In the midst of life we are in death

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In the midst of life we are in death 
of whom may we seek for succour,
but of thee, O Lord,
who for our sins
art justly displeased?

Yet, O Lord God most holy,
O Lord most mighty,
O holy and most merciful Saviour,
deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.

An anonymous Latin poem from Gregorian chant, later in The Book of Common Prayer. The English version seems to be by Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556)

Media vita in morte sumus
quem quaerimus adjutorem
nisi te, Domine,
qui pro peccatis nostris
juste irasceris?

Sancte Deus,
sancte fortis,
sancte et misericors Salvator:
amarae morti ne tradas nos.
 
 

Photo by David Berry on Flickr

Vonnegut: The Tralfamadorian view of death

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The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral....It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that same person is just fine in plenty of other moments.

The narrator in Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007)

 

Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay


Saint Columba: Today is truly my Sabbath

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Scripture calls this day the Sabbath, which means "rest." Today is truly my Sabbath,
for it is my last day in this wearisome life, when I shall keep the Sabbath after my troublesome labours.
 
Saint Columba on his deathbed, according to The Life of Columba, by Adomnán of Iona, tr Richard Sharpe
 
 
Picture by William Ballengall (1874), from the British Library

Kaysen: In the parallel universe

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In the parallel universe the laws of physics are suspended. What goes up does not necessarily come down….Time, too, is different. It may run in circles, flow backward, skip about from now to then….

Another odd feature of the parallel universe is that although it is invisible from this side, once you are in it you can easily see the world you came from….

Every window on Alcatraz has a view of San Francisco.

Susanna Kaysen (1948–), Girl, Interrupted

 

Photo by Gianni Crestani at Pixabay


Seneca the Younger: A time will come when there will be no world

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Everything is devoured by voracious Time, everything destroyed,
it changes everything settled, lets nothing be for long.
Rivers fail, the land dries up the fleeing sea,
mountains dwindle and high peaks fall.
How can we talk of such small things? The whole vast structure of sky
will suddenly burn up in its own flames.
Death demands everything. It is the law, not a penalty, to perish.
There will come a time when the world is no more.

Seneca the Younger (ca 4–65), Roman philosopher, politician and writer

Omnia tempus edax depascitur, omnia carpit,
omnia sede movet, nil sinit esse diu.
Flumina deficiunt, profugum mare litora siccant,
subsidunt montes et juga celsa ruunt.
Quid tam parva loquor? moles pulcherrima caeli
ardebit flammis tota repente suis.
Omnia mors poscit. Lex est, non poena, perire:
hic aliquo mundus tempore nullus erit.

 


Arcos: The dead are all on the same side

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They float in the wind
on the same side,
the widows' veils—

and the mingled sobs
of a thousand sorrows
all flow into
the same river.
Crowded against each other,
the dead with no hate, with no flags,
their hair matted with blood—
the dead are all on the same side.

In the same clay, where the world that is dying
endlessly melds with the world that begins,
the brotherly dead, their foreheads together,
now atone for the same defeat.

Pummel each other, divided children!
Tear Humanity apart
into pointless shreds of territory—
the dead are all on the same side.

For under the earth there is only one country
and only one hope
just as there is, for the Universe,
only one war and one victory.

René Arcos (1880–1959), "Les Morts"

Le vent fait flotter
Du même côté
Les voiles des veuves

Et les pleurs mêlés
Des mille douleurs
Vont au même fleuve.
Serrés les uns contre les autres
Les morts sans haine et sans drapeau,
Cheveux plaqués de sang caillé,
Les morts sont tous d’un seul côté.

Dans l’argile unique où s’allie sans fin
Au monde qui meurt celui qui commence
Les morts fraternels tempe contre tempe
Expient aujourd’hui la même défaite.

Heurtez-vous, ô fils divisés !
Et déchirez l’Humanité
En vains lambeaux de territoires,
Les morts sont tous d’un seul côté.

Car sous la terre il n’y a plus
Qu’une patrie et qu’un espoir
Comme il n’y a pour l’Univers
Qu’un combat et qu’une victoire.


Larkin: Most things may never happen: this one will

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I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

Kurt Deiner Pixabay pixlr blur

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Philip Larkin (1922–1985), "Aubade" from Collected Poems (Faber and Faber, 1988/2003, ed. Anthony Thwaite). Copyright © Estate of Philip Larkin. Reprinted by kind permission of Faber and Faber, Ltd.


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!