Quotations about   death

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Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Julius Caesar, Act 2, sc. 2, l. 34ff [Caesar] (1599)
    (Source)

The initial phrase has seemingly morphed in the retelling, though still being cited to Shakespeare: "A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once." This is the form most often seen, but is not Shakespeare.

In A Farewell to Arms (1929), Hemingway gives another paraphrase: "The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one."
Added on 24-Nov-21 | Last updated 24-Nov-21
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More quotes by Shakespeare, William

I see that Time’s the king of men,
For he’s their parent, and he is their grave,
And gives them what he will, not what they crave.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Pericles, Act 2, sc. 3, l. 49ff (1607)
    (Source)
Added on 17-Nov-21 | Last updated 17-Nov-21
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Men that look no further than their outsides, think health an appurtenance unto life, and quarrel with their constitutions for being sick; but I that have examined the parts of man, and know upon what tender filaments that fabric hangs, do wonder that we are not always so; and considering the thousand doors that lead to death, do thank my God that we can die but once.

[Men that looke no further than their outsides thinke health an appertinance unto life, and quarrell with their constitutions for being sick; but I that have examined the parts of man, and know upon what tender filaments that Fabrick hangs, doe wonder that we are not alwayes so; and considering the thousand dores that lead to death doe thanke my God that we can die but once.]

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Religio Medici, Part 1, sec. 44 (1643)
    (Source)
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More quotes by Browne, Thomas

Poor child, most tried of men, Persephone, daughter of Zeus, is not deceiving you in any way; this is the law that rules all mortals at their death. For just as soon as life has left the white bones, and the sinew no longer hold together bones and flesh, when the erupting force of blazing fire undoes the body, then the spirit wanders: much like a dream, it flits away and hovers, now here, now there.

[‘ὤ μοι, τέκνον ἐμόν, περὶ πάντων κάμμορε φωτῶν,
οὔ τί σε Περσεφόνεια Διὸς θυγάτηρ ἀπαφίσκει,
ἀλλ᾽ αὕτη δίκη ἐστὶ βροτῶν, ὅτε τίς κε θάνῃσιν:
οὐ γὰρ ἔτι σάρκας τε καὶ ὀστέα ἶνες ἔχουσιν,
ἀλλὰ τὰ μέν τε πυρὸς κρατερὸν μένος αἰθομένοιο
δαμνᾷ, ἐπεί κε πρῶτα λίπῃ λεύκ᾽ ὀστέα θυμός,
ψυχὴ δ᾽ ἠύτ᾽ ὄνειρος ἀποπταμένη πεπότηται.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 11, l. 216ff (11.216) (c. 700 BC) [tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]
    (Source)

Anticleia, Odysseus' mother, responding to him when he's unable to embrace her shade in the Underworld. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

O son, she answer’d, of the race of men
The most unhappy, Our most equal Queen
Will mock no solid arms with empty shade,
Nor suffer empty shades again t’ invade
Flesh, bones, and nerves; nor will defraud the fire
Of his last dues, that, soon as spirits expire
And leave the white bone, are his native right,
When, like a dream, the soul assumes her flight.
The light then of the living with most haste,
O son, contend to.
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

Oh no, quoth she, my son, she’d no intent
T’ abuse you. ’Tis the nature of the dead.
We are no longer sinews, flesh, and bones,
We are substances incorporeal,
All that ’s consumed i’ th’ fun’ral fire; when once
That’s done, it in itself stands several;
Flies like a dream.
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 203ff]

O son of woe, the pensive shade rejoin'd;
O most inured to grief of all mankind!
"'Tis not the queen of hell who thee deceives;
All, all are such, when life the body leaves:
No more the substance of the man remains,
Nor bounds the blood along the purple veins:
These the funereal flames in atoms bear,
To wander with the wind in empty air:
While the impassive soul reluctant flies,
Like a vain dream, to these infernal skies.
[tr. Pope (1725)]

Ah, son! thou most afflicted of mankind!
On thee, Jove’s daughter, Proserpine, obtrudes
No airy semblance vain; but such the state
And nature is of mortals once deceased.
For they nor muscle have, nor flesh, nor bone;
All those (the spirit from the body once
Divorced) the violence of fire consumes,
And, like a dream, the soul flies swift away.
[tr. Cowper (1792), l. 258ff]

O my child,
'Tis not Persephone deludes thee here.
This is their portion who, from light exiled,
Dying descend into these regions drear,
Sinewless, fleshless, boneless. On the bier
All substance was burnt out by force of fie,
When first the spirit, her cold flight to steer,
Left the white bones , and fluttering from the pyre
Straight to these shadowy realms did like a dream retire.
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 32]

Alas! my child! thou most ill-starred of all men!
'Tis not Persephone--Zeus' daughter, fools thee!
But this is the way with mortals, when they're dead.
Their powers no more are clothed with flesh and bones;
But these the mighty strength of the blazing fire
Consumes, when once life's left the calcined bones,
And the soul, like a dream, on wings hath fled away.
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869), l. 217ff]

Ah me, my child, of all men most ill-fated, Persephone, the daughter of Zeus, doth in no wise deceive thee, but even on this wise it is with mortals when they die. For the sinews no more bind together the flesh and the bones, but the great force of burning fire abolishes these, so soon as the life hath left the white bones, and the spirit like a dream flies forth and hovers near.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

O me, my child, my darling, most hapless man of men,
Persephone, daughter of Zeus, beguileth thee nought hereby,
But this is the lot of mortals when at last they come to die;
For no longer then the sinews hold together flesh and bone,
But they by the might of the fire bright-flaming are undone,
When first from the white bones wendeth the soul and living breath,
And the soul as a dream forth flieth and flitting hovereth.
[tr. Morris (1887)]

Ah, my own child, beyond all men ill-fated! In no wise is Persephone, daughter of Zeus, beguiling you, but this is the way of mortals when they die: the sinews no longer hold the flesh and bones together; for these the strong force of the flaming fire destroys, when once the life leaves the white bones, and like a dream the spirit flies away.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

My son, she answered, most ill-fated of all mankind, it is not Proserpine that is beguiling you, but all people are like this when they are dead. The sinews no longer hold the flesh and bones together; these perish in the fierceness of consuming fire as soon as life has left the body, and the soul flits away as though it were a dream. [tr. Butler (1898)]

But this is the appointed way with mortals when one dies. For the sinews no longer hold the flesh and the bones together, but the strong might of blazing fire destroys these, as soon as the life leaves the white bones, and the spirit, like a dream, flits away, and hovers to and fro.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

Alas my hapless child! Here is no mockery from Persephone, daughter of Zeus: it is the common judgment upon all mortals when they die. Then the nerves will no more bind flesh and frame into one body, for the terrible intensity of the searing fire subdues them till they vanish, as the quickening spirit vanishes from the white bones and the soul flies out, to hover like a dream.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

My child, my child! came her reply. What man on earth has more to bear than you? This is no trick played on you by Persephone, Daughter of Zeus. You are only witnessing here the law of our mortal nature, when we come to die. We no longer have sinews keeping the bones and flesh together, but once the life-force has departed from our white bones, all is consumed by the fierce heat of the blazing fire, and the soul slips away like a dream and flutters on the air.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

O my child -- alas,
most sorely tried of men -- great Zeus' daughter,
Persephone, knits no illusion for you.
All mortals meet this judgment when they die.
No flesh and bone are here, none bound by sinew,
since the bright-hearted pyre consumed them down --
the white bones long exanimate -- to ash;
dreamlike the soul flies, insubstantial.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

My son, my son, the unluckiest man alive!
This is no deception sent by Queen Persephone,
this is just the way of mortals when we die.
Sinews no longer bind the flesh and bones together --
the fire in all its fury burns the body down to ashes
once life slips from the white bones, and the spirit,
rustling, flitters away ... flown like a dream.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

O my child, most ill-fated of men,
It is not that Persephone is deceiving you.
This is the way it is with mortals.
When we die, the sinews no longer hold
Flesh and bones together. The fire destroys these
As soon as the spirit leaves the white bones,
And the ghost flutters off and is gone like a dream.
[tr. Lombardo (2000)]

