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Death is the only sovereign whom no partiality can warp, and no price corrupt.


My spirit is too weak--mortality
Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
And each imagin'd pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
Like a sick Eagle looking at the sky.

JOHN KEATS, "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles"

Death is the greatest evil; because it cuts off hope.

WILLIAM HAZLITT, Characteristics

We have the promises of God as thick as daisies in summer meadows, that death, which men most fear, shall be to us the most blessed of experiences, if we trust in him. Death is unclasping; joy, breaking out in the desert; the heart, come to its blossoming time! Do we call it dying when the bud bursts into flower?


Even as a child I was fascinated by death, not in a spiritual sense, but in an aesthetic one. A hamster or guinea pig would pass away, and, after burying the body, I'd dig it back up: over and over, until all that remained was a shoddy pelt. It earned me a certain reputation, especially when I moved on to other people's pets. "Igor," they called me. "Wicked, spooky." But I think my interest was actually fairly common, at least among adolescent boys. At that age, death is something that happens only to animals and grandparents, and studying it is like a science project.

DAVID SEDARIS, When You Are Engulfed in Flames

The gate of death is never at rest.


In the whole course of our observation there is not so misrepresented and abused a personage as death. Some have styled him the king of terrors, when he might with less impropriety have been termed the terror of kings; others have dreaded him as an evil without end, although it was in their own power to make him the end of all evil. He has been vilified as the cause of anguish, consternation, and despair; but these, alas, are things that appertain not unto death, but unto life. How strange a paradox is this, we love the distemper and loathe the remedy, preferring the fiercest buffetings of the hurricane to the tranquility of the harbour.


No, I'll repine at death no more,
But with a cheerful gasp resign
To the cold dungeon of the ground
These dying, withering limbs of mine.
Let worms devour my wasting flesh,
And crumble all my bones to dust:--
My God shall raise my frame anew,
At the revival of the just.

ISAAC WATTS, "A Happy Resurrection"

Death is just--to the just.


Death is the Christian's vacation morning. School is out. It is time to go home.


At the morgue, people were so desensitized that they would eat lunch in the glass walled room adjacent to the autopsy room. A viewing room. Because it had the best air conditioning in the building. So they would eat in there and maybe somebody would come in who had been found after being dead for three days and they would say: That is the exact purple I want for those drapes in the study. They didn't miss a beat. They could eat through anything.

DAVID SEDARIS, January Magazine, June 2000

This flesh and the other will be consumed,
the flower will doubtless perish without residue,
when death--sterile dawn, desiccated dust--
comes one day into the girdle of the haughty island,
and you, statue, daughter of man, will remain
gazing with the empty eyes that rose
up through one and another hand of the absent immortals.

PABLO NERUDA, "The Builders of Statues"

There is something wonderful about a death, how everything shuts down, and all the ways you thought you were vital are not even vaguely important. Your husband can feed the kids, he can work the new oven, he can find the sausages in the fridge, after all. And his important meeting was not important, not in the slightest.

ANNE ENRIGHT, The Gathering

Death is the liberator of him whom freedom cannot release, the physician of him whom medicine cannot cure, and the comforter of him whom time cannot console.


Death ends at last the fear of it.


I shall soon be laid in the quiet grave--thank God for the quiet grave--O! I can feel the cold earth upon me--the daisies growing over me--O for this quiet--it will be my first.

JOHN KEATS, attributed, letter from Joseph Severn to John Taylor, Mar. 6, 1821

The dead's dead ... get 'em in the ground and look to the live ones.

KEN KESEY, Sometimes a Great Notion

It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.

DANIEL HANDLER (as Lemony Snicket), The Reptile Room

Death is a creditor that is never ignored.


Here lies one whose name was writ in water.

JOHN KEATS, epitaph for himself

Death fixes forever the relation existing between the departed spirit and the survivors upon earth.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, journal, Jul. 24, 1831

As I grow older, and come nearer to death, I look upon it more and more with complacent joy, and out of every longing I hear God say, "O thirsting, hungering one, come to me." What the other life will bring I know not, only that I shall awake in God's likeness, and see him as he is. If a child had been born and spent all his life in the Mammoth Cave, how impossible would it be for him to comprehend the upper world! His parents might tell him of its life, and light, and beauty, and its sounds of joy; they might heap the sand into mounds, and try to show him by pointing to stalactites how grass, and flowers, and trees grow out of the ground, till at length, with laborious thinking, the child would fancy he had gained a true idea of the unknown land. And yet, though he longed to behold it, when the day came that he was to go forth, it would be with regret for the familiar crystals, and the rock-hewn rooms, and the quiet that reigned therein. But when he came up, some May morning, with ten thousand birds singing in the trees, and the heavens bright, and blue, and full of sunlight, and the wind blowing softly through the young leaves, all a-glitter with dew, and the landscape stretching away green and beautiful to the horizon, with what rapture would he gaze about him, and see how poor were all the fancyings and the interpretations which were made within the cave, of the things which grew and lived without; and how would he wonder that he could have regretted to leave the silence and the dreary darkness of his old abode! So, when we emerge from this cave of earth into that land where spring growths are, and where is summer, and not that miserable travesty which we call summer here, how shall we wonder that we could have clung so fondly to this dark and barren life!


The thought of death deceives us; for it causes us to neglect to live.


In a study we did of bereavement, we found that rather impressive numbers of widows and widowers had not simply gone back to their pre-loss functioning, but grown. This was due to a kind of increased existential awareness that resulted from this confrontation with the death of another. And I think it brought them in touch with their own death, so they began to experience a kind of preciousness to life that comes with an experience of its transiency.

IRVIN D. YALOM, interview, Salon Magazine

When combat brings death close you realise you never thought you'd die. Not this time, you tell yourself, before you go in. This time is always not the time. Has to be, otherwise, you'd never go in.

GLEN DUNCAN, By Blood We Live

Flirting with death is the spice of life.


We go to the grave of a friend, saying, "A man is dead;" but angels throng about him, saying, "A man is born."


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