the Blacklight Arrow

David Blacker’s Blog

Death

We meet ‘neath the sounding rafter,
And the walls all around are bare;
As they shout back our peals of laughter
It seems that the dead are there.
Then stand to your glasses, steady!
We drink in our comrades eyes:
One cup to the dead already-
Hurrah for the next that dies!

Not here are the goblets glowing,
Not here is the vintage sweet;
‘Tis cold as our hearts are growing,
And dark as the doom we meet.
But stand to your glasses, steady!
And soon shall our pulses rise:
A cup to the dead already-
Hurrah for the next that dies!

There’s many a hand that’s shaking,
And many a cheek that’s sunk;
But soon, though our hearts are breaking,
They’ll burn with the wine we’ve drunk.
Then stand to your glasses, steady!
‘Tis here the revival lies:
Quaff a cup to the dead already-
Hurrah for the next that dies.

Time was when we laughed at others;
We thought we were wiser then;
Ha! Ha! Let them think of their mothers,
Who hope to see them again.
No! stand to your glasses, steady!
The thoughtless is here the wise:
One cup to the dead already-
Hurrah for the next that dies!

Not a sigh for the lot that darkles,
Not a tear for the friends that sink-,
We’ll fall, ‘midst the wine-cup’s sparkles,
As mute as the wine we drink.
Come, stand to your glasses, steadyl!
‘Tis this that the respite buys:
A cup to the dead already-
Hurrah for the next that dies!

There’s a mist on the glass congealing,
‘Tis the hurricane’s sultry breath;
And thus does the warmth of feeling
Turn ice in the grasp of Death.
But stand to your glasses, steady!
For a moment the vapor flies:
Quaff a cup to the dead already-
Hurrah for the next that dies!

Who dreads to the dust returning?
Who shrinks from the sable shore,
Where the high and haughty yearning
Of the soul can sting no more?
No, stand to your glasses, steady!
The world is a world of lies:
A cup to the dead already-
And hurrah for the next that dies!

Cut off from the land that bore us,
Betrayed by the land we find,
When the brightest have gone before us,
And the dullest are most behind-
Stand, stand to your glasses, steady!
‘Tis all we have left to prize:
One cup to the dead already-
Hurrah for the next that dies!

— Bartholomew Dowling. The Revel

They wrote in the old days that it was sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason
— Ernest Hemmingway. Notes On the Next War

Beloved, on a parchment white
With my heart’s blood to thee I write,
My pen a dagger, sharp and clean,
Inlaid with golden damascene,
Which I have used and not in vain,
To keep my honour free from stain,

Now when our house its mourning wears,
Do not thyself give way to tears,
Instruct our eldest son that I
was ever as anxious to die,
For when death comes the brave are free,
So in thy dreams, remember me.

— John Baker. A Pathan Warrior’s Farewell

You gotta go, you gotta go. All’s I can say is, I hope you get a clean wound.
— Sergeant, US 173rd Airborne Brigade at Dak To, during the Vietnam War

Quem de diligunt
Adulscens moritur.
He whom the gods favour, dies young.
— Plautus Bacchides

A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.
— Josef Stalin

I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head.

— Omar Khayyám

Like many inexperienced soldiers, I suffered from the illusion that there were good ways to die in a war.
— Philip Caputo. A Rumor of War

You hear footsteps in the night, see shadows on the wall
And the ghastly sound of silence, as the mist begins to fall
Then a scream rang out like thunder, but the lightning was too late
As the rain came down on the crimson ground
It was the hand of fate
And a crowd of people gathered round, but Billy couldn’t wait

— From Def Leppard’s Billy’s Got a Gun

“…I don’t worry about dying at the best of times. I work to stay alive, but I don’t worry. And these aren’t exactly thee best of times.”
— James Hudson. The Five Fingers

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

— Alan Seeger. I Have a Rendezvous with Death

Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?
— Sergeant Daniel Daley of the US 6th Marines, two-time recipient of the Medal of Honour, at the Battle of Belleau Wood, June 1918

