
God is growing bitter, He envies man his mortality. ~Jacques Rigaut, Pensées
Embalm, v.: To cheat vegetation by locking up the gases upon which it feeds. By embalming their dead and thereby deranging the natural balance between animal and vegetable life, the Egyptians made their once fertile and populous country barren and incapable of supporting more than a meagre crew. The modern metallic burial casket is a step in the same direction, and 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. We shall get him after awhile if we are spared, but in the meantime the violet and the rose are languishing for a nibble at his glutaeus maximus. ~Ambrose Bierce
He first deceas'd; She for a little tri'd
To live without him: lik'd it not, and di'd.
Love accepts death not as an ending but as a way to title and bind each book of life — a cover around its pages so that we who are left behind can read again and again. The author's work is done yet the life of the story has just begun. ~Terri Guillemets
...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
The goal of all life is death. ~Sigmund Freud
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
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
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
Death bumps into life many times as just a passerby. ~Terri Guillemets
In any man who dies there dies with him, his first snow and kiss and fight. Not people die but worlds die in them. ~Yevgeny Yevtushenko
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 Buckingham, "Why Fear Death?"
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
Death is a release from the impressions of sense, and from impulses that make us their puppets, from the vagaries of the mind, and the hard service of the flesh. ~Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Now I know, is that first breath
Which our souls draw when we enter
Life, which is of all life center.
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
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
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)
When I die I shall be content to vanish into nothingness.... No show, however good, could conceivably be good forever.... I do not believe in immortality, and have no desire for it. ~H.L. Mencken
Oh, for the time when I shall sleep
All of life runs through the veins of death. ~Terri Guillemets
The graveyards are full of people the world could not do without. ~Quoted in Elbert Hubbard, "The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest," 1907; often modernized as "The graveyards are full of indispensable men." (Thanks, Garson O'Toole of quoteinvestigator.com!)
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
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 treasures 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)
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
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
And they die an equal death — the idler and the man of mighty deeds. ~Homer, Iliad
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
Name me no names for my disease,
With uninforming breath;
I tell you I am none of these,
But homesick unto death.
~Witter Bynner, "The Patient to the Doctors"
Death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident — It is as common as life. ~Henry David Thoreau, 11 March 1842, letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson
Someday I'll be a weather-beaten skull resting on a grass pillow,
Serenaded by a stray bird or two.
Kings and commoners end up the same,
No more enduring than last night's dream.
To the psychotherapist an old man who cannot bid farewell to life appears as feeble and sickly as a young man who is unable to embrace it. ~C.G. Jung
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
Death a friend that alone can bring the peace his treasures cannot purchase, and remove the pain his physicians cannot cure. ~Mortimer Collins
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
Death is patiently making my mask as I sleep. Each morning I awake to discover in the corners of my eyes the small tears of his wax. ~Philip Dow
We must be fulfilled in our own most deeply needed way, 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 T. Buckingham, "There Is No Death"
Necessity is the mother of not only invention but death. ~Terri Guillemets
For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity. ~William Penn
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
I see flowers
from the cottage where I lie.
~Yaitsu's death poem, 1807
Old persons are sometimes as unwilling to die as tired-out children are to say good night and go to bed. ~Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Death is just another stage of life, although the one you kind of hope comes last. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death. ~Leonardo da Vinci
Death is your dancing soul returning to the heavens. ~Terri Guillemets, "Sessile," 1989
Oh, so this is what it's like to be dead… Everything was metaphor, everything lyrical, flowing together, an exquisite enchantment. ~A.A. Attanasio, "Fractal Blood Soul," 2007
On a large enough time line, the survival rate for everyone will drop to zero. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
God made death so we'd know when to stop. ~Steven Stiles
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
Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. ~Albert Einstein
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"
There is only one ultimate and effectual preventive for the maladies to which flesh is heir, and that is death. ~Harvey Cushing
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
A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist. ~Stewart Alsop
I do not believe that any man fears to be dead, but only the stroke of death. ~Thomas Browne, An Essay on Death
The really frightening thing about middle age is the knowledge that you'll grow out of it. ~Doris Day
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
Death is a low chemical trick played on everybody except sequoia trees. ~J.J. Furnas
Oh, may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again.
~George Eliot, The Choir Invisible
Die, v.: To stop sinning suddenly. ~Elbert Hubbard
There isn't much sudden death — there's usually time to square yourself. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)
I intend to live forever. So far, so good. ~Steven Wright
I wouldn't mind dying — it's the business of having to stay dead that scares the [$h¡t] out of me. ~R. Geis
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
You can be a king or a street sweeper,
but everybody dances with the Grim Reaper.
~Robert Alton Harris
Death is life's way of telling you you're fired. ~Author unknown
Death marches on — an army inexorable, its tireless soldiers obeying orders of fate. ~Terri Guillemets
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
Happy the man who dies before he prays for death. ~Publilius Syrus