Alas, my child, came my revered mother's reply, ill-fated above all men! This is no trick played on you by Persephone, Daughter of Zeus. It is the law of our mortal nature, when we come to die. We no longer have sinews keeping the bones and flesh together; once life has departed from our white bones, all is consumed by the fierce heat of the blazing fire, and the soul slips away like a dream and goes fluttering on its ways.
[tr. DCH Rieu (2002)]

Ah my child, ill-fated beyond all men! It is not that Persephone, daughter of Zeus, is deceiving you, but it is the law that touches all mortal beings when they die: no longer do they have sinews that bind flesh and bone together, for as soon as the spirit departs from their white bones, the fierce heat of the blazing fire destroys everything, and their shade flies off, fluttering like a dream.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

Oh, my child! You are the most unlucky man alive. Persephone is not deceiving you. Thsi is the rule for mortals when we die. Our muscles cease to hold the flesh and skeleton together; as soon as life departs our white bones, the force of blazing fire destroys the corpse. The spirit flies away and soon is gone, just like a dream.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

My child, of all men most unfortunate,
no, dread Persephone, daughter of Zeus,
is not deceiving you. Once mortals die,
this is what’s ordained for them. Their sinews
no longer hold the flesh and bone together.
The mighty power of a blazing fire
destroys them, once our spirit flies from us,
from our white bones. And then it slips away,
and, like a dream, it flutters to and fro.
[tr. Johnston (2019), l. 268ff]

Added on 22-Sep-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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After the game, the King and the Pawn go into the same box.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Italian proverb

Phrased as such (and noted as an Italian proverb) in H. L. Mencken, A New Dictionary of Quotations (1942). The sentiment can be found in literature back to the 17th Century. See also Omar Khayyám.

More discussion: When the Chess Game Is Over, the King and the Pawn Go Back in the Same Box – Quote Investigator.
Added on 3-Aug-21 | Last updated 3-Aug-21
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But aren’t we, the living, wretched since we must die? What pleasure can there be in life, when day and night we must reflect that we have to die, and at any moment?

[Qui vivimus, cum moriendum sit, nonne miseri sumus? quae enim potest in vita esse iucunditas, cum dies et noctes cogitandum sit iam iamque esse moriendum?]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 1, ch. 7 / sec. 14 [Auditor] (45 BC) [tr. Douglas (1985)]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

What say you of us that are alive, can we be other than miserable, since we must die? for what enjoyment can there be in life, when we are to think day and night that die we must of a certain, and it is uncertain whether this or the next Moment?
[tr. Wase (1643)]

What then? we that are alive, are we not wretched, seeing we must die? for what is there agreeable in life, when we must night and day reflect that we may instantly die?
[tr. Main (1824)]

But what? as to us who are alive, are we not miserable? For, what pleasantness can there be in life, when, by night and by day, we have to reflect already, even already, we are to die?
[tr. Otis (1839)]

What then? we that are alive, are we not wretched, seeing we must die? for what is there agreeable in life, when we must night and day reflect that, at some time or other, we must die?
[tr. Yonge (1853)]

Yet are not we who live miserable, seeing that we must die? For what pleasure can there be in life, while by day and by night we cannot but think that we may die at any moment?
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

But how then? Are not we, who live, miserable, seeing that we must die? For what pleasure can there be in life when, night and day, the thought cannot fail to haunt us, that at any moment we must die?
[tr. Black (1889)]

Aren't the living miserable, since we have to die? What joy can there be in life if day and night we are forced to consider the inevitable approach of death?
[tr. Habinek (1996)]

Are we not wretched, we who live though we must die? What joy can there be in life, when we must think day and night that we must at some time die?
[tr. @sententiq (2016)]

Added on 26-Jul-21 | Last updated 13-Sep-21
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More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

You seem a youth to look upon.
You dyed your hair — and lo,
The locks once whiter than a swan
Are blacker than a crow.
Not everyone can you deceive
And, though you hide the grey,
Yet Proserpine will not believe
But snatch the mask away.

[Mentiris iuvenem tinctis, Laetine, capillis,
Tam subito corvus, qui modo sygnus eras.
Non omnes fallis; scit te Proserpina canum
Personam capiti detrahet illa tuo.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 3, epigram 43 [tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]
    (Source)

Proserpina (the Roman version of Persephone) was the goddess / Queen of the Underworld. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

With tinctur'd locks the dotard youth puts on:
Behold a raven, from but now a swan!
Though cheat'st not all; not her, who rules the dead:
She soon shall pull the mask from off thy head.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Part 2, ep. 21]

You simulate youth, Lentinus, with your dyed hairs; so suddenly a crow, who were so lately a swan. You do not deceive everyone: Proserpina knows you for a greybeard, she will tear off the masque from your head.
[tr. Amos (1858), ch. 4, ep. 140]

Letinus, fain to cheat men's eyes,
You smear your head with umber dyes;
And, late a swan as white as snow,
You've suddenly become a crow.
Is everyone deceived by you?
No, one can tell the genuine hue.
Proserpine knows your hair is grey,
And she will tear that mask away.
[tr. Webb (1879)]

You ape youth, Laetinus, with your dyed hair; and you, who were but now a swan, are suddenly become a crow! You will not deceive everyone: Proserpine knows that you are hoary, and will snatch the mask from your head.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1897)]

You pretend you're still youthful by dyeing your hair --
Now a crow, though a swan just of late --
But you don't fool us all, for Proserpina knows,
She'll show up the sham of your pate.
[tr. Nixon (1911)]

You falsely ape youth, Laetinus, with dyed hair, so suddenly a raven who were but now a swan. You don't deceive all; Proserpine knows you are hoary: she shall pluck the mask from off your head.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

You wish, Lætinus, to be thought a youth,
And so you dye your hair.
You're suddenly a crow, forsooth:
Of late a swan you were!
You can't cheat all: there is a Lady dread
Who knows your hair is grey:
Proserpina will pounce upon your head,
And tear the mask away.
[tr. Duff (1929)]

You counterfeit youth with hair-dye, Laetinus: all of a sudden you're a raven, when just now you were a swan. You don't fool everyone: Proserpina knows you are grey; she will drag the mask from your head.
[tr. Nisbet (2015)]

Thou, that not a month ago
Wast white as swan or driven snow,
Now blacker far than Aesop's crow,
Thanks to thy wig, sett'st up for beau:
Faith, Harry, thou'rt i' the wrong box;
Old age these vain endeavours mocks,
And time, that knows thou 'st hoary locks,
Will pluck thy mask off with a pox.
[tr. Browne]

Lentinus counterfeits his youth
With periwigs, I trow,
But art thou changed so soon, in truth,
From a swan to a crow?
Though canst not all the world deceive:
Proserpine knows thee gray;
And she'll make bold, without your leave,
To take your cap away.
[tr. Fletcher]

Before a swan, behind a crow,
Such self-deceit I ne'er did know.
Ah, cease your arts! Death knows you're grey,
And, spite of all, will have his way.
[tr. Hoadley]

Laetinus, why deceive us so,
With borrowed plumage trying?
The Queen of Shades will surely know
When she slips off your mask below,
In Death there's no more dyeing.
[tr. Pitt-Kethley]

Added on 23-Jul-21 | Last updated 23-Jul-21
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And earth who herself bestowed the body takes it back and wastes not a whit.

[Terram corpus quae dederit, ipsam capere neque dispendi facere hilum.]

Quintus Ennius (239-169 BC) Roman poet, writer
Fragment from the Annales Book 1, frag. 11-12 [tr. Warmingham (1935)]
    (Source)

In Varro, De Lingua Latina, Book 5, sec 60, ll. 4-5 (1st C BC). In some locations, the Latin is given as "terraque corpus quae dedit ipsa capit neque dispendi facit hilum."

Alternate translations:
The body she's given Earth does herself take back, and of loss not a whit does she suffer.
[tr. Kent (1938)]

Earth herself takes back the body which she gave, and permits no loss whatsoever.
[Source (2013)]

Added on 10-Jun-21 | Last updated 10-Jun-21
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All deaths are dour: the fate of men is sad; but there’s no death more miserable than the doom starvation sends.

