Sunday, April 23, 2017

Dusting off the Bard


William Shakespeare died on this day in 1616. He was also born on April 23 in 1564 (open to debate).

The slab above his grave reads:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forebeare
To digg the dust enclosed heare;
Bleste be the man that spares thes stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones
.

**********************************************

Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o' the great;
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finish'd joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exerciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing will come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renowned be thy grave!


(Cymbeline, IV, 2)



For one writer's opinion of Shakespeare, visit Today in Cynic's Almanac

Monday, April 17, 2017

Be nice and die

French writer Marie de Sevigne died on this day in 1696. She was famous for her witty letters to her daughter.

She wrote:

"It seldom happens, I think, that a man has the civility to die when all the world wishes it."

This is also the date of death of Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin died peacefully in his sleep on April 17, 1790, at age 84. His funeral at Christ Church in Philadelphia attracted the largest crowd of mourners ever known, an estimated 20,000. He was buried beside his wife, Deborah, who had died 16 years before him.

The tombstone on their grave said "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin: 1790."

This inscription had been spelled out in Franklin's last will and testament. As a young man, he had written this epitaph for himself:

The body of
B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.

Of the thousands of maxims and pithy sayings that Franklin wrote down, here are a few on death:

"Many men die at twenty-five and aren't buried until they are seventy-five."

"Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead."

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing."

And, of course:

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Roll over, Beethoven, and tell us again

Ludwig van Beethoven died on this day in 1827.

His last words are subject to debate. Here are some conjectures:

"Pity, pity...too late."

"Applaud, my friends, the comedy is finished." (Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est.; the formula traditionally used to end a performance of commedia dell'arte.)

"I shall hear in Heaven."

"I feel as if up to now I had written no more than a few notes."

(To his friend Johann Hummel, who was at his bedside): "Is it not true, Hummel, that I have some talent after all?"

"There, do you hear the bell? Don't you hear it ringing? The curtain must drop. Yes! My curtain is falling."

One biographer says he said nothing, simply shook his fists defiantly as a thunderstorm raged outside.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Or the thought of murder


The French novelist Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle), author of The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma, died on this day in 1842.

"True love makes the thought of death frequent, easy, without terrors;" Stendhal wrote, "it merely becomes the standard of comparison, the price one would pay for many things."

Our favorite quotation by Stendhal:

"The only excuse for God is that he does not exist."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

To my bed of dirt


George ("Superman") Reeves committed suicide on this day in 1959. He was being visited by friends, when he announced:

"I'm tired. I'm going back to bed."

He went to his bedroom and shot himself in the head.

For a year's worth of super-entertaining last words:

Farewells: An Almanac of Parting Thoughts

Monday, April 25, 2016

The cesspool gets sweeter every year


Actor George Sanders (Academy Award for All About Eve) committed suicide on this day in 1972. His suicide note read:

"Dear World, I am leaving you because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool - good luck."


Sunday, April 24, 2016

That'll do it, every time

This is the date of death of American writer Willa Cather (Death Comes for the Archbishop). She said:

"I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cold Chamfort

Nicolas de Chamfort, the French writer and wit, died on this day in 1794. He was famous for his Maximes et Pensees (Maxims and Thoughts).

Chamfort spent a short time in prison for his political opinions following the French Revolution. ("If it were not for the government, we should have nothing to laugh at in France," he wrote.)

After his release he was threatened with prison again. In September 1793 he locked himself into his office and shot himself in the face. The pistol malfunctioned and he succeeded only in shooting off his nose and part of his jaw.

He then repeatedly stabbed himself in the neck with a paper cutter, but failed to cut an artery. He finally used the paper cutter to stab himself in the chest.

He dictated to those who came to arrest him:

"I, Sebastien-Roch Nicolas Chamfort, declare that I wished to die a free man rather than be enslaved in a house of detention."

Chamfort signed his famous death note in a firm hand and in his own blood. He did not die at once, but lingered on until April 13, 1794, in the charge of a gendarme, to whom he paid a crown a day. At one point he said, "I feel livelier than ever. What a pity I no longer care about living."

Near the end, Chamfort said to a priest:

"My friend, I'm finally taking leave of this earth, a place where one's heart must either break or be hard as bronze."

Some other mots by Chafort:

"The only thing that keeps God from sending another flood is that the first one was useless."

"I have three kinds of friends: those who love me, those who pay no attention to me, and those who detest me."

"Man may aspire to virtue, but he cannot reasonably aspire to truth."

And my favorite:

"Swallow a toad in the morning and you will encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day."

About life and death, Chamfort wrote:

"Living is a sickness to which sleep provides relief every sixteen hours. It's a palliative. The remedy is death."

For a whole year of last thoughts, last words and last things, click here

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Take two aspirin and call the morgue in the morning


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on this day in 1945. He was on a retreat at Warm Springs, Georgia with his mistress, Lucy Page Rutherford, and having his portrait painted when he uttered these last words:

"I have a terrific headache."

Died recently in Nashville: Granny Apple, Harry Berry.

For a whole year's worth of last words and last thoughts, try this link

Monday, April 11, 2016

Last words to grow on

The world's worst blind date


American horticulturalist Luther Burbank died on this day in 1926. His last words:

"I don't feel good."

From horticulture to a horror of culture -- John Merrick, The Elephant Man, died on this day in 1890. In the movie, his last words are:
"Nothing ever dies."

For more touching last words, check out this link