Tetlapan Quetzanitzin: My heart knows how truly I weep for my friend

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Alas, my friend, I was afflicted, I cried aloud on thy account to God. How much compassion hast thou for thy servant in this world sent here by thee to be thy subject for the space of a day on this earth!

However that may be, mayst thou so dispose my heart, that it may pass through this place of reckoning, without anger, without injury, and live a good life on earth.

My heart knows how truly I weep for my friend, how truly as it lives on earth it cries aloud for thee, my friend, to God....

Tetlapan Quetzanitzin, possibly the king of  Tlacopan, outside what is now Mexico City. He was an associate of Montezuma's, but managed to escape from the Spaniards when they seized Montezuma. From Ancient Nahuatl Poetry, tr. Daniel G. Brinton (1837–1899) (pub. 1890). In his introduction, Brinton writes of the provenance of the poems: "All of them are from a MS. volume in the library of the University of Mexico, entitled Cantares de los Mexicanos y otros opusculos, composed of various pieces in different handwritings, which, from their appearance and the character of the letter, were attributed by the eminent antiquary Don José F. Ramirez, to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries."


Aua nocnihue ninentlamatia zan ninochoquilia in monahuac aya yehuan Dios, quexquich onmitzicnotlamachtia momacehual cemamanahuac ontonitlanililo in ic tontlahuica tontecemilhuitiltia in tlalticpac.

Macazo tleon xoconyoyocoya ti noyollo, yehua cuix ic nepohualoyan in oncan nemohua yehua, in atle tlahuelli in antecocolia huel on yecnemiz in tlalticpac.

In quimati noyollo nichoca yehua huel eza ye nelli in titicnihuan, huellenelli nemoa in tlalticpac in tonicniuh tlatzihuiz yehuan Dios.


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


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

Derek Walcott: Half my friends are dead


Sea Canes

Half my friends are dead.
I will make you new ones, said earth.
No, give me them back, as they were, instead,
with faults and all, I cried.

Tonight I can snatch their talk
from the faint surf's drone
through the canes, but I cannot walk

on the moonlit leaves of ocean
down that white road alone,
or float with the dreaming motion

of owls leaving earth's load.
O earth, the number of friends you keep
exceeds those left to be loved.

The sea canes by the cliff flash green and silver;
they were the seraph lances of my faith,
but out of what is lost grows something stronger

that has the rational radiance of stone,
enduring  moonlight, further than despair,
strong as the wind, that through dividing caves

brings those we love before us as they were,
with faults and all, not nobler, just there.

      --Derek Walcott (1930- ) in Derek Walcott: Collected Poems 1948-1984 (1986) originally published in Sea Grapes (1971)

Capercaillie: The stars I gaze upon seem different since that day


The stars I gaze upon seem different since that day,
While one shines brighter, another fades away,
You light up the winter sky, the moon at your command,
Convinced you didn't mean it, but your soul had different plans.

This is truth calling, makes its way to me,
And this is love falling, falling at our feet.

She was your sister, your neighbour, she was your daughter, your carer.
She was your mother, your sharer, she was your friend, your lover.

The bowing heads of many hold your image in their minds,
The endless search for answers occupy the time,
Gazing at the pictures, with eyes they fail to see
Why in a moment, robbed of reason, you embraced eternity.

   --A song by Capercaillie, the Scottish band. 

"(For Sheila, her family and friends)" 

Photo by Nedieth at flickr. 

Lattimore: I hate death. I hate all who speak well of it.

Witness to Death

Disconsolate I
from the thinning line
have seen friends drop and die.
All I called mine
has gone or will go
from its place in the sun.
This we know,
and nothing can be done.

Villon, Nashe, Dunbar,
to  your great testaments
I too assent from afar,
bestow my violence,
and throw my rhyme
and rage in the feeding face
of the great pig of time--
Beauty gone from her place,

wit wasted and lost,
promise killed with blight,
McCarter and George Frost.
Dilys who was delight,
Gilly suddenly gone,
Cartwright killed in the air,
Forrester, Conklin undone
in their prime. Where, where

is the rose, and the great
heart, and the shine of wit?
I hate death. I hate
all who speak well of it.
Dunbar, Nashe, Villon,
we sang as best we could
for the sake of those who are gone,
and it does no good.

  --Richmond Lattimore (1906-1984). Poem published in The Voice That Is Great Within Us, ed. Hayden Carruth (1970)

Jan de Hartog: If only I could believe the rhyme: "There is an old belief...."


If only I could believe the rhyme I had once found scribbled on the inside of a wardrobe in wartime England when I was billeted there during the war:

There is an old belief that on some distant shore,
far from despair and grief, old friends shall meet once more.

But I could not believe it. She was gone, forever.

      --Jan de Hartog (1914-2002) in A View of the Ocean (2007)  a memoir about the death of his mother

Gore Vidal: Envying tears

[Howard Auster, Vidal's partner of 53 years, was dying. Leto, a male nurse, was helping to care for him.]

...Leto shouted, "Mr Auster has stopped breathing!" I ran upstairs. He was still in the armchair, facing the window....I sat in the chair opposite....Nothing stirred....The eyes were open and very clear. I'd forgotten what a beautiful gray they were-- illness and medicine had regularly glazed them over;  now they were bright and attentive and he was watching me, consciously, through long lashes. Lungs, heart may have stopped but the optic nerves were still sending messages to a brain which, those who should know tell us, does not immediately shut down. So we stared at each other at the end...."Can you hear me?" I asked him. "I know you can see me." Although there was no breath for speech, he now had a sort of wry wiseguy from the Bronx expression on his face which said clearly to me who knew all his expressions, "So this is the big fucking deal everyone goes on about." In my general state of confusion I was oddly comforted that in death he was in perfect easy character much as he would have been that evening if he had lived....

Jim Carney who works for us at times kept me company....Then Jim and I were left with Howard on the floor between us covered by a sheet, black socks on his feet. Leto wept. I envied him-- the WASP glacier had closed over my head.

       --Gore Vidal (1925-) in his memoir Point to Point Navigation (2006)


Chingiz Aitmatov: Tanabai loses his friend

That very evening Tanabai returned to his camp in the mountains.

His wife met him in silence. She took the reins. She helped her husband dismount.

Tanabai turned to her, embraced her and buried his head on her shoulder. She embraced him and wept.


"We buried Choro. He's no more. I've lost my friend, Jaidar!" Tanabai said and once again gave vent to his tears.

Later he sat in silence on a large stone outside the tent.

He wanted to be alone, he wanted to watch the moon rising, appearing slowly from beyond the jagged crest of the white mountain range. His wife was putting the girls to bed inside. He could hear the fire cracking in the hearth. Then the humming string of her temir-komuz began its heart-rending song. It was as if the wind were howling anxiously, as if a man were running across a field weeping, singing his plaintive song, while all else was silence, waiting with bated breath, while all was soundless, and only the lonely voice of human sorrow and grief kept running on. It was as if it ran on, not knowing where to find shelter for its grief or how to find consolation in the silence and wilderness, and not a soul called out to him. And so it wept and harkened to its own grief. Tanabai knew his wife was playing "The Old Hunter's Song" for him.

        --Kirghiz writer Chingiz Aitmatov in "Farewell, Gyulsary!" (1959), translated by Fainna Glagoleva