Literary Quotations
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QUOTES ON DEATH


When the black and mortal blood of man has fallen to the ground ... who then can sing spells to call it back again?

AESCHYLUS, Agamemnon

As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity. The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning. So one generation of men will grow while another dies.

HOMER, The Iliad

Incline not to arrogance, famous warrior! Now shall the fullness of thy strength last for a while. But soon after it shall be, that malady or sword shall cut thee off from power, or the embrace of fire or welling of a flood, or onset with the knife, or arrow's flight, or hideous old age. Or brightness of eyes shall diminish and grow dim, and at length it shall be that death shall overpower thee.

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, Little Foxes

It will startle you to see what slaves we are to by-gone times—to Death, if we give the matter the right word! ... We read in Dead Men’s books! We laugh at Dead Men’s jokes, and cry at Dead Men’s pathos! . . . Whatever we seek to do, of our own free motion, a Dead Man’s icy hand obstructs us!

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, The House of the Seven Gables

All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever present perils of life.

HERMAN MELVILLE, Moby Dick

There are people in this world who cut such a grotesque figure that even death renders them ridiculous. And the more horrible the death the more ridiculous they seem. It's no use trying to invest the end with a little dignity--you have to be a liar and a hypocrite to discover anything tragic in their going.

HENRY MILLER, Tropic of Cancer

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. It doesn't matter what you do ... so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.

RAY BRADBURY, Fahrenheit 451

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

WALT WHITMAN, Leaves of Grass

The fact is, it seems, that the most you can hope is to be a little less, in the end, the creature you were in the beginning, and the middle.

SAMUEL BECKETT, Molloy

Death means nothing to men like me. It's the event that proves them right.

ALBERT CAMUS, The Plague

It is easy to go down into Hell;
Night and day, the gates of dark Death stand wide;
But to climb back again, to retrace one's steps to the upper air--
There's the rub, the task.

VIRGIL, The Aeneid

Death ... a melancholy and shocking extremity.

JANE AUSTEN, Sense and Sensibility

Anything dead coming back to life hurts.

TONI MORRISON, Beloved

The persons on whom I have bestowed my dearest love, lie deep in their graves; but, although the happiness and delight of my life lie buried there too, I have not made a coffin of my heart, and sealed it up, forever, on my best affections. Deep affliction has but strengthened and refined them.

CHARLES DICKENS, Oliver Twist

That is the gods' work, spinning threads of death
through the lives of mortal men,
an all to make a song for those to come.

HOMER, The Odyssey

Dead men don't bite.

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, Treasure Island

The human animal is a beast that dies but the fact that he's dying don't give him pity for others, no sir.

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

There are evils worse than death.

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER, The Last of the Mohicans

But indeed, at that time, putting to death was a recipe much in vogue with all trades and professions, and not least of all with Tellson's. Death is Nature's remedy for all things, and why not Legislation's? Accordingly, the forger was put to Death; the utterer of a bad note was put to Death; the unlawful opener of a letter was put to Death; the purloiner of forty shillings and sixpence was put to death; the holder of a horse at Tellson's door, who made off with it, was put to Death; the coiner of a bad schilling was put to Death; the sounders of three-fourths of the notes in the whole gamut of Crime, were put to Death. Not that it did the least good in the way of prevention--it might almost have been worth remarking that the fact was exactly the reverse--but, it cleared off (as to this world) the trouble of each particular case, and left nothing else connected with it to be looked after.

CHARLES DICKENS, A Tale of Two Cities

Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living.

EMILY BRONTË, Wuthering Heights

Death is the end of every worldly pain.

GEOFFREY CHAUCER, The Canterbury Tales

Certain, when I was born, so long ago,
Death drew the tap of life and let it flow;
And ever since the tap has done its task,
And now there's little but an empty cask.

GEOFFREY CHAUCER, The Canterbury Tales

Call no man happy till he is dead.

AESCHYLUS, Agamemnon

Where is it I've read that someone condemned to death says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he'd only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once! Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!... How true it is! Good God, how true! Man is a vile creature!

FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY, Crime and Punishment

A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own.

THOMAS MANN, The Magic Mountain

Since the order of world is regulated by death, perhaps is it better for God we do not believe in him and we fight with all our might against death, without raising our eyes heavenward where he keeps silent.

ALBERT CAMUS, The Plague

Who dies in youth and vigour, dies the best.

HOMER, The Iliad

Peace is in the grave.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, Prometheus Unbound

I feel like one who has done work for the day to retire awhile,
I receive now again of my many translations, from my avataras ascending, while others doubtless await me,
An unknown sphere more real than I dream'd, more direct, darts awakening rays about me, So long!
Remember my words, I may again return,
I love you, I depart from materials,
I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.

WALT WHITMAN, Leaves of Grass

The ancients adorned their sarcophagi with the emblems of life and procreation, and even with obscene symbols; in the religions of antiquity the sacred and the obscene often lay very close together. These men knew how to pay homage to death. For death is worthy of homage as the cradle of life, as the womb of palingenesis.

THOMAS MANN, The Magic Mountain

I want the dead to be dead. Forever. And I want to be one of them. Except that of course you can't be one of them. You can't be one of the dead because what has no existence can have no community. No community. My heart warms just thinking about it. Silence. Blackness. Aloneness. Peace. And all of it only a heartbeat away.

CORMAC MCCARTHY, The Sunset Limited

Hell strives with grace for conquest in my breast.
What shall I do to shun the snares of death?

CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE, Doctor Faustus

Them that die will be the lucky ones!

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, Treasure Island

Death is better, a milder fate than tyranny.

AESCHYLUS, Agamemnon

Let every man in mankind's frailty
Consider his last day; and let none
Presume on his good fortune until he find
Life, at his death, a memory without pain.

SOPHOCLES, Oedipus Rex

Death commences too early--almost before you're half acquainted with life--you meet the other.

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

They are carnal both of them, love and death, and thus their terror and their great magic!

THOMAS MANN, The Magic Mountain

Understand death? Sure. That was when the monsters got you.

STEPHEN KING, Salem's Lot

And as to you Death, and you bitter hug of mortality, it is idle to try to alarm me.

WALT WHITMAN, Leaves of Grass

Boy, when you're dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody.

J. D. SALINGER, The Catcher in the Rye

Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it; he died
As one that had been studied in his death,
To throw away the dearest thing he ow'd,
As 'twere a careless trifle.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Macbeth

But the great leveler, Death: not even the gods
can defend a man, not even one they love, that day
when fate takes hold and lays him out at last.

HOMER, The Odyssey

Each of us must expect an end of living in this world; let him who may win glory before death: for that is best at last for the departed warrior.

To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.

For it would be better to die once and for all than to suffer pain for all one's life.

AESCHYLUS, Prometheus Bound

Death is the veil which those who live call life;
They sleep, and it is lifted.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, Prometheus Unbound

Since we're all going to die, it's obvious that when and how don't matter.

ALBERT CAMUS, The Stranger

Of all the events which constitute a person's biography, there is scarcely one — none, certainly, of anything like a similar importance — to which the world so easily reconciles itself as to his death.

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, The House of the Seven Gables

Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.

MARY SHELLEY, Frankenstein

Even the stout of heart shrink when they see the approach of death.

SOPHOCLES, Antigone

I don't know if it be a peculiarity in me, but I am seldom otherwise than happy while watching in the chamber of death, should no frenzied or despairing mourner share the duty with me. I see a repose that neither earth nor hell can break, and I feel an assurance of the endless and shadowless hereafter--the eternity they have entered--where life is boundless in its duration, and love in its sympathy, and joy in its fullness.

EMILY BRONTË, Wuthering Heights

That's the one thing that everybody in the world can do, ain't it, Willard? is die ... living is the hassle.

Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death;-- the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!

CHARLES DICKENS, A Tale of Two Cities

Methinks, by most, 'twill be confess'd
That Death is never quite a welcome guest.
JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, Faust, Part I

So we drove on toward death in the cooling twilight.

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD, The Great Gatsby

Know thy birth!
For dost thou art, and shalt to dust return.

JOHN MILTON, Paradise Lost

I'll make death love me; for I will contend
Even with his pestilent scythe.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Antony and Cleopatra

He that dies pays all debts.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, The Tempest

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprisoned in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thought
Imagine howling!--'t is too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Measure for Measure

It is seldom men think of death in the pride of their health and strength.

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER, The Deerslayer

We're all dead, or dying, or about to die.

HENRY MILLER, Tropic of Cancer

All is possible for those who dare to die!

SIR WALTER SCOTT, Ivanhoe

For life be, after all, only a waitin' for somethin' else than what we're doin', and death be all that we can rightly depend on.

BRAM STOKER, Dracula

The gods, the immortals, were the inventors of death and corruption; yet with one or two notable exceptions they have lacked the courage to try their invention out on themselves.

J. M. COETZEE, Elizabeth Costello

Death hides within every religion. And at any time it can flash forth--not with healing in its wings but with poison, with that which wounds.

PHILIP K. DICK, Valis

What is death?... Nature's way of telling you to slow down.

DON DELILLO, Underworld

We must get in step, a lock step, toward the prison of death. There is no escape.

HENRY MILLER, Tropic of Cancer

Death, in the Eastern tradition, was only a passage. What wasn't clear ... was toward what place, what reality, that passage led.

ROBERTO BOLAÑO, 2666

The dead's dead ... get 'em in the ground and look to the live ones.

The thorn of death falls from heaven, and its myriad forms leave us no room to move.

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