(Notable Quotables is a meme originally brought to you by the Bewitched Bookworms. Every Monday you’re invited to share a favorite quote or two from the books you’ve been reading.)
Death is, obviously, a subject on which most people do not like to dwell; there are too many unknowns. But because it’s an emotional subject, literature has always focused quite a bit on it.
I hated pretty much everything about Beowulf, but I loved this quote. Not only is it well structured and written, it also shows the inevitability and inescapability of death:
“Now for a time there is glory in your might: yet soon it shall be that sickness or sword will diminish your strength, or fire’s fangs, or flood’s surge, or sword’s swing, or spear’s flight, or appalling age; brightness of eyes will fail and grow dark; then it shall be that death will overcome you, warrior.”
Death is often a sad experience, but many writers believed fervently that there is life beyond the death that we all fear. John Donne’s poem “Holy Sonnet X” is a perfect example of this, and reading it always fills me with hope:
“Death be not proud, though some have callèd thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better than thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”
I don’t normally like reading about death, but I can’t help but smile every time I read this epitaph that Benjamin Franklin composed for himself:
Benjamin Franklin, Printer
(Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents torn out,
And stript of its lettering and guilding)
Lies food for worms:
Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
For it will (as he believed) appear once more
In a new
and more beautiful edition,
Corrected and amended
What a perfect way to combine faith and literature. At the risk of sounding fatalistic, I wouldn’t mind having this as my epitaph.
What are you reading this week?