[Πάντες μὲν στυγεροὶ θάνατοι δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσι,
λιμῷ δ’ οἴκτιστον θανέειν καὶ πότμον ἐπισπεῖν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 12, l. 342ff (12.342) [Eurylochus] (c. 700 BC) [tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Hear what I shall say,
Though words will staunch no hunger, ev’ry death
To us poor wretches that draw temporal breath
You know is hateful; but, all know, to die
The death of Famine is a misery
Past all death loathsome.
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

Meantime Eurylochus bad counsel gives
To his companions. All deaths, quoth he,
Are hateful to what thing soever lives;
But death by hunger is the worst can be.
[tr. Hobbes (1675)]

O friends, a thousand ways frail mortals lead
To the cold tomb, and dreadful all to tread;
But dreadful most, when by a slow decay
Pale hunger wastes the manly strength away.
[tr. Pope (1725)]

Death, however caused,
Abhorrence moves in miserable man,
But death by famine is a fate of all
Most to be fear’d.
[tr. Cowper (1792)]

Friends, though to wretched men all deaths are dire,
Yet it is far most miserable to pine
With pangs of famine and for want expire.
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 47]

All deaths are hateful to us wretched mortals;
But death by famine is most pitiable.
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]

Truly every shape of death is hateful to wretched mortals, but to die of hunger and so meet doom is most pitiful of all.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

All manner of death is loathly to wretched men that die,
But to meet our fate by famine is to end most wretchedly.
[tr. Morris (1887)]

Hateful is every form of death to wretched mortals; and yet to die by hunger, and so to meet one's doom, is the most pitiful of all.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

All deaths are bad enough, but there is none so bad as famine.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

All forms of death are hateful to wretched mortals, but to die of hunger, and so meet one's doom, is the most pitiful.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

No variety of death is pleasing to us poor mortals: but commend me to hunger and its slow perishing as the meanest fate of all.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

To us wretched men all forms of death are abominable, but death by starvation is the most miserable end that one can meet.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

All deaths are hateful to us, mortal wretches, but famine is the most pitiful, the worst end that a man can come to.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

All ways of dying are hateful to us poor mortals,
true, but to die of hunger, starve to death --
that's the worst of all.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

All ways of dying are hateful to wretched mortals, but the most miserable way to meet one's doom is by hunger.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

All human deaths are hard to bear. But starving is most miserable of all.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

Added on 9-Jun-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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The best break anybody ever gets is in bein’ alive in the first place. An’ you don’t unnerstan’ what a perfect deal it is until you realizes that you ain’t gone be stuck with it forever, either.

Walt Kelly (1913-1973) American animator and cartoonist [Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr.]
“Pogo” [Porky Pine] (15 Sep 1955)
Added on 28-Apr-21 | Last updated 5-May-21
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Don’t take life so serious, son … it ain’t no how permanent.

Walt Kelly (1913-1973) American animator and cartoonist [Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr.]
“Pogo” [Porky Pine] (24 Jun 1950)

More discussion about this quotation: Don’t Take Life So Serious, Son … It Ain’t Nohow Permanent – Quote Investigator.
Added on 21-Apr-21 | Last updated 5-May-21
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The recklessness of their ways destroyed them all.

[Αὐτῶν γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 1, l. 7ff (1.7) (c. 700 BC) [tr. Fagles (1996)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "O men unwise, / They perish’d by their own impieties!" [tr. Chapman (1616)]
  • "They lost themselves by their own insolence." [tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 9]
  • "They perish’d self-destroy’d / By their own fault." [tr. Cowper (1792)]
  • "For they in their own wilful folly perished." [tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]
  • "For through the blindness of their own hearts they perished." [tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]
  • "They died of their own souls' folly." [tr. Morris (1887)]
  • "For through their own perversity they perished." [tr. Palmer (1891)]
  • "For they perished through their own sheer folly." [tr. Butler (1898)]
  • "For they perished through their own deeds of sheer recklessness." [tr. Butler (1898), rev. Kim/McCray/Nagy/Power (2018)]
  • "For through their own blind folly they perished." [tr. Murray (1919)]
  • "For their own recklessness destroyed them all." [tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]
  • "Fools, they foiled themselves." [tr. Mendelbaum (1990)]
Added on 7-Apr-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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In all your actions, words, and thoughts, be aware that it is possible that you may depart from life at any time. But leaving the human race is nothing to be afraid of, if the gods exist; they would not involve you in anything bad. And if they do not exist or have no concern for human affairs, why should I live in a universe empty of gods and empty of providence? But the gods do exist and have concern for human affairs and have placed it wholly in the power of human beings never to meet what is truly bad.

[Ὡς ἤδη δυνατοῦ ὄντος ἐξιέναι τοῦ βίου, οὕτως ἕκαστα ποιεῖν καὶ λέγειν καὶ διανοεῖσθαι. τὸ δὲ ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ἀπελθεῖν, εἰ μὲν θεοὶ εἰσίν, οὐδὲν δεινόν: κακῷ γάρ σε οὐκ ἂν περιβάλοιεν: εἰ δὲ ἤτοι οὐκ εἰσὶν ἢ οὐ μέλει αὐτοῖς τῶν ἀνθρωπείων, τί μοι ζῆν ἐν κόσμῳ κενῷ θεῶν ἢ προνοίας κενῷ; ἀλλὰ καὶ εἰσὶ καὶ μέλει αὐτοῖς τῶν ἀνθρωπείων καὶ τοῖς μὲν κατ̓ ἀλήθειαν κακοῖς ἵνα μὴ περιπίπτῃ ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ἐπ̓ αὐτῷ τὸ πᾶν ἔθεντο.]

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 2, #11 [tr. Gill (2014)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Whatsoever thou dost affect, whatsoever thou dost project, so do, and so project all, as one who, for aught thou knowest, may at this very present depart out of this life. And as for death, if there be any gods, it is no grievous thing to leave the society of men. The gods will do thee no hurt, thou mayest be sure. But if it be so that there be no gods, or that they take no care of the world, why should I desire to live in a world void of gods, and of all divine providence? But gods there be certainly, and they take care for the world; and as for those things which be truly evil, as vice and. wickedness, such things they have put in a man's own power, that he might avoid them if he would.
[tr. Casaubon (1634), #8]

Manage all your Actions and Thoughts in such a Manner as if you were just going to step into the Grave. And what great matter is the Business of Dying; if the Gods are in Being you can suffer nothing, for they'll do you no Harm, and if they are not, or take no Care of us Mortals, why then I must tell you, that a World without either Gods, or Providence is not worth a Man's while to live in. But there's no need of this Supposition; The Being of the Gods, and their Concern in Human Affairs is beyond Dispute. And as an Instance of this, They have put it in his Power not to fall into any Calamity properly so called.
[tr. Collier (1701)]

Since it is possible that thou mayest depart from life this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly. But to go away from among men, if there are gods, is not a thing to be afraid of, for the gods will not involve thee in evil; but if indeed they do not exist, or if they have no concern about human affairs, what is it to me to live in a universe devoid of gods or devoid of providence? But in truth they do exist, and they do care for human things, and they have put all the means in man's power to enable him not to fall into real evils.
[tr. Long (1873 ed.)]

Manage all your actions, words, and thoughts accordingly , since you may at any moment quit life. And what great matter is the business of dying? If the gods are in being, you can suffer nothing, for they will do you no har. And if they are not, or take no care of us mortals -- why, then a world without either gods or Providence is not worth a man's while ot live in. But, in truth, the being of the gods, and their concern in human affairs, is beyond dispute. And they have put it entirely in a man's power not to fall into any calamity properly so-called.
[tr. Zimmern (1887)]

Whatever you do or say or think, it is in your power, remember, to take leave of life. In departing from this world, if indeed there are gods, there is nothing to be afraid of; for gods will not let you fall into evil. But if there are no gods, or if they do not concern themsleves with men, why live on in a world devoid of gods, or devoid of providence? But there do exist gods, who do concern themselves with men. And they have put it wholly in the power of man not to fall into any true evil.
[tr. Rendall (1898 ed.)]

