Tagore: Those who are near me do not know

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Those who are near me do not know that you are nearer to me than they are
Those who speak to me do not know that my heart is full with your unspoken words
Those who crowd in my path do not know that I am walking alone with you
They who love me do not know that their love brings you to my heart.

    --Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941).
If you know the original Bengali source of this quotation, could you please send it to me?


Lulu von Strauss und Torney: Once

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And when I myself have long been dead,
my earth will be blossoming again,
and seeds and sickles, snow and the glory of summer
and white day and blue midnight
will pass over my beloved soil.

And there will be days just like today–
the gardens full of the scent of lilacs,
and white clouds gliding into the blue,
and young fields of silken grass-tips
and above it all an endless song of larks!

And children will be laughing at the gate
and breaking green twigs off the hedges,
and girls will be roaming arm in arm
and through the warm, still summer evening
speak of love with their soft lips!

And like today, the young day of earth
will know nothing of any yesterday,
and like today still, every summer breeze
will carry secret sweetness on its wings
from thousands of days that are forgotten!

      –Lulu von Strauß und Torney (1873-1956)

Einst

Und wenn ich selber längst gestorben bin,
wird meine Erde wieder blühen stehen,
und Saat und Sichel, Schnee und Sommerpracht
und weißer Tag und blaue Mitternacht
wird über die geliebte Scholle gehen.

Und werden Tage ganz wie heute sein:
die Gärten voll vom Dufte der Syringen,
und weiße Wolken, die im Blauen ziehn,
und junger Felder seidnes Ährengrün,
und drüberhin ein endlos Lerchensingen!

Und werden Kinder lachen vor dem Tor
und an den Hecken grüne Zweige brechen,
und werden Mädchen wandern Arm in Arm
und durch den Sommerabend still und warm
mit leisen Lippen von der Liebe sprechen!

Und wird wie heut der junge Erdentag
von keinem Gestern wissen mehr noch sagen,
und wird wie heut doch jeder Sommerwind
aus tausend Tagen, die vergessen sind,
geheime Süße auf den Flügeln tragen!


Georg Heym: The last watch

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How dark your sleeps are
and your hands so cold.
Are you already so far away
you don't hear me any more?

Under the flickering lights
you are so sad and old,
and your lips are gruesome
clenched stiffly forever.

In the morning the silence will already be here
and maybe in the air
still the rustling of wreaths
and a decaying smell.

But the nights will become
emptier now, year after year,
here where your head lay and your breathing
was always so soft.

    –Georg Heym (1887-1912)

Letzte Wache

Wie dunkel sind deine Schläfen
und deine Hände so schwer,
bist du schon weit von dannen und hörst mich nicht mehr?

Unter dem flackenden Lichte
bist du so traurig und alt,
und deine Lippe sind grausam
in ewiger Starre gekrallt.

Morgen schon ist hier das Schweigen
und vieilleicht in der Luft
noch das Rascheln der Kränze
und ein verwesender Duft.

Aber die Nächte werden
leerer nun, Jahr um Jahr,
hier, wo dein Haupt lag und leise
immer dein Atem war.


Von Eichendorff: In a foreign country

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In a Foreign Place

From my homeland beyond the red lightning
the clouds are coming here,
but my father and mother are long dead,
no one there knows me now.

How soon, how soon the silent time will come
when I too will be at rest, and the silent
forest loneliness will rustle over me
and no one will know me here either.

      –Joseph von Eichendorff (1788-1857)

In der Fremde

Aus der Heimat hinter der Blitzen rot
da kommen die Wolken her,
aber Vater und Mutter sind lange tot, es kennt mich dort keiner mehr.

Wie bald, wie bald kommt die stille Zeit,
da ruhe ich auch, und über mir
rauschet de stille Waldeinsamkeit
und keiner mehr kennt mich auch hier.


The Michauds say goodbye to their home

BombardementTours1940The city of Tours, France, summer 1940. Paris was not to suffer much physically from the war, but the civilians who fled could not know that. Many refugees from Paris unluckily found themselves in Tours when the Germans bombed it

[June 1940. The Michauds are a middle-aged couple who like tens of thousands of other Parisians are about to flee Paris on foot as the city is attacked by the Nazis.]

