Quotations about   mortality

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The mortality of all inanimate things is terrible to me, but that of books most of all.

William Dean Howells (1837-1920) American author, literary critic, and playwright
Letter to Charles Eliot Norton (6 Apr 1903)
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Added on 4-Apr-22 | Last updated 4-Apr-22
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I am not ready to die,
But I am learning to trust death
As I have trusted life.
I am moving
Toward a new freedom
Born of detachment,
And a sweeter grace —
Learning to let go.

May Sarton
May Sarton (1912-1995) Belgian-American poet, novelist, memoirist [pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton]
“Gestalt at Sixty,” sec. 3 (1972)
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Added on 14-Dec-21 | Last updated 14-Dec-21
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Aristotle says that on the banks of the River Hypanis, which falls into the Euxine from a part of Europe, there is an order of beasties (creatures, insects, bestiolæ), which live one day. Of these, therefore, any that dies at the eight hour has died at an advanced age, but any that dies at sunset, in positive senility, especially if it be the solstice. Compare, now, our longest life with eternity, and we shall be found to be in much the same category as these ephemerals.

[Apud Hypanim fluvium, qui ab Europae parte in Pontum influit, Aristoteles ait bestiolas quasdam nasci, quae unum diem vivant. Ex his igitur hora VIII quae mortua est, provecta aetate mortua est; quae vero occidente sole, decrepita, eo magis, si etiam solstitiali die. Confer nostram longissimam aetatem cum aeternitate: in eadem propemodum brevitate qua illae bestiolae reperiemur.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 1, ch. 39 / sec. 94 (45 BC) [tr. Black (1889)]
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The reference is to Aristotle, History of Animals, 5.19 (552b.18). (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

By the mouth of the Hypanis, which on the side of Europe, falleth into the Black Sea; Aristotle reports certain Insects to be bred, that live but one day. Such therefore, of these, as dye at two in the Afternoon, dye elderly; but such, as at Sunset, very aged; and the more, if it be on the longest day in Summer. Compare our life, at longest, with Eternity; we shall be found, in a manner, as short-liv'd as are these Insects.
[tr. Wase (1643)]

Aristotle saith, there is a kind of insect, near the river Hypanis;, which runs from a certain part of Europe, into the Pontus, whose life consists but of one day; those that die at the eighth hour, die in full age; those who die when the sun sets, very old, especially when the days are at the longest. Compare our l9ongest age with eternity, and we shall be found as short-lived as those little animals.
[tr. Main (1824)]

At the river Hypanis, which flows into the Euxine, from a part of Europe, certain little insects, Aristotle says, are born to live but a day. Then, one of these, that dies at two afternoon, dies well-advanced in life; but he that dies at sunset, especially about the summer solstice, decrepit. Compare our longest age with eternity; we shall be found in much the same brevity with these little insects.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

On the River Hypanis, which flows from some part of Europe into the Euxine Sea, Aristotle says that there is a certain species of insects that live only a day. One of them that died at the eighth hour of the day would have died at an advanced age; one of them that died at sunset, especially at the summer solstice, would have been decrepit. If we compare our life with eternity, we shall find ourselves of almost as brief a being as those insects.
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

By the river Hypanis which flows into the Black Sea on the European side, Aristotle says some tiny creatures are born which live for one day. So of these one which has died in the eight hour has died at an advanced age; one which has died at sunset is senile, all the more if it dies at the summer solstice. Compare the longest human life with eternity; we shall turn out to be almost as short-lived as these tiny creatures.
[tr. Douglas (1985)]

Aristotle reports that along the river Hypanis, which flows into Pontus from Europe, tiny creatures are born that live but a single day. If they die at the eighth hour they're of an advanced age, if at sunset, they're decrepit -- even more so on the solstice. Measure the longest human lifespan against eternity: you'll find we live about as briefly as those little creatures do.
[tr. Habinek (1996)]

On the river Hypanis which flows from part of Europe into the Black Sea, Aristotle says that little creates are born which live for a single day. One of them, therefore, that has died at the eighth hour of the day has died at an advanced age; one that has died at sunset is senile, and all the more so if this occurs at the summer solstice. Compare our longest lifetime with eternity: we shall be found to be virtually as short-lived as those little creatures.
[tr. Davie (2017)]

Aristotle says that certain little beasts which live for only one day are born near the Hypanis, which flows from part of Europe into the Black Sea. One of these who dies at sunrise dies as a youth; one who dies at noon has already achieved an advanced age; but one who departs at the setting of the sun dies old, especially if it is the solstice. Compare the entirety of our life with eternity, and we will be found to exist for just as short a time as that animal.
[tr. @sentantiq (2019), quoting from Petrarch, Secretum 3.17]

Added on 9-Dec-21 | Last updated 9-Dec-21
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More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

And, oh! whate’er Heaven destined to betide,
Let neither flattery soothe, nor pity hide.
Prepared I stand: he was but born to try
The lot of man; to suffer, and to die.