Let thine every deed and word and thought be those of a man who can depart from life this moment.[16] But to go away from among men, if there are Gods, is nothing dreadful ; for they would not involve thee in evil. But if indeed there are no Gods, or if they do not concern themselves with the affairs of men, what boots it for me to live in a Universe where there are no Gods, where Providence is not? Nay, but there are Gods, and they do concern themselves with human things;[17] and they have put it wholly in man's power not to fall into evils that are truly such.
[tr. Haines (1916)]

In the conviction that it is possible you may depart from life at once, act and speak and think in every case accordingly. But to leave the company of men is nothing to fear, if gods exist; for they would not involve you in ill. If, however, they do not exist or if they take no care for man's affairs, why should I go on living in a world void of gods, or void of providence? But they do exist, and they do care for men's lives, and they have put it entirely in a man's power not to fall into real ills.
[tr. Farquharson (1944)]

In all you do or say or think, recollect that at any time the power of withdrawal from life is in your hands. If gods exist, you have nothing to fear in taking leave of mankind, for they will not let you come to harm. But if there are no gods, or if they have no concern with mortal affairs, what is life to me, in a world devoid of gods or devoid of Providence? Gods, however, do exist, and do concern themselves with the world of men. They have given us full power not to fall into any of the absolute evils.
[tr. Staniforth (1964)]

You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think. If the gods exist, then to abandon human beings is not frightening; the gods would never subject you to harm. And if they don't exist, or don't care what happens to us, what would be the point of living in a world without gods or Providence? But they do exist, they do care what happens to us, and everything a person needs to avoid real harm they have placed within him.
[tr. Hays (2003)]

Do, say, and think each thing as if it is possible to die right now. To leave the discussion of human affairs, if there are gods, it is nothing terrible -- for they would not ensnare you in evil. If, moreover, there are no gods -- or if the realms of men are not their concern -- why would I live in a universe emptied of gods or their foresight? No, there are gods and they are concerned with the affairs of men. And they have completely arranged it that the human race many not fall into evils that are truly evil.
[tr. @sentantiq (2017)]

Added on 31-Mar-21 | Last updated 31-Mar-21
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More quotes by Marcus Aurelius

Then welcome fate!
‘Tis true I perish, yet I perish great:
Yet in a mighty deed I shall expire,
Let future ages hear it, and admire!

[νῦν αὖτέ με μοῖρα κιχάνει.
μὴ μὰν ἀσπουδί γε καὶ ἀκλειῶς ἀπολοίμην,
ἀλλὰ μέγα ῥέξας τι καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 22, l. 303ff (22.303) [Hector] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Pope (1715-20), l. 385ff]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

But Fate now conquers; I am hers; and yet not she shall share
In my renown; that life is left to every noble spirit,
And that some great deed shall beget that all lives shall inherit.
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 266ff]

But I will not fall
Inglorious; I will act some great exploit
That shall be celebrated ages hence.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 347ff]

Fate overtakes me. Nevertheless I will not perish cowardly and ingloriously at least, but having done some great deed to be heard of even by posterity.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

My fate hath found me now.
Yet not without a struggle let me die,
Nor all inglorious; but let some great act,
Which future days may hear of, mark my fall.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Now my fate hath found me. At least let me not die without a struggle or ingloriously, but in some great deed of arms whereof men yet to be born shall hear.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

My doom has come upon me; let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Now again is my doom come upon me. Nay, but not without a struggle let me die, neither ingloriously, but in the working of some great deed for the hearing of men that are yet to be.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

But now my death is upon me. Let me at least not die without a struggle, inglorious, but do some big thing first, that men to come shall know of it.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

So now I meet my doom. Well let me die --
but not without struggle, not without glory, no,
in some great clash of arms that even men to come
will hear of down the years!
[tr. Fagles (1990), l. 359ff]

But now has my doom overcome me. But let me at least not die without making a fight, without glory, but a great deed having done for the men of the future to hear of.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]

May I not die without a fight and without glory
but after doing something big for men to come to learn about.
[tr. @Sentantiq (2011)]

Added on 24-Mar-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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It’s a blessing to die for a cause, because you can so easily die for nothing.

Andrew Young (b. 1932) American politician, diplomat, activist
Interview by Peter Ross Range, Playboy (Jul 1977)
    (Source)
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Hector, stop!
You unforgivable, you … don’t talk to me of pacts.
There are no binding oaths between men and lions —
wolves and lambs can enjoy no meeting of the minds —
they are all bent on hating each other to the death.
So with you and me. No love between us. No truce
till one or the other falls and gluts with blood
Ares who hacks at men behind his rawhide shield.

[Ἕκτορ μή μοι ἄλαστε συνημοσύνας ἀγόρευε:
ὡς οὐκ ἔστι λέουσι καὶ ἀνδράσιν ὅρκια πιστά,
οὐδὲ λύκοι τε καὶ ἄρνες ὁμόφρονα θυμὸν ἔχουσιν,
ἀλλὰ κακὰ φρονέουσι διαμπερὲς ἀλλήλοισιν,
265ὣς οὐκ ἔστ᾽ ἐμὲ καὶ σὲ φιλήμεναι, οὐδέ τι νῶϊν
ὅρκια ἔσσονται, πρίν γ᾽ ἢ ἕτερόν γε πεσόντα
αἵματος ἆσαι Ἄρηα ταλαύρινον πολεμιστήν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 22, l. 261ff (22.261) [Achilles] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), l. 308ff]
    (Source)

After Hector proposes a pact with Achilles that the winner of their battle will not abuse the corpse of his opponent. Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Hector, thou only pestilence in all mortality
To my sere spirits, never set the point ’twixt thee and me
Any conditions; but as far as men and lions fly
All terms of cov’nant, lambs and wolves; in so far opposite state,
Impossible for love t’ atone, stand we, till our souls satiate
The God of soldiers.
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 224ff]

"Talk not of oaths," the dreadful chief replies,
While anger flashed from his disdainful eyes,
"Detested as thou art, and ought to be,
Nor oath nor pact Achilles plights with thee;
Such pacts, as lambs and rabid wolves combine,
Such leagues, as men and furious lions join,
To such I call the gods! one constant state
Of lasting rancour and eternal hate:
No thought but rage, and never-ceasing strife,
Till death extinguish rage, and thought, and life."
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Hector! my bitterest foe! speak not to me
Of covenants! as concord can be none
Lions and men between, nor wolves and lambs
Can be unanimous, but hate perforce
Each other by a law not to be changed,
So cannot amity subsist between
Thee and myself; nor league make I with thee
Or compact, till thy blood in battle shed
Or mine, shall gratify the fiery Mars.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 302ff]

Talk not to me of covenants, O most cursed Hector. As there are not faithful leagues between lions and men, nor yet have wolves and lambs an according mind, but ever meditate evils against each other; so it is not possible for thee and me to contract a friendship, nor shall there at all be leagues between us, -- first shall one, falling, satiate the invincible warrior Mars with his blood.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

Hector, thou object of my deadly hate,
Talk not to me of compacts; as ’tween men
And lions no firm concord can exist,
Nor wolves and lambs in harmony unite,
But ceaseless enmity between them dwells:
So not in friendly terms, nor compact firm,
Can thou and I unite, till one of us
Glut with his blood the mail-clad warrior Mars.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Hector, talk not to me, thou madman, of covenants. As between men and lions there is no pledge of faith, nor wolves and sheep can be of one mind, but imagine evil continually against each other, so is it impossible for thee and me to be friends, neither shall be any pledge between us until one or other shall have fallen and glutted with blood Ares, the stubborn god of war.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

Fool, prate not to me about covenants. There can be no covenants between men and lions, wolves and lambs can never be of one mind, but hate each other out and out an through. Therefore there can be no understanding between you and me, nor may there be any covenants between us, till one or other shall fall and glut grim Mars with his life's blood.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Hector, talk not to me, thou madman, of covenants. As between lions and men there are no oaths of faith, nor do wolves and lambs have hearts of concord but are evil-minded continually one against the other, even so is it not possible for thee and me to be friends, neither shall there be oaths between us till one or the other shall have fallen, and glutted with his blood Ares, the warrior with tough shield of hide.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

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Some things are fairly obvious when it’s a seven-foot skeleton with a scythe telling you them.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Hogfather (1996)
Added on 16-Feb-21 | Last updated 16-Feb-21
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Do the best you can where you are; and, when that is accomplished, God will open a door for you, and a voice will call, “Come up hither into a higher sphere.”

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Life Thoughts [ed. E. Proctor] (1858)
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Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
John 12:24 [NRSV]
    (Source)

Alternate translations:

  • "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." [KJV]
  • "I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains." [GNT]
  • "I tell you, most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest." [Jerusalem Bible]
Added on 29-Jan-21 | Last updated 29-Jan-21
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And that comrade
who meets his death and destiny, speared or stabbed,
let him die! He dies fighting for fatherland —
no dishonor there!

[ὃς δέ κεν ὑμέων
βλήμενος ἠὲ τυπεὶς θάνατον καὶ πότμον ἐπίσπῃ
τεθνάτω: οὔ οἱ ἀεικὲς ἀμυνομένῳ περὶ πάτρης
τεθνάμεν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 15, l. 494ff (15.494) [Hector] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), l. 574ff]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

If any bravely buy
His fame or fate with wounds or death, in Jove’s name let him die.
Who for his country suffers death, sustains no shameful thing,
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 452ff]

Death is the worst; a fate which all must try;
And for our country 'tis a bliss to die.
The gallant man, though slain in fight he be,
Yet leaves his nation safe, his children free;
Entails a debt on all the grateful state;
His own brave friends shall glory in his fate.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Therefore stand fast, and whosoever gall’d
By arrow or by spear, dies -- let him die;
It shall not shame him that he died to serve
His country.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 599ff]

Whichever of you, wounded or stricken, shall draw on his death and fate, let him die; it is not inglorious to him to die fighting for his country.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

And if there be among you, who this day
Shall meet his doom, by sword or arrow slain,
E’en let him die! a glorious death is his
Who for his country falls.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

If any of you is struck by spear or sword and loses his life, let him die; he dies with honour who dies fighting for his country.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

If so be any of you, smitten by dart or thrust, shall meet death and fate, let him lie in death. No unseemly thing is it for him to die while fighting for his country.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

And if one finds
his death, his end, in some spear-thrust or cast,
then that is that, and no ignoble death
for a man defending his own land.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]
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It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Thief of Time (2001)
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When we are children, we have childish interests, but do young men miss them? And when we are middle-aged, do we want what young men want? Similarly, old men are not remotely involved in the needs of middle age; they have their own. Therefore we may argue that as the concerns of each earlier stage of life fade away, so eventually do those of old age. And when that happens, we have had enough of life and we are ready for death.

[Omnino, ut mihi quidem videtur studiorum omnium satietas vitae facit satietatem. Sunt pueritiae studia certa: num igitur ea desiderant adulescentes? Sunt ineuntis adulescentiae: num ea constans iam requirit aetas, quae media dicitur? Sunt etiam eius aetatis: ne ea quidem quaeruntur in senectute. Sunt extrema quaedam studia senectutis: ergo, ut superiorum aetatum studia occidunt, sic occidunt etiam senectutis; quod cum evenit, satietas vitae tempus maturum mortis affert.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Cato Maior de Senectute [Discourse on Old Age], ch. 20 / sec. 76 (44 BC) [tr. Cobbold (2012)]
    (Source)

Original Latin. Alt. trans.:

Truly me thinks that the satiety of all things makes also a satiety of life. There are certain studies in children, shall young men desire them? there are others in youth, shall age require them? and there be studies in the last age: therefore as the studies of former ages fail, so do the studies of old age, so that when the satiety or fulnesse of life commeth, it bringeth also a fit time for death.
[tr. Austin (17th C)]

By living long we come to a Satiety in all things besides and this should naturally lead us to a Satiety of Life itself. Children we see have their particular Diversions; and does Youth, when past Childhood, pursue or desire the same? Youth also has its peculiar Exercises; and does full Manhood require these as before? Or has Old Age the same Inclinations that prevailed in more vigorous Years? We ought then to conclude, That as there is a Succession of Pursuits and Pleasures in the several Stages of Life, the one dying away, as the other advances and takes Place; so in the same Manner are those of Old Age to pass off in their Turn. And when this Satiety of Life has fully ripen'd us, we are then quietly to lie down in Death, as our last Resting-Place, where all Anxiety ends, and Cares and Fears subsist no more.
[tr. Logan (1734)]

The distaste with which, in passing through the several stages of our present being, we leave behind us the respective enjoyments peculiar to each; must necessarily, I should think, in the close of its latest period, render life itself no longer desirable. Infancy and youth, manhood and old age, have each of them their peculiar and appropriate pursuits. But does youth regret the toys of infancy, or manhood lament that no longer as a taste for the amusements of youth? The season of manhood has also its suitable objects, that are exchanged for others in old age; and these too, like all the preceding, become languid and insipt in their turn. Now when this state of absolute satiety is at length arrived; when we have enjoyed the satisfactions peculiar to old age, till we have no longer any relish remaining for them; it is then that death may justly be considered as a mature an seasonable event.
[tr. Melmoth (1773)]

In fine, satiety of life, as it seems to me, creates satiety of pursuits of every kind. There are certain pursuits belonging to boyhood; do grown-up young men therefore long for them? There are others appertaining to early youth; are they required in the sedate period of life which we call middle age? This, too, has its own pursuits, and they are not sought in old age. As the pursuits of earlier periods of life fail, so in like manner do those of old age. When this period is reached, satiety of life brings a season ripe for death.
[tr. Peabody (1884)]

On the whole, as it seems to me indeed, a satiety of all pursuits causes a satiety of life. There are pursuits peculiar to boyhood; do therefore young men regret the loss of them? There are also some of early youth; does that now settled age, which is called middle life, seek after these? There are also some of this period; neither are they looked for by old age. There are some final pursuits of old age; accordingly, as the pursuits of the earlier parts of life fall into disuse, so also do those of old age; and when this has taken place, satiety of life brings on the seasonable period of death.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

As a general truth, as it seems to me, it is weariness of all pursuits that creates weariness of life. There are certain pursuits adapted to childhood: do young men miss them? There are others suited to early manhood: does that settled time of life called "middle age" ask for them? There are others, again, suited to that age, but not looked for in old age. There are, finally, some which belong to old age. Therefore, as the pursuits of the earlier ages have their time for disappearing, so also have those of old age. And when that takes place, a satiety of life brings on the ripe time for death.
[tr. Shuckburgh (1895)]

To put it in a word, it seems to me
'Tis weariness of all pursuits that makes
A weary age. We have pursuits as boys,
Do young men want them? Others yet there are
Suited to growing years, are they required
By those who've reached what's termed "the middle age"?
That too enjoys its own, but are they fit
For us old me? We have our own of course,
And as the others end, just so do ours,
And when it happens, weariness of life
Proclaims that ripeness which precedes our death.
[tr. Allison (1916)]

Undoubtedly, as it seems to me at least, satiety of all pursuits causes satiety of life. Boyhood has certain pursuits: does youth yearn for them? Early youth has its pursuits: does the matured or so-called middle stage of life need them? Maturity, too, has such as are not even sought in old age, and finally, there are those suitable to old age. Therefore as the pleasures and pursuits of the earlier periods of life fall away, so also do those of old age; and when that happens man has his fill of life and the time is ripe for him to go.
[tr. Falconer (1923)]

It seems to me you have had enough of life when you have had your fill of all its activities. Little boys enjoy certain things, but older youths to not yearn for these. Young adulthood has its delights, but middle age does not desire them. There are also pleasures of middle age, but these are not sought in old age. And so, justas the pleasures of earlier ages fall away, so do those of old age. When this happens, you have had enough of life, and it is time for you to pass on.
[tr. Freeman (2016)]
Added on 15-Dec-20 | Last updated 15-Dec-20
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More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

CREON: A foe, though dead, should as a foe be treated still.
ANTIGONE: My love shall go with them, but not my hate.

Κρέων: οὔτοι ποθ᾽ οὑχθρός, οὐδ᾽ ὅταν θάνῃ, φίλος.
Ἀντιγόνη: οὔτοι συνέχθειν, ἀλλὰ συμφιλεῖν ἔφυν.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 522ff (441 BC) [tr. Werner (1892)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alt. trans.:

KREON: The foe is ne'er a friend -- not e'en in death.
ANTIGONE: My heart is love's co-mate, not hatred's partner.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

CREON: Not even death can make a foe a friend.
ANTIGONE: My nature is for mutual love, not hate.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

CREON: You do not love someone you have hated, not even after death.
ANTIGONE: It is not my nature to join in hate, but in love.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

CREON: A foe is never a friend -- not even in death.
ANTIGONE: 'Tis not my nature to join in hating, but in loving.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

CREON: An enemy is an enemy, even dead.
ANTIGONE: It is may nature to join in love, not hate.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939)]

CREON: An enemy can't be a friend, even when dead.
ANTIGONE: My way is to share my love, not share my hate.
[tr. Watling (1947), ll. 441-42]

CREON: No enemy will become a friend in the Underworld.
ANTIGONE: I am for sharing love, not hatred.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

CREON: An enemy
can never be a friend, not even in death.
ANTIGONE: But my nature is to love. I cannot hate.
[tr. Johnston (2005), ll. 596-98]

CREON: An enemy is not a friend, even when dead.
ANTIGONE: I cannot share their hate, only their love.
[tr. Thomas]
Added on 12-Dec-20 | Last updated 9-May-21
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Therefore, when the young die I am reminded of a strong flame extinguished by a torrent; but when old men die it is as if a fire had gone out without the use of force and of its own accord, after the fuel had been consumed; and, just as apples when they are green are with difficulty plucked from the tree, but when ripe and mellow fall of themselves, so, with the young, death comes as a result of force, while with the old it is the result of ripeness. To me, indeed, the thought of this “ripeness” for death is so pleasant, that the nearer I approach death the more I feel like one who is in sight of land at last and is about to anchor in his home port after a long voyage.

[Itaque adulescentes mihi mori sic videntur, ut cum aquae multitudine flammae vis opprimitur, senes autem sic, ut cum sua sponte nulla adhibita vi consumptus ignis exstinguitur; et quasi poma ex arboribus, cruda si sunt, vix evelluntur, si matura et cocta, decidunt, sic vitam adulescentibus vis aufert, senibus maturitas; quae quidem mihi tam iucunda est, ut, quo propius ad mortem accedam, quasi terram videre videar aliquandoque in portum ex longa navigatione esse venturus.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Cato Maior de Senectute [Discourse on Old Age], ch. 19 / sec. 71 (44 BC) [tr. Falconer (1923)]
    (Source)

Original Latin. Alt. trans.

Therefore a young man seemeth to me to die like fire put out with water, but old men like fire which being put out by no force, is quietly consumed of it selfe; and as apples on trees being not ripe, are plucked of by violence, but being ripe they fall of themselves: so force taketh away the life of young men, but ripenesse of age the life of old men: which consideration is so pleasant to me, that I seem to behold the earth, as a quiet port, whither after a long and troublesome navigation I shall arrive.
[tr. Austin (17th C), ch. 21]

For Young Men seem to be forced from Life, as Fires are extinguished by great Quantities of Water thrown on them; when on the contrary, Old Men expire of themselves, like a Flame when all its Fuel is spent. And as unripe Fruit requires some Force to part it from its native Bough; but when come to full Maturity, it drops of itself, without any Hand to touch it: So Young People die by something violent or unnatural; but the Old by mere Ripeness. The Thoughts of which to me are now become so agreeable, that the nearer I draw to my End, it seems like discovering the Land at Sea, that, after the Tossings of a tedious and stormy Voyage, will yield me a safe and quiet Harbour.
[tr. Logan (1734)]

In the latter instance [youth]; the privation of life may be resembled to a fire forcibly extinguished by a deluge of water; in the former [an old man], to a fire spontaneously and gradually going out from a total consumption of its fuel. Or, to have recourse to another illustration; as fruit before it is ripe cannot, without some degree of force, be separated from the stalk, but drops of itself when perfectly mature; so the disunion of the soul and body is effected in the young by dint of violence, but is wrought in the old by a mere fullness and completion of years. This ripeness for death I perceive in myself with much satisfaction; and I look forward to my dissolution as to a secure haven, where I shall at length find a happy repose from the fatigues of a long voyage.
[tr. Melmoth (<1820)]

To them it comes
It seems to me, as when a fire is quenched
By streams of water: to the old it comes
As when a fire dies slowly down itself:
Just so the apples, when unripe, are torn
With violence from the boughs: if ripe with age
They gently fall: and so the life of youth
Is taken by some violent attack;
The old man's troublous age comes gently to an end.
To me this seems so pleasant, that I feel
The nearer that I draw towards the end,
I sight the land, and see before my eyes
The harbour waiting to receive the bark
Which long as voyaged on the toilsome sea.
[tr. Allison (1916)]

Death at an early age seems to me like a fire that has suddenly been swamped by a bucket of water; but death in old age is like a fire that has not been extinguished but has gone out of its own accord, because it has used up all its fuel. When an apple is not yet ripe, it takes some work to tug it off the branch; but when it is fully ripe, it simply falls to the ground. In the same way, though some act of violence may snatch life from the young, the old are ready to die. And that to me is a pleasant thought -- so much so that the nearer I get to death, the more I feel like a sailor who, after a long voyage, has made landfall and is about to tie up in his home port.
[tr. Cobbold (2012)]

A young person dying reminds me of a fire extinguished by a deluge. But when an old person dies, it is like a flame that diminishes gradually and flickers away of its own accord with no force applied after its fuel has been used up. In the same way, green apples are hard to pick from a tree, but when ripe and ready they fall to the ground by themselves. So death comes to the young with force, but to the old when the time is right. To me there is great comfort in this idea, so that as death grows nearer, the more I feel like a traveler who at last sees the land of his home port after a long voyage.
[tr. Freeman (2016)]
Added on 7-Dec-20 | Last updated 7-Dec-20
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More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

You are neither the first nor the last of mortals
to lose a good wife. You have to learn
that death is a debt we all must pay.

[οὐ γάρ τι πρῶτος οὐδὲ λοίσθιος βροτῶν
γυναικὸς ἐσθλῆς ἤμπλακες· γίγνωσκε δὲ
ὡς πᾶσιν ἡμῖν κατθανεῖν ὀφείλεται.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Alcestis [Ἄλκηστις], c. l. 415 [Chorus] (438 BC) [tr. Leuschnig]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:

Thou art by no means the first nor yet shalt be the last of men to lose a wife of worth; know this, we all of us are debtors unto death.
[tr. Coleridge (1910)]

Thou shalt not be the last, nor yet the first,
To lose a noble wife. Be brave, and know
To die is but a debt that all men owe.
[tr. Murray (1915)]

Not first of mortals thou, nor shalt be last
To lose a noble wife; and, be thou sure,
From us, from all, this debt is due -- to die.
[tr. Way (1984)]

You are neither the first nor the last mortal
Who has lost a good wife. Understand this:
Dying is a debt we all have to pay.
[tr. @sentantiq (2020)]
Added on 20-Nov-20 | Last updated 20-Nov-20
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To Beatrice–
My love flew like a butterfly,
Until death swooped down like a bat,
As the poet Emma Montana McElroy said:
“That’s the end of that.”

Lemony Snicket (b. 1970) American author, screenwriter, musician (pseud. for Daniel Handler)
The Miserable Mill, Dedication (2000)
    (Source)

More on the referenced poet.
Added on 18-Nov-20 | Last updated 18-Nov-20
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But if I am to die before my time, I count that a gain. When anyone lives as I do, surrounded by evils, how can he not carry off gain by dying?

[εἰ δὲ τοῦ χρόνου
πρόσθεν θανοῦμαι, κέρδος αὔτ᾽ ἐγὼ λέγω.
ὅστις γὰρ ἐν πολλοῖσιν ὡς ἐγὼ κακοῖς
ζῇ, πῶς ὅδ᾽ Οὐχὶ κατθανὼν κέρδος φέρει]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 460 ff [Antigone] (441 BC) [tr. Jebb (1891)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:

But if I am to die before my time, I count that a gain: for when any one lives, as I do, compassed about with evils, can such an one find aught but gain in death?
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

And if my time is shortened, this to me
Is gain indeed. For whoso lives, as I live,
Beset with many sorrows, how does he
Not win by dying?
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

If death
Is thereby hastened, I shall count it gain
For death is gain to him whose life, like mine,
Is full of misery.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

And now, if I fall
A little sooner, 'tis the thing I wish.
To thou, who live in misery like me,
Believe me, King, 'tis happiness to die.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

But if I die young, all the better:
People who live in misery like mine
Are better dead.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

I knew that my death was imminent, of course I did, and even if it came sooner, I would still think it a good thing because when one lives in such a dreadful misery why should he not think death to be a good thing?
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

And if I have to die
before my time, well, I count that a gain.
When someone has to live the way I do,
surrounded by so many evil things,
how can she fail to find a benefit
in death?
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 521ff]

If I die
before my time, I say it is a gain.
Who lives in sorrows many as are mine
how shall he not be glad to gain his death?
[tr. Wyckoff]

But if
I shall die before my time, I declare it a profit,
for whoever lives beset, as I do, by many things evil,
how does he not gain profit by dying?
[tr. Tyrrell/Bennett]
Added on 13-Nov-20 | Last updated 9-May-21
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CHARLIE ANDERSON: There’s nothing much I can tell you about this war. It’s like all wars, I suppose. The undertakers are winning it. Oh, the politicians will talk a lot about the “glory” of it, and the old men’ll talk about the “need” of it — the soldiers, they just want to go home.

James Lee Barrett (1929-1989) American author, producer, screenwriter
Shenandoah (1965)
    (Source)
Added on 21-Oct-20 | Last updated 21-Oct-20
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More quotes by Barrett, James Lee

He bent drooping his head to one side, as a garden poppy
bends beneath the weight of its yield and the rains of springtime;
so his head bent slack to one side beneath the helm’s weight.

[Μήκων δ’ ὡς ἑτέρωσε κάρη βάλεν, ἥ τ’ ἐνὶ κήπῳ
καρπῷ βριθομένη νοτίῃσί τε εἰαρινῇσιν,
ὣς ἑτέρωσ’ ἤμυσε κάρη πήληκι βαρυνθέν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 8, l. 306ff (8.306-308) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Lattimore (1951)]
    (Source)

Describing the death of Gorgythion, son of Priam.

Alt. trans.:
And, as a crimson poppy flow’r, surchargéd with his seed,
And vernal humours falling thick, declines his heavy brow,
So, of one side, his helmet’s weight his fainting head did bow.
[tr. Chapman (1611), ll. 265-67]

As full-blown poppies, overcharged with rain,
Decline the head, and drooping kiss the plain, --
So sinks the youth; his beauteous head, depressed
Beneath his helmet, drops upon his breast.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

As in the garden, with the weight surcharged
Of its own fruit, and drench’d by vernal rains
The poppy falls oblique, so he his head
Hung languid, by his helmet’s weight depress’d.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 351ff]

And as a poppy, which in the garden is weighed down with fruit and vernal showers, droops its head to one side, so did his head incline aside, depressed by the helmet.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

Down sank his head, as in a garden sinks
A ripen'd poppy charg'd with vernal rains;
So sank his head beneath his helmet's weight.
[tr. Derby (1864), ll. 349-51]

Now he bowed his head as a garden poppy in full bloom when it is weighed down by showers in spring -- even thus heavy bowed his head beneath the weight of his helmet.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

And he bowed his head to one side like a poppy that in a garden is laden with its fruit and the rains of spring; so bowed he to one side his head, laden with his helmet.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

Fallen on one side, as on the stalk a poppy falls, weighed down by showring spring, beneath his helmet's weight his head sank down.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

As a garden poppy, burst into red bloom, bends
by its full seeds and a sudden spring shower,
so Gorgythion's head fell limp over one shoulder,
weighed down by his helmet.
[tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 349-53]

Off to one side his head he let drop, like a poppy that in some
garden is heavy with its own seed and the showers of springtime --
so to one side did his head incline, weighed down by his helmet.
[tr. Merrill (2007), ll. 306-08]
Added on 14-Oct-20 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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More quotes by Homer

And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it,
neither brave man nor coward, I tell you —
it’s born with us the day that we are born.

[Μοῖραν δ’ οὔ τινά φημι πεφυγμένον ἔμμεναι ἀνδρῶν,
οὐ κακὸν οὐδὲ μὲν ἐσθλόν, ἐπὴν τὰ πρῶτα γένηται.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 6, l. 488ff (6.488-489) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 582-84]

Hector bidding his wife farewell. Alt. trans.:

And fate, whose wings can fly?
Noble, ignoble, fate controls. Once born, the best must die.
[tr. Chapman (1611), ll. 528-29]

Fixed is the term to all the race of earth,
And such the hard condition of our birth.
No force can then resist, no flight can save;
All sink alike, the fearful and the brave.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Nor lives he who can overpass the date
By heaven assign’d him, be he base or brave
[tr. Cowper (1791), ll. 595-96]

But I think there is no one of men who has escaped fate, neither the coward nor the brave man, after he has once been born.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

If a man's hour is come, be he brave or be he coward, there is no escape for him when he has once been born.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Only his doom, methinks, no man hath ever escaped, be he coward or valiant, when once he hath been born.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

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As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity.
The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber
Burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning.
So one generation of men will grow while another dies.

[Οἵη περ φύλλων γενεὴ τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν.
φύλλα τὰ μέν τ’ ἄνεμος χαμάδις χέει, ἄλλα δέ θ’ ὕλη
τηλεθόωσα φύει, ἔαρος δ’ ἐπιγίγνεται ὥρη·
ὣς ἀνδρῶν γενεὴ ἣ μὲν φύει ἣ δ’ ἀπολήγει.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 6, l. 146ff (6.146-149) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Lattimore (1951)]
    (Source)

Like the race of leaves
The race of man is, that deserves no question; nor receives
My being any other breath? The wind in autumn strows
The earth with old leaves, then the spring the woods with new endows;
And so death scatters men on earth, so life puts out again
Man’s leavy issue.
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 141ff]

Like leaves on trees the race of man is found,
Now green in youth, now withering on the ground:
Another race the following spring supplies,
They fall successive, and successive rise:
So generations in their course decay;
So flourish these, when those are past away.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]


For, as the leaves, such is the race of man.
The wind shakes down the leaves, the budding grove
Soon teems with others, and in spring they grow.
So pass mankind. One generation meets
Its destined period, and a new succeeds.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 175ff]

As is the race of leaves, even such is the race of men. Some leaves the wind sheds upon the ground, but the fructifying wood produces others, and these grow up in the season of spring. Such is the generation of men; one produces, another ceases.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

The race of man is as the race of leaves:
Of leaves, one generation by the wind
Is scatter'd on the earth; another soon
In spring's luxuriant verdure bursts to light.
So with our race; these flourish, those decay.
[tr. Derby (1864)]


Even as are the generations of leaves such are those likewise of men; the leaves that be the wind scattereth on the earth, and the forest buddeth and putteth forth more again, when the season of spring is at hand; so of the generations of men one putteth forth and another ceaseth.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

Men come and go as leaves year by year upon the trees. Those of autumn the wind sheds upon the ground, but when spring returns the forest buds forth with fresh vines. Even so is it with the generations of mankind, the new spring up as the old are passing away.
[tr. Butler (1898)]


Even as are the generations of leaves, such are those also of men. As for the leaves, the wind scattereth some upon the earth, but the forest, as it bourgeons, putteth forth others when the season of spring is come; even so of men one generation springeth up and another passeth away.
[tr. Murray (1924)]


Very like leaves upon this earth are the generations of men -- old leaves, cast on the ground by wind, young leaves the greening forest bears when spring comes in. So mortals pass; one generation flowers even as another dies away.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]


Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men.
Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth,
now the living timber bursts with the new buds
and spring comes round again. And so with men:
as one generation comes to life, another dies away.
[tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 171-75]
Added on 16-Sep-20 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place; and men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross. I will not say it shall be so, but rather I will say, here in this world he changed his life. But many men say that there is written upon his tomb this verse: Hic jacet Arthurus Rex, quondam Rex que futurus.

[Here lies Arthur, the once and future king.]

No picture available
Thomas Malory (c. 1415-1471) English writer
Le Morte d’Arthur, Book 21, ch. 7 (1485)
    (Source)
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For, though th’ ascent be rough, and steep the fall,
Ambition has but one reward for all:
A little power, a little transient fame,
A grave to rest in, and a fading name!

