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date: 28 May 2024


  1. [Death is] nature's way of telling you to slow down.
    Anonymous: American life insurance proverb, in Newsweek 25 April 1960
  2. This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
    Every nighte and alle,
    Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
    And Christe receive thy saule.
    ‘fleet’ = corruption of ‘flet’, meaning house-room
    Anonymous: ‘Lyke-Wake Dirge’, traditional ballad
  3. Even death is unreliable: instead of zero it may be some ghastly hallucination, such as the square root of minus one.
    Samuel Beckett 1906–89 Irish dramatist, novelist, and poet: attributed
  4. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
    The Bible (Authorized Version, 1611): I Corinthians ch. 15, v. 55
  5. In the midst of life we are in death.
    The Book of Common Prayer 1662: The Burial of the Dead First Anthem
  6. Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life.
    The Book of Common Prayer 1662: The Burial of the Dead Interment
  7. Don't be afraid of death so much as an inadequate life.
    Bertolt Brecht 1898–1956 German dramatist: The Mother (1957) sc. 10
  8. Der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland.
    Death is a master from Germany.
    Paul Celan 1920–70 German poet: ‘Deathfugue’ (written 1944)
  9. He shouts play death more sweetly this Death is a master from Deutschland
    he shouts scrape your strings darker you'll rise then as smoke to the sky
    you'll have a grave then in the clouds there you won't lie too cramped.
    Paul Celan 1920–70 German poet: ‘Deathfugue’ (written 1944)
  10. However many ways there may be of being alive, it is certain that there are vastly more ways of being dead.
    Richard Dawkins 1941–  English biologist: The Blind Watchmaker (1986) ch. 1
  11. And now she is like everyone else.
    on the death of his daughter, who had been born with Down's syndrome
    Charles de Gaulle 1890–1970 French soldier and statesman, President of France 1959–69: in 1948, Jean Lacouture De Gaulle (1965)
  12. Death be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.
    John Donne 1572–1631 English poet and divine: Holy Sonnets (1609) no. 6 (ed. J. Carey, 1990)
  13. One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
    And death shall be no more; Death thou shalt die.
    John Donne 1572–1631 English poet and divine: Holy Sonnets (1609) no. 6 (ed. J. Carey, 1990)
  14. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
    John Donne 1572–1631 English poet and divine: Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624) ‘Meditation XVII’
  15. The bodies of those that made such a noise and tumult when alive, when dead, lie as quietly among the graves of their neighbours as any others.
    Jonathan Edwards 1703–58 American theologian: Sermon on procrastination in Works (1834) vol. 2
  16. Webster was much possessed by death
    And saw the skull beneath the skin;
    And breastless creatures underground
    Leaned backward with a lipless grin.
    T. S. Eliot 1888–1965 American-born British poet, critic, and dramatist: ‘Whispers of Immortality’ (1919)
  17. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are death is not come, and when death is come, we are not.
    Epicurus 341–271 bc Greek philosopher: Diogenes Laertius Lives of Eminent Philosophers bk. 10
  18. Why fear death? It is the most beautiful adventure in life.
    before drowning in the Lusitania, 7 May 1915
    Charles Frohman 1860–1915 American theatrical manager: I. F. Marcosson and D. Frohman Charles Frohman (1916); see Barrie
  19. My thoughts are crowded with death
    and it draws so oddly on the sexual
    that I am confused
    confused to be attracted
    by, in effect, my own annihilation.
    Thom Gunn 1929–2004 English poet: ‘In Time of Plague’ (1992)
  20. I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap in the dark.
    Thomas Hobbes 1588–1679 English philosopher: last words; attributed (see Vanbrugh), but with no authoritative source
  21. Death is nothing at all; it does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room.
    Henry Scott Holland 1847–1918 English theologian and preacher: sermon preached on Whitsunday 1910
  22. Non omnis moriar.
    I shall not altogether die.
    Horace 65–8 bc Roman poet: Odes bk. 3, no. 30, l. 6
  23. So here it is at last, the distinguished thing!
    on experiencing his first stroke
    Henry James 1843–1916 American novelist: Edith Wharton A Backward Glance (1934) ch. 14
  24. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.
    Steve Jobs 1955–2011 American computer executive: commencement address, Stanford University, 12 June 2005
  25. Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
    I have been half in love with easeful Death.
    John Keats 1795–1821 English poet: ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ (1820) st. 6
  26. When I have fears that I may cease to be
    Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain.
    John Keats 1795–1821 English poet: ‘When I have fears that I may cease to be’ (written 1818)
  27. Death never takes the wise man by surprise; he is always ready to go.
    Jean de la Fontaine 1621–95 French poet: Fables bk. 8 (1678–9) ‘La Mort et le Mourant’; see Montaigne
  28. The dead don't die. They look on and help.
    D. H. Lawrence 1885–1930 English novelist and poet: letter to J. Middleton Murry, 2 February 1923
  29. This is death.
    To die and know it. This is the Black Widow, death.
    Robert Lowell 1917–77 American poet: ‘Mr Edwards and the Spider’ (1950)
  30. Let me die a youngman's death
    Not a clean & in-between-
    The-sheets, holy-water death,
    Not a famous-last-words
    Peaceful out-of-breath death.
    Roger McGough 1937–  English poet: ‘Let Me Die a Youngman's Death’ (1967)
  31. There are no dead.
    Maurice Maeterlinck 1862–1949 Belgian poet, dramatist, and essayist: L'Oiseau bleu (1909)
  32. It's not pining—it's passed on! This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be! It's expired and gone to meet its maker! This is a late parrot! It's a stiff! Bereft of life it rests in peace—if you hadn't nailed it to the perch it would be pushing up the daisies! It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible! this is an ex–parrot!
    Monty Python's Flying Circus 1969–74 BBC TV programme, written by Graham Chapman (1941–89), John Cleese (1939–), Terry Gilliam (1940–), Eric Idle (1943–), Terry Jones (1942–), and Michael Palin (1943–): Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969)
  33. Life is a great surprise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.
    Vladimir Nabokov 1899–1977 Russian novelist: Pale Fire (1962)
  34. And all our calm is in that balm—
    Not lost but gone before.
    Caroline Norton 1808–77 English poet and songwriter: ‘Not Lost but Gone Before’; see Cyprian, Rogers
  35. We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden as if in caves.
    Michael Ondaatje 1943–  Canadian writer: The English Patient (1992)
  36. The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
    Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
    And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
    Wilfred Owen 1893–1918 English poet: ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ (written 1917)
  37. We shall die alone.
    Blaise Pascal 1623–62 French mathematician, physicist, and moralist: Pensées (1670, ed. L. Brunschvicg, 1909) sect. 3, no. 211
  38. Abiit ad plures.
    He's gone to join the majority.
    meaning the dead
    Petronius Arbiter d. ad 65 Roman satirist: Satyricon ‘Cena Trimalchionis’ ch. 42; see Young
  39. A man's not dead while his name is still spoken.
    Terry Pratchett 1948–2015 English fantasy writer: Going Postal (2004)
  40. Only we die in earnest, that's no jest.
    Walter Ralegh c.1552–1618 English explorer and courtier: ‘On the Life of Man’
  41. When I am dead, my dearest,
    Sing no sad songs for me;
    Plant thou no roses at my head,
    Nor shady cypress tree:
    Be the green grass above me
    With showers and dewdrops wet;
    And if thou wilt, remember,
    And if thou wilt, forget.
    Christina Rossetti 1830–94 English poet: ‘When I am dead’ (1862)
  42. Anyone can stop a man's life, but no one his death; a thousand doors open on to it.
    Seneca (‘the Younger’) c.4 bcad 65 Roman philosopher and poet: Phoenissae l. 152; see Massinger, Webster
  43. To be, or not to be: that is the question:
    Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
    No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
    The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep;
    To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
    For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
    When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
    Must give us pause.
    William Shakespeare 1564–1616 English dramatist: Hamlet (1601) act 3, sc. 1, l. 56 (Oxford Standard Authors ed.)
  44. I care not; a man can die but once; we owe God a death.
    William Shakespeare 1564–1616 English dramatist: Henry IV, Part 2 (1597) act 3, sc. 2, l. [253] (Oxford Standard Authors ed.); see Shakespeare
  45. In the arts of life man invents nothing; but in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself, and produces by chemistry and machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence and famine.
    George Bernard Shaw 1856–1950 Irish dramatist: Man and Superman (1903) act 3
  46. The cemetery is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.
    Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792–1822 English poet: Adonais (1821) preface
  47. If there wasn't death, I think you couldn't go on.
    Stevie Smith 1902–71 English poet and novelist: in Observer 9 November 1969
  48. Death must be distinguished from dying, with which it is often confused.
    Sydney Smith 1771–1845 English clergyman and essayist: H. Pearson The Smith of Smiths (1934)
  49. To fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise, without being wise: for it is to think that we know what we do not know.
    Socrates 469–399 bc Greek philosopher: Plato Apology 29a
  50. One death is a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic.
    Joseph Stalin 1879–1953 Soviet dictator: attributed; first attributed to Stalin in the form ‘If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics’ in Washington Post 20 January 1947; see Tucholsky
  51. For though from out our bourne of time and place
    The flood may bear me far,
    I hope to see my pilot face to face
    When I have crossed the bar.
    Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1809–92 English poet: ‘Crossing the Bar’ (1889)
  52. Though lovers be lost love shall not;
    And death shall have no dominion.
    Dylan Thomas 1914–53 Welsh poet: ‘And death shall have no dominion’ (1936); see Bible
  53. Just try and set death aside. It sets you aside, and that's the end of it!
    Ivan Turgenev 1818–83 Russian novelist: Fathers and Sons (1862) ch. 27
  54. All say, ‘How hard it is to die’—a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
    Mark Twain 1835–1910 American writer: Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894) ch. 10
  55. So it goes.
    Kurt Vonnegut 1922–2007 American novelist and short-story writer: Slaughterhouse Five (1969)
  56. Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889–1951 Austrian-born philosopher: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922)
  57. He knows death to the bone—
    Man has created death.
    W. B. Yeats 1865–1939 Irish poet: ‘Death’ (1933)