Sunday, April 23, 2017
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
"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
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
"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."