Sometimes it made me laugh inside; I could not take myself seriously when I could already see my own death; nor, seeing their deaths as well, could I take others seriously. We were all the victims of a great practical joke played on us by God or Nature. Maybe that’s why corpses always grinned. They saw the joke at the last moment.
— Philip Caputo. A Rumor of War

Death is only an horizon, and an horizon is nothing more than the limit of our sight.
— Sir Fitzroy MacLean

Every day people were dying there because of small detail that they couldn’t be bothered to observe. Imagine being too tired to snap a flak jacket closed, too tired to clean your rifle, too tired to guard a light, too tired to deal with the half-inch margins of safety that moving through the war often demanded, just too tired to give a fuck and then dying behind that exhaustion.
— Michael Herr. Dispatches

It made the pit of my stomach burn when I saw the worst soldier in the field go on surviving mistake after mistake and the best walk into a stray bullet. There was no rationale to death.
— James Hudson. The Five Fingers

But I hae dreamed a dreary dream,
Beyond the Isle of Skye;
I saw a dead man win a fight,
And I think that man was me.

— From the Scottish ballad The Battle of Otterburn

A crack like thunder from the edge of the world. Time, like existence, as fragile as a candle’s flame, was snuffed out.
— Eric Van Lustbader. White Ninja

Sometimes it would be funny to watch a totally frightened, totally helpless human being fighting for his life when he had no chance of saving himself. I had seen it so many times, and it was always the same.
— James Hudson. The Five Fingers

Death has but one terror, that it has no tomorrow.
— Eric Hoffer. The Passionate State of Mind

The winds that blow–
ask them which leaf of the tree
will be the first to go!

— Soseki

“Death?” Barnes chuckled and then shouted into the darkness. “Y’all don’t know nothin’ about death!”
— Dale Dye. Platoon

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death comes soon or late.
And how may man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his Gods?”

— Thomas Macauley. How Horatius Kept the Bridge

…For death is not an adventure for those who stand face to face with it.
— Erich Maria Remarque. All Quiet on the Western Front

Besides dying in battle, there was very little he could think of to do with his life time — little that seemed worth the doing.
— Walter Miller. A Canticle for Leibowitz

Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein. Tractatus

They shall not grow old, as we that our left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We shall remember them.

— Laurence Binyon. For the Fallen

Your dextrous wit will haunt us long
Wounding our grief with yesterday.
Your laughter is a broken song;
And death has found you, kind and gay.

— Siegfried Sassoon. Elegy

The prevailing one was that of pleasant, peculiar cold thrill which we feel in bathing, when we move against the current of a river… Sometimes it was as if warm lips kissed me, and longer and more lovingly as they reached my throat, but there the caress fixed itself. My heart beat faster, my breathing rose and fell rapidly and full-drawn; a sobbing that rose into a sense of strangulation, supervened and turned into a dreadful convulsion in which my senses left me, and I became unconscious.
— Sheridan le Fanu. Carmilla

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land,
When you can no longer hold me by the hand
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me: you understand
It will be too late to counsel then or pray
And yet if you should forget me for awhile
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
And if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far for you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

— Christina Georgina Rossetti. Remember

But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou seest — if indeed I go
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)
To the island valley of Avillon:
Where falls not hail, nor rain or any snow;
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies,
Deep-meadowed, happy, fair, with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea;
Where I shall heal me of my wound.

— From Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Morte d’Arthur

Like a sea’s retaining wall she lay and allowed herself to be buffeted, and felt the tidal pull that, at the end, seemed to draw her soul out of her body.
— Grace Mettalious. Return to Peyton Place

Fear? No, he wasn’t afraid. He’d been through too much to be afraid. He wasn’t scared of death, he was sure of that. He’d faced death before, and he’d been responsible for the deaths of others, and he knew he was being honest when he said that the thought of no longer being alive didn’t worry him. What scared him was dying. He didn’t want to die a shriveled husk of the super-fit human being he’d once been, a lifetime ago. He’d always be grateful to the Colonel for offering him that, the chance to die like a warrior.
— Stephen Leather. The Double Tap

Dying was nothing and he had no picture of it nor fear of it in his mind. But living was a field of grain blowing in the wind on the side of a hill. Living was a hawk in the sky.
— Ernest Hemmingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

— Dylan Thomas. Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

I did not mean to be killed today.
— Vicomte de Turenue, just before his death at the Battle of Salzbach in 1675

Lo, there do I see my father
Lo, there do I see my mother
And my sisters and my brothers
Lo, there do I see the line of my people
Back to the beginning
Lo, they do call to me
They bid me take my place among them
In the halls of Valhalla
Where the brave may live forever.