The Michauds had gotten up at five o'clock in the morning to have time to clean the apartment thoroughly before they left. Of course it was strange to take so much care over worthless things that would almost certainly vanish as soon as the first bombs fell on Paris. But, thought Mme Michaud, we do dress the dead who are going to rot in the ground, and make them look good. It's a last homage, an ultimate proof of love for what was dear to us. And this apartment was very dear to them. They had been living there for sixteen years. They could not take all their memories and keepsakes with them. Try as they might, the best would stay here within these poor walls.

Irène Némirovsky (1903-1942), Suite française. This is my own translation but there is an excellent English translation by Sandra Smith 

Les Michaud s'étaient levés à cinq heures du matin pour avoir le temps de faire l'appartement à fond avant de le quitter. Il était évidemment étrange de prendre tant de soin de choses sans valeur et condamnées, selon toutes probabilités, à disparaître dès que les premières bombes tomberaient sur Paris. Mais, pensait Mme Michaud, on habille et on pare bien les morts qui sont destinés à pourrir dans la terre. C'est un dernier hommage, une preuve suprême d'amour à ce qui fut cher. Or ce petit appartement leur était bien cher. Ils y vivaient depuis seize ans. Ils ne pourraient pas emmener avec eux tous leurs souvenirs. Ils auraient beau faire, les meilleurs resteraient ici, entre ces pauvres mur.


King Xerxes grieves that all his men will be dead in a hundred years

Crossing_the_Hellespont_by_Xerxes_with_his_huge_armyXerxes watches his army cross the Hellespont

When Xerxes [Cyrus] had come into the midst of Abydos, he had a desire to see all the army; and there had been made purposely for him beforehand upon a hill in this place a raised seat of white stone, which the people of Abydos had built at the command of the king given beforehand. There he took his seat, and looking down upon the shore he gazed both upon the land-army and the ships; and gazing upon them he had a longing to see a contest take place between the ships; and when it had taken place and the Phenicians of Sidon were victorious, he was delighted both with the contest and with the whole armament.

And seeing all the Hellespont covered over with the ships, and all the shores and the plains of Abydos full of men, then Xerxes pronounced himself a happy man, and after that he fell to weeping.

Artabanos his uncle therefore perceiving him,–the same who at first boldly declared his opinion advising Xerxes not to march against Hellas [Greece],– this man, I say, having observed that Xerxes wept, asked as follows: "O king, how far different from one another are the things which thou hast done now and a short while before now! for having pronounced thyself a happy man, thou art now shedding tears." He said: "Yea, for after I had reckoned up, it came into my mind to feel pity at the thought how brief was the whole life of man, seeing that of these multitudes not one will be alive when a hundred years have gone by."

Herodotus (ca 484 BCE-425 BCE) in his Histories, Ch. VII, 44-46

ἐπεὶ δ᾽ ἐγένετο ἐν Ἀβύδῳ μέσῃ, ἠθέλησε Ξέρξης ἰδέσθαι πάντα τὸν στρατόν· καὶ προεπεποίητο γὰρ ἐπὶ κολωνοῦ ἐπίτηδες αὐτῷ ταύτῃ προεξέδρη λίθου λευκοῦ, ἐποίησαν δὲ Ἀβυδηνοὶ ἐντειλαμένου πρότερον βασιλέος, ἐνθαῦτα ὡς ἵζετο, κατορῶν ἐπὶ τῆς ἠιόνος ἐθηεῖτο καὶ τὸν πεζὸν καὶ τὰς νέας, θηεύμενος δὲ ἱμέρθη τῶν νεῶν ἅμιλλαν γινομένην ἰδέσθαι. ἐπεὶ δὲ ἐγένετό τε καὶ ἐνίκων Φοίνικες Σιδώνιοι, ἥσθη τε τῇ ἁμίλλῃ καὶ τῇ στρατιῇ.

ὡς δὲ ὥρα πάντα μὲν τὸν Ἑλλήσποντον ὑπὸ τῶν νεῶν ἀποκεκρυμμένον, πάσας δὲ τὰς ἀκτὰς καὶ τὰ Ἀβυδηνῶν πεδία ἐπίπλεα ἀνθρώπων, ἐνθαῦτα ὁ Ξέρξης ἑωυτὸν ἐμακάρισε, μετὰ δὲ τοῦτο ἐδάκρυσε.