[πέρι γάρ μιν ὀιζυρὸν τέκε μήτηρ.
μηδέ τί μ᾽ αἰδόμενος μειλίσσεο μηδ᾽ ἐλεαίρων,
ἀλλ᾽ εὖ μοι κατάλεξον ὃπως ἤντησας ὀπωπῆς.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 3, l. 96ff (3.96) (c. 700 BC) [tr. Pope (1725), l. 114ff]
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Telemachus seeking to learn from Nestor of the fate of his father, Odysseus. Telemachus later repeats these words in seeking news of his father from Menelaus (4.326). (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

[T]he unhappy wanderer,
To too much sorrow whom his mother bore.
You then by all your bounties I implore,
[...] that in nought applied
To my respect or pity you will glose,
But uncloth’d truth to my desires disclose
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

[B]orn to calamity.
Let no respect, or pity mitigate
Your story, howsoever sad it be.
Nothing but naked truth to me relate.
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 85ff]

For my father at his birth
Was, sure, predestin’d to no common woes.
Neither through pity, or o’erstrain’d respect
Flatter me, but explicit all relate
Which thou hast witness’d.
[tr. Cowper (1792), l. 120ff]

How hath his mother to exceeding teen
borne him! Let no kind thought thy tidings screen;
Paint not the tale through pity.
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 12]

For sure a woeful wight his mother bore him!
Extenuate naught for shame or pity's sake,
But tell me all, as thou hast chanced to see!
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869), l. 95ff]

His mother bare him to exceeding sorrow. And speak me no soft words in ruth or pity, but tell me plainly what sight thou didst get of him.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

This man, his mother bore him to most exceeding woe --
But have no respect of my sorrow nor be soft and soothing now,
But tell all out unto me, in what wise the man thou hast seen.
[tr. Morris (1887), l. 95ff]

To exceeding grief his mother bore him. Use no mild word, no yield to pity, from regard for me, but tell me fully all you chanced to see.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

He was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things out of any pity for me, but tell me in all plainness exactly what you saw.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

For beyond all men did his mother bear him to sorrow. And do thou nowise out of ruth or pity for me speak soothing words, but tell me truly how thou didst come to behold him.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

Even from his mother's womb, calamity had marked him for her own. Do not in pity convey to me smooth things, things gentler than the truth: blurt out, rather, all that met your sight.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

For if ever a man was born for misery, it was he. Do not soften your account out of pity or concern for my feelings, but faithfully describe the scene that met your eyes.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

The man was born for trouble. Spare me no part for kindness' sake; be harsh; but put the scene before me as you saw it.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

His mother bore this man to be wretched. Do not soften it because you pity me and are sorry for me, but fairly tell me all that your eyes have witnessed.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

She who gave birth to him gave birth to grief. You need not sweeten anything for me. Forget discretion, set aside your pity: tell me completely -- all you chanced to see.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

More than all other men, that man was born for pain.
Don't soften a thing, from pity, respect for me --
tell me, clearly, all your eyes have witnessed.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

He was born to sorrow.
More than any man on earth. And do not,
Out of pity, spare me the truth, but tell me
Whatever you have seen, whatever you know.
[tr. Lombardo (2000), l. 104ff]

For his mother indeed bore him to be woeful. Spare me nothing, extenuate nothing, nor show any pity; tell me all to the end, however it came to your notice.
[tr. Merrill (2002)]

For if ever a man was born to suffer it was he. Do not soften your account out of pity or concern for my feelings, but faithfully describe the scene that met your eyes.
[tr. D C H Rieu (2002)]

More than any other man his mother bore him for wretchedness. Do not let respect or pity for me soften your words, but tell me exactly how you chanced to see him.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

