Wen Tianxiang: Since ancient times, who has not died?

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Since ancient times, who has not died?
Let me keep a loyal heart to shine from the pages of history.
 
Wen Tianxiang (1236–1282) 文天祥, "Crossing the sea of Lingding" 過零丁洋. Wen is still known as a patriotic hero for his resistance to the Mongol invasion of China.
 
人生自古誰無死 
留取丹心昭汗青
 
 

Lin Yutang: It was a good show

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One can learn such a lot and enjoy such a lot in seventy years, and three generations is a long, long time to see human follies and acquire human wisdom. Anyone who is wise and has lived long enough to witness the changes of fashion and morals and politics through the rise and fall of three generations should be perfectly satisfied to rise from his seat and go away saying, 'It was a good show,' when the curtain falls.

Lin Yutang (1895–1976), The Importance of Living (1937)

 

Photo by StockSnap on Pixabay


Bossuet: What a lot of time where there is no me!

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What a lot of time there has been when I didn't exist yet! What a lot there will be when I won't exist any more! What a tiny place I occupy in this vast abyss of years!
 
Jacques Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704), French bishop and court preacher to Louis XIV at Versailles
 
Qu'il y a eu de temps où je n'étais pas! Qu'il y en a où je ne serai point! Et que j'occupe peu de place dans ce grand abîme des ans!
 
 
 

Fitzgerald: Not one returns to tell us of the Road

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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

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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


Robert Bly: To live means to pick up particles of death

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"To live" means to pick up particles of death
as a child picks up crumbs from beneath the table.
"To exist" means to drop the bread behind you on the path
hoping the birds will find the crumbs and eat them.
"To live" is to rush forward eating up your own death,
like a locomotive with its catcher on, hurrying into the night.

 

Robert Bly (1926–), "To live or not"

 

Photo of wild turkey and her chicks at Cumberland Island National Seashore from PxHere


Merwin: I was young and the dead were in other Ages

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…I was young and the dead were in other Ages
As the grass has its own language

Now I forget where the difference falls

One thing about the living sometimes a piece of us
Can stop dying for a moment
But you the dead.

Once you go into those names you go on you never
Hesitate
You go on


W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), "The Hydra." Originally published in Poetry magazine, May 1967

 

Photo by Chris Beckett on Flickr