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Graveyards remind us of the vanity of all human endeavour.

IVAN KLIMA, Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light

How wonderful is Death,
Death and his brother Sleep!


No intellect is needed to see those figures who wait beyond the void of death -- every child is aware of them, blazing with glories dark or bright, wrapped in authority older than the universe. They are the stuff of our earliest dreams, as of our dying visions. Rightly we feel our lives guided by them, and rightly too we feel how little we matter to them, the builders of the unimaginable, the fighters of wars beyond the totality of existence.

GENE WOLFE, The Shadow of the Torturer

No matter how much you've been warned, Death always comes without knocking. Why now? is the cry. Why so soon? It's the cry of a child being called home at dusk.

MARGARET ATWOOD, The Year of the Flood

Boy, when you're dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody.

J. D. SALINGER, The Catcher in the Rye

The body is placed under the earth, and after a certain period there remains no vestige even of its form. This is that contemplation of inexhaustible melancholy, whose shadow eclipses the brightness of the world. The common observer is struck with dejection of the spectacle. He contends in vain against the persuasion of the grave, that the dead indeed cease to be. The corpse at his feet is prophetic of his own destiny. Those who have preceded him, and whose voice was delightful to his ear; whose touch met his like sweet and subtle fire: whose aspect spread a visionary light upon his path — these he cannot meet again.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, The Necessity of Atheism

Golden lads and girls all must
As chimney-sweepers come to dust.


There was that feeling one gets in a ride to a cemetery trailing a body in a coffin -- an impatience with the dead, a longing to be back home where one could get on with the illusion that not death but daily life is the permanent condition.

E. L. DOCTOROW, Homer & Langley

Death is the veil which those who live call life;
They sleep, and it is lifted.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, Prometheus Unbound

Death's a fable. Did not Heaven inspire your equal Elements with living Fire blown from the Spring of Life? Is not that breath Immortal? Come; ye are as free from death as He that made ye: Can the flames expire which he kindled?


For man, the death of the body is inevitable, and is determined by time and circumstance; but, with proper precaution, the death of the soul may be totally avoided.

WILLIAM BATCHELDER GREENE, Socialistic, Communistic, Mutualistic, and Financial Fragments

Someone dying asks if there is life after death. Yes, comes the answer, only not yours.

E. L. DOCTOROW, Homer & Langley

First our pleasures die — and then
Our hopes, and then our fears — and when
These are dead, the debt is due,
Dust claims dust — and we die too.


Mark, how the ready hands of Death prepare:
His bow is bent, and he hath notch'd his dart;
He aims, he levels at thy slumb'ring heart:
The wound is posting, O be wise, beware.


Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible war motion to become
A kneaded clod, and the dilated spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbèd ice;
To be imprisoned in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendant world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thought
Imagine howling -- 'tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathèd worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Measure for Measure

I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting. Many a man has borne himself proudly on the scaffold; surely the same pride should teach us to think truly about man's place in the world. Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own.


Life is a waste of woes,
And Death a river deep,
That ever onward flows,
Troubled, yet asleep.

WILLIAM BATCHELDER GREENE, "Lines To --," Imogen and Other Poems

Death is everywhere
The more I look
The more I see
The more I feel
A sense of urgency

DEPECHE MODE, "Fly on the Windscreen"

For life be, after all, only a waitin' for somethin' else than what we're doin', and death be all that we can rightly depend on.


Feeling funny in my mind, Lord
I believe I'm fixing to die
Well, I don't mind dying
But I hate to leave my children crying
Well, I look over yonder to that burying ground
Look over yonder to that burying ground
Sure seems lonesome, Lord, when the sun goes down

BOB DYLAN, "Fixin' To Die"

Not the least of the hardships to which the dying are subject is the visitation of their loved ones. The poor darlings, God bless them, may feel every impulse to condole and console, but their primary sensation is nonetheless one of embarrassment in the presence of the unspeakable and a guilty gratitude that it is not yet their fate.


I feel strongly, because a man who will himself die one day in the not to distant future and, also, as a psychiatrist who spent decades dealing with death anxiety, that confronting death allows us, not to open some noisome, Pandora's box, but to re-enter life in a richer, more compassionate manner.

IRVIN D. YALOM, interview, Wise Counsel

The day of death ... is one of the five mysteries, the key of which God holds in his own hands.


Death, lonely death,
Beneath the withered leaves.


That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.

H. P. LOVECRAFT, "The Call of Cthulhu"

Life is the jailer, Death the angel sent
To draw the unwilling bolts and set us free.

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL, "The Death of a Friend's Child"

Where life is there is death, reasons the vulture, and where there's death there's hope.

EDWARD ABBEY, One Life at a Time, Please

The laws of Pluto's kingdom know small difference between king and cobbler, manager and call-boy; and, if haply your dates of life were conterminant, you are quietly taking your passage, cheek by cheek (O ignoble levelling of Death) with the shade of some recently departed candle-snuffer.

CHARLES LAMB, "To the Shade of Elliston", Elia and the Last Essays of Elia

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