He was surely born to suffer in extraordinary ways. Please do not try to sweeten bitter news from pity; tell me truly if you saw him, and how he was.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

To unmatched sorrow his mother bore him! And don't, from concern or pity, speak false comfort to me, but tell me exactly what you may have witnessed!
[tr. Green (2018)]

For his mother bore him
to go through trouble more than other men.
Do not pity me or, from compassion,
just offer me kind words of consolation,
but tell me truly how you chanced to see him.
[tr. Johnston (2019), l. 119ff]

Added on 24-Nov-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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More quotes by Homer

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)
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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

We vainly accuse the fury of Gunnes, and the new inventions of death; ’tis in the power of every hand to destroy us, and wee are beholding unto every one wee meete hee doth not kill us.

[We vainly accuse the fury of guns, and the new inventions of death; it is in the power of every hand to destroy us, and we are beholden unto every one we meet he doth not kill us.]

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Religio Medici, Part 1, sec. 43 (1643)
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Added on 13-Oct-21 | Last updated 13-Oct-21
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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)]
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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)]

Oh my child, ill-fated beyond all other mortals, this is not Persephone, daughter of Zeus, beguiling you, but it is only what happens, when they die, to all mortals. The sinews no longer hold the flesh and the bones together. The queens of the past and once the spirit has left the white bones, all the rest of the body is made subject to the fire's strong fury, but the soul flitters out like a dream and flies away.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

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)]

Alas, my child, ill-fated beyond all other mortals, Persephonē, daughter of Zeus, is in no way beguiling you. No, this is the fixed law for mortals, when anyone dies: The sinews no longer keep flesh and bones together, they're destroyed by the powerful force of blazing fire as soon as the spirit departs from the white bones and the soul, like a dream, flies fluttering off, is gone.
[tr. Green (2018)]

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 19-Jan-22
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More quotes by Homer

No one on his deathbed ever said, “I wish I had spent more time on my business.”

Paul Tsongas
Paul Tsongas (1941-1997) American politician
Heading Home (1984), quoting Arnold Zack
    (Source)

Often misattributed directly to Tsongas, this was quoted from a letter from Zack, a Massachusetts lawyer and old friend, during Tsongas' battle with cancer.
Added on 16-Jul-21 | Last updated 16-Jul-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. 341ff (12.341-342) [Eurylochus] (c. 700 BC) [tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]
    (Source)

Urging is fellow sailors to slaughter the Sun God's cattle. That ends poorly.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]

Death is in all shapes to unhappy men
A fearful fate: but misery extreme
Were it our own destruction to provoke
And die of hunger.
[tr. Musgrave (1869), l. 515ff]

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 deaths are detestable for wretched mortals,
but hunger is the sorriest way to die and encounter fate.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

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)]

Every manner of dying is hateful to miserable mortals,
but most wretched by hunger to die and encounter our doomsday.
[tr. Merrill (2002)]

To us wretched men all forms of death are abominable,
but death by starvation is the most miserable way to meet one's doom.
[tr. DCH Rieu (2002)]

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)]

All kinds of death are loathsome to wretched mortals,
but to die of starvation -- that's the most pitiful of fates!
[tr. Green (2018)]

For wretched human beings
all forms of death are hateful. But to die
from lack of food, to meet one’s fate like that,
is worst of all. [tr. Johnston (2019), l. 445ff]

Added on 9-Jun-21 | Last updated 20-Dec-21
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More quotes by Homer

And speech he has learned, and thought
So swift, and the temper of mind
To dwell within cities, and not to lie bare
Amid the keen, biting frosts
Or cower beneath pelting rain;
Full of resource against all that comes to him
is Man. Against Death alone
He is left with no defence.

[καὶ φθέγμα καὶ ἀνεμόεν φρόνημα καὶ ἀστυνόμους
ὀργὰς ἐδιδάξατο καὶ δυσαύλων
πάγων ὑπαίθρεια καὶ δύσομβρα φεύγειν βέλη
παντοπόρος: ἄπορος ἐπ᾽ οὐδὲν ἔρχεται
τὸ μέλλον: Ἅιδα μόνον φεῦξιν οὐκ ἐπάξεται.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 354ff, Stasimon 1, Strophe 2 [Chorus] (441 BC) [tr. Kitto (1962)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Language and lofty thought,
And dispositions meet for order'd cities,
These he hath taught himself; -- and how to shun
The shafts of comfortless winter, --
Both those which smite when the sky is clear,
And those which fall in showers; --
with plans for all things,
Planless in nothing, meets he the future!
Of death alone the avoidance
No foreign aid will bring.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