— Viking chant, spoken at funerals and by warriors before battle

And if I go…
While you’re still here…
Know that I still live on,
Vibrating to a different measure
— behind a veil you cannot see through.
You will not see me,
So you must have faith.
I wait for the time when we can soar again
— both aware of each other.
Until then, live your life to its fullest and when you need me,
Just whisper my name in your heart
…I will be there.

— Tom Clancy.

There’s a widow in sleepy Chester
Who weeps for her only son;
There’s a grave on the Pabeng River,
A grave that the Burmans shun;
And there’s Subadar Prag Tewarri
Who tells how the work was done.

A Snider squibbed in the jungle-
Somebody laughed and fled,
And the men of the First Shikaris
Picked up their Subaltern dead,
With a big blue mark in his forehead
And the back blown out of his head.

Subadar Prag Tewarri,
Jemadar Hira Lal,
Took command of the party,
Twenty rifles in all,
Marched them down to the river
As the day was beginning to fall.

They buried the boy by the river,
A blanket over his face-
They wept for their dead Lieutenant,
The men of an alien race-
They made a samadh1 in his honour,
A mark for his resting-place.

For they swore by the Holy Water,
They swore by the salt they ate,
That the soul of Lieutenant Eshmitt Sahib
Should go to his God in state,
With fifty file of Burmans
To open him Heaven’s Gate.

The men of the First Shikaris
Marched till the break of day,
Till they came to the rebel village
The village of Pabengmay-
A jingal2 covered the clearing,
Caltrops hampered the way.

Subadar Prag Tewarri,
Biddin8 them load with ball,
Halted a dozen rifles
Under the village wall;
Sent out a flanking-party
With Jemadar Hira Lal.

The men of the First Shikaris
Shouted and smote and slew,
Turning the grinning jingal
On to the howling crew.
The Jemadar’s flanking-party
Butchered the folk who flew.

Long was the morn of slaughter,
Long was the list of slain,
Five score heads were taken,
Five score heads and twain;
And the men of the First Shikaris
Went back to their grave again,

Each man bearing a basket
Red as his palms that day,
Red as the blazing village-
The village of Pabengmay
And the “drip-drip-drip” from the baskets
Reddened the grass by the way

They made a pile of their trophies
High as a tall man’s chin,
Head upon head distorted,
Set in a sightless grin,
Anger and pain and terror
Stamped on the smoke-scorched skin.

Subadar Prag Tewarri
Put the head of the Boh
On the top of the mound of triumph,
The head of his son below-
With the sword and the peacock banner
That the world might behold and know.

Thus the samadh was perfect,
Thus was the lesson plain
Of the wrath of the First Shikaris-
The price of white man slain;
And the men of the First Shikaris
Went back into camp again.

Then a silence came to the river,
A hush fell over the shore,
And Bohs that were brave departed,
And Sniders squibbed no more;
For the Burmans said
That a white man’s head
Must be paid for with heads five-score.

There’s a widow in sleepy Chester
Who weeps for her only son;
There’s a grave on the Pabeng River,
A grave that the Burmans shun;
And there’s Subadar Prag Tewarri
Who tells how the work was done.

— Rudyard Kipling. The Grave of the Hundred Dead

He would never marry now, and perhaps that was no bad thing; it would have been hard to find anyone who could live up to the ideal she had set: and he would also be spared the sadness of discovering that love does not last and that time, which destroys beauty and youth and strength, can also corrode many things of far greater value. He would never know disillusionment, or failure either, or live to see the gods of his idolatry brought down and shown to have feet of clay…
— MM Kaye. The Far Pavilions

Advertisements

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: