Elizabeth Jane Howard: They never die for the people who love them


The tragedy of somebody dying is that they only die for themselves; never for the people who love them. To those who love them they remain, poised on the last moments before the last farewell. They leave a room or a house, shut a door or a gate, and disappear; but they do not die.

Elizabeth Jane Howard (1923–2014), The Beautiful Visit 

Photo: Vivian Dawson Graham, an Australian soldier who died of pneumonia at age 18 in France, 1916. From Maurice S on Flickr. His parents put this in the newspaper:

A handsome happy Australian boy, His soldier spurs yet hardly won,
A father's pride, his mother's joy,
Our only son.
He answered to the nation's call,
We ill could spare our one and all,
And prayed God would not let him fall—
Our only one.
But fortune failed him in the strife,
Our pride was in a moment gone;
We start again, just man and wife,
Without a son.

Fitzgerald: Not one returns to tell us of the Road

Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
before us passed the door of darkness through
not one returns to tell us of the Road
which to discover we must travel too.
Edward Fitzgerald (1809–1883), translation of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam(Omar Khayyam was a Persian mathematician, and astronomer, and possibly poet, 1048–1131. His authorship of the poems attributed to him is not certain). The translation is considered a work of excellent poetry itself; not all the verses are to be found in the original Persian.

Raymond Chandler: You were sleeping the big sleep



What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell.


Raymond Chandler (1888–1959), The Big Sleep

Tolkien: Peril, sorrow, and the shadow of death can bestow dignity and sometimes wisdom


It is one of the lessons of fairy-stories (if we can speak of the lessons of things that do not lecture) that on callow, lumpish, and selfish youth peril, sorrow, and the shadow of death can bestow dignity, and even sometimes wisdom.

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), from lecture On Fairy Stories


Photo of a young Afghan refugee by Franz, fsHH on Pixabay

Wyatt: My poor true heart all comfortless


If in the world there be more woe
than I have in my heart,
whereso it is, it doth come fro,
and in my breast there doth it grow,
for to increase my smart.
Alas, I am receipt of every care,
and of my life each sorrow claims his part. 
Who list to live in quietness
by me let him beware,
for I by high disdain
am made without redress,
and unkindness, alas, hath slain

my poor true heart all comfortless.

Thomas Wyatt (1503–1542)

Furniss: That aching, empty space that will never be filled

Young man smiling The Jaan Flickr

“It wasn’t so very long after that picture was taken that he died,” she says. “A year. Maybe two.”

“Oh,” I say, shocked. He looks so alive in the picture. “I’m sorry.”

“Cancer. He smoked like a chimney of course. We all did back then; didn’t know it was bad for you.”

I wonder suddenly if that’s what she cries about. “Does it get easier?” The words are out before I’ve even really thought them.

She looks at me; thinks about it. “When someone you love first dies, they’re all you can see, aren’t they? All you can hear? Blotting everything else out.”

I nod, hardly breathing.

“That changes,” she says. “They get quieter over the years. They still whisper to you sometimes, but the world gets louder. You can see it and hear it again. There’s a gap in it, where they used to be. But you get used to the gap; so used to it that you hardly see it.” She takes my hand in her fragile, old one. “And then some days, out of nowhere, you’re making the tea or hanging out the washing or sitting on the bus and it’s there again: that aching, empty space that will never be filled.”

Clare Furniss, The Year of the Rat, p 135


Photo by The Jaan on Flickr