Speech and the wind-swift speed of counsel and civic wit,
He hath learnt for himself all these; and the arrowy rain to fly
And the nipping airs that freeze, 'neath the open winter sky.
He hath provision for all: fell plague he hath learnt to endure;
Safe whate'er may befall: yet for death he hath found no cure.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

Wise utterance and wind-swift thought, and city-moulding mind,
And shelter from the clear-eyed power of biting frost,
He hath taught him, and to shun the sharp, roof-penetrating rain, --
Full of resource, without device he meets no coming time;
From Death alone he shall not find reprieve;
No league may gain him that relief.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

Speech and thought fast as the wind and the moods that give order to a city he has taught himself, and how to flee the arrows of the inhospitable frost under clear skies and the arrows of the storming rain. He has resource for everything. Lacking resource in nothing he strides towards what must come. From Death alone he shall procure no escape.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

And speech, and wind-swift thought, and all the moods that mould a state, hath he taught himself; and how to flee the arrows of the frost, when 'tis hard lodging under the clear sky, and the arrows of the rushing rain; yea, he hath resource for all; without resource he meets nothing that must come: only against Death shall he call for aid in vain.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

Words also, and thought as rapid as air,
He fashions to his good use; statecraft is his,
And his the skill that deflects the arrows of snow,
The spears of winter rain: from every wind
He has made himself secure -- from all but one:
In the late wind of death he cannot stand.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939)]

The use of language, the wind-swift motion of brain
He learnt; found out the laws of living together
In cities, building him shelter against the rain
And wintry weather.
There is nothing beyond his power. His subtlety
Meeteth all chance, all danger conquereth.
For every ill he hath found its remedy,
Save only death.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 295ff]

Language, and thought like the wind
and the feelings that make the town,
he has taught himself, and shelter against the cold,
refuge from rain. He can always help himself.
He faces no future helpless. There's only death
that he cannot find an escape from.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

And speech and thought, quick as the wind
and the mood and mind for law that rules the city --
all these he has taught himself
and shelter from the arrows of the frost
when there's rough lodging under the cold clear sky
and the shafts of lashing rain --
ready, resourceful man!
Never without resources
never an impasse as he marches on the future --
only Death, from Death alone he will find no rescue.
[tr. Fagles (1982)]

Language and a mind swift as the wind
For making plans --
These he has taught himself --
And the character to live in cities under law.
He's learned to take cover from a frost
And escape sharp arrows of sleet.
He has the means to handle every need,
Never steps toward the future without the means.
Except for Death: He's got no relief from that.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

Both language and thought swift as wind
and impulses that govern cities,
he has taught himself, as well as how
to escape the shafts of rain
while encamped beneath open skies.
All resourceful, he approaches no future thing
to come without resource. From Hades alone
he will not contrive escape.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

And man has learnt speech and thought, swifter than the wind he mastered
And learnt to govern his cities well
And this omniscient being has learnt how to avoid the blasts of the wild open air: the arrows of the freezing night, the dreadful wind driven piercing gale!
He’s prepared for all events bar Death and from Death he can find no escape.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

He’s taught himself speech and wind-swift thought,
trained his feelings for communal civic life,
learning to escape the icy shafts of frost,
volleys of pelting rain in winter storms,
the harsh life lived under the open sky.
That’s man -- so resourceful in all he does.
There’s no event his skill cannot confront --
other than death -- that alone he cannot shun.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 405ff]

He taught himself language and wind-like thought and city-ruling urges, how to flee the slings of frost under winter's clear sky and the arrows of stormy rain, ever-resourceful. Against no possibility is he at a loss. For death alone he finds no aid.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]

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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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Ah my friend, if you and I could escape this fray
and live forever, never a trace of age, immortal,
I would never fight on the front lines again
or command you to the field where men win fame.
But now, as it is, the fates of death await us,
thousands poised to strike, and not a man alive
can flee them or escape — so in we go for attack!
Give our enemy glory or win it for ourselves!

[Ὦ πέπον εἰ μὲν γὰρ πόλεμον περὶ τόνδε φυγόντε
αἰεὶ δὴ μέλλοιμεν ἀγήρω τ’ ἀθανάτω τε
ἔσσεσθ’, οὔτέ κεν αὐτὸς ἐνὶ πρώτοισι μαχοίμην
οὔτέ κε σὲ στέλλοιμι μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειραν·
νῦν δ’ ἔμπης γὰρ κῆρες ἐφεστᾶσιν θανάτοιο
μυρίαι, ἃς οὐκ ἔστι φυγεῖν βροτὸν οὐδ’ ὑπαλύξαι,
ἴομεν ἠέ τῳ εὖχος ὀρέξομεν ἠέ τις ἡμῖν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 12, l. 322ff (12.322-328) [Sarpedon to Glaukos] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 374-81]

Original Greek. Alt. trans.:

O friend, if keeping back
Would keep back age from us, and death, and that we might not wrack
In this life’s human sea at all, but that deferring now
We shunn’d death ever, nor would I half this vain valour show,
Nor glorify a folly so, to wish thee to advance;
But since we must go, though not here, and that, besides the chance
Propos’d now, there are infinite fates of other sort in death,
Which, neither to be fled nor ’scap’d, a man must sink beneath,
Come, try we, if this sort be ours, and either render thus
Glory to others, or make them resign the like to us.
[tr. Chapman (1611), ll. 323-33]

Could all our care elude the gloomy grave,
Which claims no less the fearful than the brave,
For lust of fame I should not vainly dare
In fighting fields, nor urge thy soul to war;
But since, alas! ignoble age must come,
Disease, and death's inexorable doom;
The life which others pay, let us bestow,
And give to fame what we to nature owe;
Brave though we fall, and honoured if we live,
Or let us glory gain, or glory give!
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Oh Glaucus, if escaping safe the death
That threats us here, we also could escape
Old age, and to ourselves secure a life
Immortal, I would neither in the van
Myself expose, nor would encourage thee
To tempt the perils of the glorious field.
But since a thousand messengers of fate
Pursue us close, and man is born to die --
E’en let us on; the prize of glory yield,
If yield we must, or wrest it from the foe.
[tr. Cowper (1791), ll. 389-98]

O dear friend, if indeed, by escaping from this war, we were destined to be ever free from old age, and immortal, neither would I combat myself in the van, nor send thee into the glorious battle. But now -- for of a truth ten thousand Fates of death press upon us, which it is not possible for a mortal to escape or avoid -- let us on: either we shall give glory to some one, or some one to us.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

O friend! if we, survivors of this war,
Could live, from age and death for ever free,
Thou shouldst not see me foremost in the fight,
Nor would I urge thee to the glorious field:
But since on man ten thousand forms of death
Attend, which none may ’scape, then on, that we
May glory on others gain, or they on us!
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Ah, friend, if once escaped from this battle we were for ever to be ageless and immortal, neither would I fight myself in the foremost ranks, nor would I send thee into the war that giveth men renown, but now -- for assuredly ten thousand fates of death do every way beset us, and these no mortal may escape nor avoid -- now let us go forward, whether we shall give glory to other men, or others to us.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

My good friend, if, when we were once out of this fight, we could escape old age and death thenceforward and for ever, I should neither press forward myself nor bid you do so, but death in ten thousand shapes hangs ever over our heads, and no man can elude him; therefore let us go forward and either win glory for ourselves, or yield it to another.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Ah friend, if once escaped from this battle we were for ever to be ageless and immortal, neither should I fight myself amid the foremost, nor should I send thee into battle where men win glory; but now -- for in any case fates of death beset us, fates past counting, which no mortal may escape or avoid -- now let us go forward, whether we shall give glory to another, or another to us.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

Man, supposing you and I, escaping this battle,
would be able to live on forever, ageless, immortal,
so neither would I myself go on fighting in the foremost,
nor would I urge you into the fighting where men win glory.
But now, seeing that the spirits of death stand close about us
in their thousands, no man can turn aside or escape them,
let us go on and win glory for ourselves, or yield it to others.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

But now a thousand shapes of death surround us,
and no man can escape the, or be safe. Let us attack --
whether to give some fellow glory or to win it from him.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

Added on 2-Dec-20 | Last updated 8-Dec-21
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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)]
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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]
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This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Fight Club, ch. 3 (1996)
    (Source)
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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).
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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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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.
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The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever; but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to be a light amid the thorns.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
Platonism and the Spiritual Life (1927)
    (Source)
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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)
    (Source)
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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)
    (Source)
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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)
    (Source)
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Always struck by the “comical” aspect of everything in Algeria connected with death. I find nothing more justified. Impossible to exaggerate the ridiculous quality of an event that is normally accompanied by sweat and gurgling. Similarly, it could not be too far demoted from the sacred status normally attributed to it. Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear. And from this point of view, death is no more worthy of respect than Nero or the inspector at my local police station.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Notebooks: 1935-1942, Notebook 3, Nov 1939 [tr. Thody (1963)]
    (Source)
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To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver (1935-2019) American poet
“In Blackwater Woods,” American Primitive (1983)
    (Source)
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If glory comes after death, I hurry not.

[Si post fata venit gloria, non propero.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 5, epigram 10 (5.10) [tr. Rush]

Alt. trans.: "If glory comes only after death I am in no hurry for it." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
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Dying is an art.
Like everything else,
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I have a call.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) American poet and author
“Lady Lazarus”
    (Source)
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The King in a carriage may ride,
And the Beggar may crawl at his side;
But in the general race,
They are traveling all the same pace.

Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883) English writer, poet, translator
“Chronomoros,” l. 57ff, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal (5 Dec 1840)
    (Source)
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Life is near-death experience.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
‘On Pessimism,” lecture (3 Feb 2013)
    (Source)

Transcript here.
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What refuge is there for the victim who is oppressed with the feeling that there are a thousand new books he ought to read, while life is only long enough for him to attempt to read a hundred?

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
Over the Teacups, ch. 7 (1891)
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Every hour wounds. The last one kills.

gaiman-last-one-kills-wist_info-quote

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
American Gods, epigraph (2001)
    (Source)

Gaiman notes this as an "old saying." It is frequently found on sun dials or other clocks, sometimes in Latin. Variations:
  • "All hours wound; the last one kills."
  • "All the hours wound you, the last one kills."
  • "They all wound; the last one kills."
  • "Vulnerant omnes, ultima necat."
  • "Omnes vulnerant. Postuma necat."
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In our brief national history, we have shot four of our presidents, worried five of them to death, impeached one and hounded another out of office. And when all else fails, we hold an election and assassinate their characters.

P. J. O'Rourke (b. 1947) American humorist, editor
Parliament of Whores, “The President” (1991)
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Every day should be passed as if it were to be our last.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 633
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An occasional glance at the obituary column of The Times has suggested to me that the sixties are very unhealthy; I have long thought that it would exasperate me to die before I had written this book, and so it seemed to me that I had better set about it at once. When I have finished it I can face the future with serenity, for I shall have rounded off my life’s work.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
The Summing Up, ch. 3 (1938)
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In youth, the years stretch before one so long that it is hard to realize that they will ever pass, and even in middle age, with the ordinary expectation of life in these days, it is easy to find excuses for delaying what one would like to do but does not want to; but at last a time comes when death must be considered.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
The Summing Up, ch. 3 (1938)
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Remember that man’s life lies all within this present, as ’twere but a hair’s-breadth of time: as for the rest, the past is gone, the future yet unseen.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 3, #10
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The world’s an Inn; and I her guest.
I eat; I drink; I take my rest.
My hostess, nature, does deny me
Nothing, wherewith she can supply me;
Where, having stayed a while, I pay
Her lavish bills, and go my way.

Quarles - worlds an inn - wist_info quote

Francis Quarles (1592-1644) English poet
“On the World”
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Added on 6-Jun-16 | Last updated 7-Jun-16
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I’ll clue you in on a secret: death is not the worst thing that could happen to you. I know we think that; we are the first society ever to think that. It’s not worse than dishonor; it’s not worse than losing your freedom; it’s not worse than losing a sense of personal responsibility.

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Be More Cynical (2000)
Added on 20-Apr-16 | Last updated 20-Apr-16
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Like as the waves make towards the pebbl’d shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Sonnet 60
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Added on 17-Aug-15 | Last updated 17-Aug-15
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“So what do we do if we get bitten by something deadly, then?” I asked.

He blinked at me as if I were stupid.

“Well what do you think you do?” he said. “You die of course. That’s what deadly means.”

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 2 (1990)
Added on 6-Jul-15 | Last updated 6-Jul-15
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We who think we are about to die will laugh at anything.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Night Watch (2002)
Added on 1-Jul-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Small Gods (1992)
Added on 13-May-15 | Last updated 13-May-15
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The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Thomas Gray (1716-1771) English poet
“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” l. 36 (1751)
Added on 25-Mar-15 | Last updated 25-Mar-15
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Among the tortures and devastations of life is this then — our friends are not able to finish their stories.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) English modernist writer [b. Adeline Virginia Stephen]
The Waves (1931)
Added on 4-Aug-14 | Last updated 4-Aug-14
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Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.

Anne Enright (b. 1962) Irish writer
In “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” The Guardian (20 Feb 2010)
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Added on 26-Jun-14 | Last updated 26-Jun-14
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It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we men live in a city without walls.

Epicurus (341-270 BC) Greek philosopher
The Vatican Collection of Epicurean Sayings [Sententiae Vaticanae], #31
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Alt. trans.: "One can attain security against other things, but when it comes to death all men live in a city without walls."
Added on 18-Jun-14 | Last updated 18-Jun-14
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Disease generally begins that equality which death completes.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, # 48 (1 Sep 1750)
Added on 6-Jun-14 | Last updated 6-Jun-14
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I remember Castelnau: like me Ambassador to England, who wrote like me a narrative of his life in London. On the last page of Book VII, he says to his son: “I will deal with this event in Book VIII,” and Book VIII of Castelnau’s Memoirs does not exist: that warns me to take advantage of being alive.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave [Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe], Book 6, ch. 8 (1848-1850) [tr. Kline]
Added on 20-May-14 | Last updated 20-May-14
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I just finished with nine months of treatment for cancer. First they poison you, then they mutilate you, then they burn you. I’ve had more fun. And when it’s over, you’re so glad that you’re grateful to absolutely everyone. And I am. The trouble is, I’m not a better person. I was in great hopes that confronting my own mortality would make me deeper, more thoughtful. Many lovely people sent books on how to find a more spiritual meaning in life. My response was, “Oh, hell, I can’t go on a spiritual journey — I’m constipated.”

Molly Ivins (1944-2007) American writer, political columnist [Mary Tyler Ivins]
“Cancer, II” The Progressive (Oct 2000)

In a similar vein, Ivins wrote in "Who Needs Breasts, Anyway?", Time (18 Feb 2002): "Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that."
Added on 3-Oct-11 | Last updated 2-Mar-21
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It’s not the tragedies that kill us. It’s the messes.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
“The Art of Fiction,” #13, interview, The Paris Review (Summer 1956)
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Added on 10-Feb-11 | Last updated 16-Jun-20
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Human life consists in mutual service. No grief, pain, misfortune, or “broken heart,” is excuse for cutting off one’s life while any power of service remains. But when all usefulness is over, when one is assured of an unavoidable and imminent death, it is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick and easy death in place of a slow and horrible one.

Gilman - quick and easy death - wist_info

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) American sociologist, writer, reformer, feminist
Suicide note (17 Aug 1935)
Added on 1-Feb-11 | Last updated 4-Dec-15
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No catalogue of horrors ever kept men from war. Before the war you always think that it’s not you that dies. But you will die, brother, if you go to it long enough.

Hemingway - horrors of war - wist_info quote

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
“Notes on the Next War: A Serious Topical Letter,” Esquire (Sep 1935)
Added on 2-Sep-09 | Last updated 21-Jan-16
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It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

Woody Allen (b. 1935) American comedian, writer, director [b. Allan Steward Konigsberg]
“Death (A Play)”, Without Feathers (1975)

Sometimes misattributed to Spike Milligan.
Added on 17-Jun-09 | Last updated 9-Jul-15
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At thirty, man suspects himself a fool;
Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan;
At fifty, chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves, and re-resolves; then dies the same.
And why? Because he thinks himself immortal.
All men think all men mortal but themselves.

Edward Young (1683-1765) English poet
“The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality,” Part 1 “On Death, Life, and Immortality,” l. 418ff (1742–1745)
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Added on 29-Dec-07 | Last updated 26-Feb-21
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Think not thy time short in this World since the World itself is not long. The created World is but a small Parenthesis in Eternity, and a short interposition for a time between such a state of duration, as was before it and may be after it.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Christian Morals, Part 3, sec. 24 (1716)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Aug-21
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