William Winter (1836-1917) American dramatic critic and author
“The Queen’s Domain,” The Queen’s Domain, and Other Poems (1858)
    (Source)
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Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds.

[Μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά, Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,
πολλὰς δ᾽ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 1, l. 1ff (1.1-5) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990)]

Original Greek. Alternate translation:
The wrath of Peleus' son, the direful spring
Of all the Grecian woes, O Goddess, sing!
That wrath which hurled to Pluto's gloomy reign
The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain,
Whose limbs, unburied on the naked shore,
Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore ....
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Achilles sing, O Goddess! Peleus' son;
His wrath pernicious, who ten thousand woes
Caused to Achaia’s host, sent many a soul
Illustrious into Ades premature,
And Heroes gave (so stood the will of Jove)
To dogs and to all ravening fowls a prey.
[tr. Cowper (1791)]

Sing, O goddess, the destructive wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus, which brought countless woes upon the Greeks, and hurled many valiant souls of heroes down to Hades, and made themselves a prey to dogs and to all birds ....
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

Of Peleus' son, Achilles, sing, O Muse,
The vengeance, deep and deadly; wence to Greece
Unnumber'd ills arose; which many a soul
Of mighty warriors to the viewless shades
Untimely sent; they on the battle plain
Unburied lay, a prey to rav'ning dogs,
And carrion birds ....
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles Peleus' son, the ruinous wrath that brought on the Achaians woes innumerable, and hurled down into Hades many strong souls of heroes, and gave their bodies to be a prey to dogs and all winged fowls ....
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

Sing, O goddess, the rage of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures ....
[tr. Butler (1898)]

The wrath sing, goddess, of Peleus' son, Achilles, that destructive wrath which brought countless woes upon the Achaeans, and sent forth to Hades many valiant souls of heroes, and made them themselves spoil for dogs and every bird ....
[tr. Murray (1924)]

Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Achilles' anger, doomed and ruinous,
that cause the Achaeans loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men -- carrion
for dogs and birds ....
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

Sing now, goddess, the wrath of Achilles the scion of Peleus,
ruinous rage which brought the Achaians uncounted afflictions;
many the powerful souls it sent to the dwellings of Hades,
those of the heroes, and spoil for the dogs it made of their bodies,
plunder for all of the birds ....
[tr. Merrill (2007)]
Added on 5-Aug-20 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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Is not short paine well borne, that brings long ease,
And layes the soule to sleepe in quiet grave?
Sleepe after toyle, port after stormie seas,
Ease after warre, death after life, does greatly please.

Edmund Spenser (c. 1552-1599) English poet
The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 9, st. 40 (1589-96)
    (Source)
Added on 6-Jul-20 | Last updated 6-Jul-20
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Trust me, the being-dead part is much easier than the dying part. If you can watch much television, then being dead will be a cinch. Actually, watching television and surfing the Internet are really excellent practice for being dead.

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Damned, ch. 1 (2011)
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Added on 30-Jun-20 | Last updated 30-Jun-20
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I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.

[Prefiero morir de pie que vivir de rodillas.]

Emiliano Zapata 1879-1919) Mexican revolutionary, reformer [Emiliano Zapata Salazar]
(Attributed)

Often misattributed to Che Guevara, José Martí, and other revolutionaries. Popularized by "La Pasionaria" Dolores Ibárruri, during her speeches and broadcasts in the Spanish Civil War. More discussion here.

Alternate versions/translations:
  • "I'd prefer to die standing, than to live always on my knees! [¡Prefiero morir de pie que vivir siempre arrodillado!]"
  • "Men of the South! It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!"
  • "I would rather die standing than live on my knees!"
  • "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!"
  • "I prefer to die standing than to live forever kneeling."
  • "Prefer death on your feet to living on your knees."
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It costs me never a stab nor squirm
To tread by chance upon a worm.
“Aha, my little dear,” I say,
“Your clan will pay me back some day.”

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
“Thoughts for a Sunshiny Morning,” New Yorker (3 Apr 1927)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Sunset Gun (1927).
Added on 29-Jun-20 | Last updated 29-Jun-20
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The concentration camps, by making death itself anonymous (making it impossible to find out whether a prisoner is dead or alive), robbed death of its meaning as the end of a fulfilled life. In a sense they took away the individual’s own death, proving that henceforth nothing belonged to him and he belonged to no one. His death merely set a seal on the fact that he had never existed.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 3, ch. 12, sec. 3 (1951)
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The difficulty is not so much to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for.

Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782) Scottish jurist, agriculturalist, philosopher, writer
Introduction to the Art of Thinking, ch. 1, “Friendship” (1761)
    (Source)

Often misattributed to Homer. See John 15:13.
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Drink and dance and laugh and lie,
Love, the reeling midnight through,
For tomorrow we shall die!
(But, alas, we never do.)

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
“The Flaw in Paganism,” Death and Taxes (1931)
    (Source)
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I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver (1935-2019) American poet
“When Death Comes” New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2 (2005)
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Oh, let it be a night of lyric rain
And singing breezes, when my bell is tolled.
I have so loved the rain that I would hold
Last in my ears its friendly, dim refrain.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
“Testament,” Not So Deep as a Well (1936)
    (Source)
Added on 30-Mar-20 | Last updated 30-Mar-20
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Life is so sweet! One can die but once, and it is for such a long time!

[Il est si doux de vivre: On ne meurt qu’une fois; et c’est pour si long-tems (longtemps)!]

Molière (1622-1673) French playwright, actor [stage name for Jean-Baptiste Poquelin]
The Love-Tiff [Le Dépit Amoureux], Act 5, sc. 4 (1656) [tr. Van Laun (1875)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "Life is so sweet! We die only once, and for such a long time!" [Lovers' Quarrels, tr. Wall (1879)]

Original French text.
Added on 27-Mar-20 | Last updated 30-Mar-20
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But if physical death is the price that a man must pay to free his children and his white brethren from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing could be more redemptive. This is the type of soul force that I am convinced will triumph over the physical force of the oppressor.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“The Rising Tide of Racial Consciousness,” Speech, National Urban League, New York (6 Sep 1960)
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Making money ain’t nothing exciting to me. … You might be able to buy a little better booze than some wino on the corner. But you get sick just like the next cat, and when you die you’re just as graveyard dead as he is.

Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong (1900-1971) American musician
Ebony (Nov 1964)
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As to a hereafter, we have not the slightest evidence that there is any — no evidence that appeals to logic and reason. I have never seen what to me seemed an atom of proof that there is a future life. And yet — I am strongly inclined to expect one.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Quoted in Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain: A Biography, Vol. 4, ch. 264 (1922)
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Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods?

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“Horatius,” st. 27, Lays of Ancient Rome (1842)
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After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. You know, the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all — the trouble is, humans do have a knack for choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.

Joanne "Jo" Rowling (b. 1965) British novelist [writes as J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith]
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, ch. 17 [Dumbledore] (1997)
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Inside Every Living Person is a Dead Person Waiting to Get Out …

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Reaper Man (1991)
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How surely are the dead beyond death. Death is what the living carry with them. A state of dread, like some uncanny foretaste of a bitter memory. But the dead do not remember and nothingness is not a curse. Far from it.

Cormac McCarthy (b. 1933) American novelist, playwright, screenwriter
Suttree (1979)
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Do I seem to say, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die?” Far from it; on the contrary, I say, “Let us take hands and help, for this day we are alive together.”

William Kingdon Clifford (1845-1879) English mathematician and philosopher
“The First and the Last Catastrophe,” Popular Science Monthly (Jul 1875)
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I see men assassinated around me every day. I walk through rooms of the dead, streets of the dead, cities of the dead: men without eyes, men without voices; men with manufactured feelings and standard reactions; men with newspaper brains, television souls and high school ideals.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
Sunlight Here I Am: Interviews and Encounters, 1963-1993 (2003)
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When asked his reaction to the assassination of John Kennedy.
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Yes, he thought, between grief and nothing I will take grief.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) American novelist
The Wild Palms [If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem], ch. 9 (1939)
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If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.

Claude McKay (1889-1948) Jamaican-American writer, poet, journalist
“If We Must Die,” The Liberator (Jul 1919)
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