μαθὼν δέ μιν Ἀρτάβανος ὁ πάτρως, ὃς τὸ πρῶτον γνώμην ἀπεδέξατο ἐλευθέρως οὐ συμβουλεύων Ξέρξῃ στρατεύεσθαι ἐπὶ τὴν Ἑλλάδα, οὗτος ὡνὴρ φρασθεὶς Ξέρξην δακρύσαντα εἴρετο τάδε. «ὦ βασιλεῦ, ὡς πολλὸν ἀλλήλων κεχωρισμένα ἐργάσαο νῦν τε καὶ ὀλίγῳ πρότερον· μακαρίσας γὰρ σεωυτὸν δακρύεις.» ὁ δὲ εἶπε «ἐσῆλθε γάρ με λογισάμενον κατοικτεῖραι ὡς βραχὺς εἴη ὁ πᾶς ἀνθρώπινος βίος, εἰ τούτων γε ἐόντων τοσούτων οὐδεὶς ἐς ἑκατοστὸν ἔτος περιέσται.»


Jenny Diski: There are no novel responses possible

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There are no novel responses possible. Absolutely none that I could think of. Responses to the diagnosis; the treatment and its side effects; the development of cancer symptoms; the pain and discomfort; the dying; the death … I am appalled at the thought, suddenly, that someone at some point is going to tell me I am on a journey.

But much as I hate it, the journey – that deeply unsatisfactory, often deceitful metaphor – keeps popping into my head. Like my thoughts about infinity, my thoughts about my cancer are always champing at the bit, dragging me towards a starting line. From ignorance of my condition to diagnosis; the initiation into chemotherapy and then the radiotherapy; from the slap of being told that it’s incurable to a sort of acceptance of the upcoming end. From not knowing, to “knowing”, to “really” knowing; from being alive and making the human assumption that I will be around “in the future”, to coming to terms with a more imminent death. And then death itself. And there is no and. Maybe it’s just too difficult to find a way to avoid giving the experience a beginning and an end…..

The end of the journey doesn’t come until you either die cancer-free of something else, or die of the effects of a regeneration of the cancer cells. Good and bad; from here to eternity, and from eternity to here. But I have been not here before, remember that. By which I mean that I have been here; I have already been at the destination towards which I’m now heading. I have already been absent, non-existent. Beckett and Nabokov know:

I too shall cease and be as when I was not yet, only all over instead of in store.
From an Abandoned Work

The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.
Speak, Memory

This thought, this fact, is a genuine comfort, the only one that works, to calm me down when the panic comes. It brings me real solace in the terror of the infinite desert. It doesn’t resolve the question (though, as an atheist I don’t really have one), but it offers me familiarity with “The undiscovered country from whose bourn/ No traveller returns”. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And it soothes. When I find myself trembling at the prospect of extinction, I can steady myself by thinking of the abyss that I have already experienced. Sometimes I can almost take a kindly, unhurried interest in my own extinction. The not-being that I have already been.

  –Jenny Diski (1947-2016), in the Guardian, 29 April 2016. She died on 28 April.

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Jesse Andrews: It made me so angry that she was just going to be lost

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So like an idiot, I hadn't understood until I was sitting there actually watching her physically die, when it was too late to say or do anything. I couldn't believe it had taken me so long to understand it even a little bit. This was a human being, dying. This was the only time there going to be someone with those eyes and those ears....this was the only time there was ever going to be that person, living in the world, and now that was almost over, and I couldn't deal with it.

I was thinking, also, that we had made a film about a thing, death, that we knew nothing about....

...I was realizing how to make the movie I should have made, that it had to be something that stored as much of Rachel as possible, that ideally we would have had a camera on her for her whole life, and one inside her head, and it made me so bitter and fucking angry that this was impossible, and she was just going to be lost. Just as if she had never been around to say things and laugh at people and have favorite words she like to use....All of it and everything else she had ever thought was just going to be lost.

    –Gregory Gaines in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews