Ancient Irish poem: The arrows that murder sleep
Heinrich Heine: The rabbi of Bacharach: Old and young are weeping

Leo Tolstoy: Prince Andrei stops fearing death

Crop_keats_on_deathbed He dreamed he was lying in the room he actually was in, but that he had not been wounded and was well. A great many people of various sorts, unimportant people of no significance, appear before him. He talks to them, arguing about something trivial. They are preparing to go away. Prince Andrei dimly realizes that all this is of no consequence, that he has other, more serious concerns, but he continues to talk, astonishing them all with shallow witticisms. Gradually, imperceptibly, all these persons begin to disappear, and are supplanted by a single problem: the closed door. He gets up and goes to the door to bolt and lock it. Everything depends on whether he succeeds in locking it in time. He starts toward it, tries to hurry, but his legs do not move and though he knows he will not be in time to lock the door, he frantically exerts all his powers. He is seized by an agonizing fear. And this fear is the fear of death. It stands behind the door. But while he is helplessly and clumsily crawling toward the door, that ominous something is already pressing against it and forcing its way in. Something inhuman-- death-- is breaking in and must be stopped. He lays hold of the door, strains himself to the utmost just to prevent it from opening-- to lock it is no longer possible-- but his efforts are feeble and ineffectual and the door, pushed from outside by that horror, opens and falls shut again.

Once more it pushed from outside. His final, superhuman efforts were unavailing, and both halves of the door noiselessly opened. It entered, and it was death. And Prince Andrei died.

But at the very moment he died, Prince Andrei remembered that he was asleep, and at that very moment, having exerted himself, awoke.

"Yes, that was death. I died-- and I awoke. Yes, death is an awakening!"

And his soul was suddenly suffused with light, and the veil concealing the unknown was lifted from before his soul's vision. He felt as if powers that till then had been confined within him were liberated, and from then on that strange lightness did not leave him again.

When, waking in a cold sweat, he moved on the divan, Natasha went to him and asked him what was the matter. He did not answer but looked at her strangely, not understanding.

...With his awakening from sleep that day, there began for Prince Andrei an awakening from life. And compared to the duration of life it did not seem to him slower that the awakening from sleep compared to the duration of a dream.

        --Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), War and Peace (book 4 part 1 ch 16), tr Ann Dunnigan

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)