Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Pondering Death by Maurice Maeterlinck 1912

Pondering Death by Maurice Maeterlinck 1912

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For us, death is the one event that counts in our life and in our universe. It is the point whereat all that escapes our vigilance unites and conspires against our happiness. The more our thoughts struggle to turn away from it, the closer do they press around it. The more we dread it, the more dreadful it becomes, for it battens but on our fears. He who seeks to forget it burdens his memory with it; he who tries to shun it meets naught else. But, though we think of death incessantly, we do so unconsciously, without learning to know death. We compel our attention to turn its back upon it, instead of going to it with uplifted head. We exhaust all our forces, which ought to face death boldly, in distracting our will from it. We deliver death into the dim hands of instinct, and we grant it not one hour of our intelligence. Is it surprising that the idea of death, which should be the most perfect and the most luminous—-being the most persistent and the most inevitable—-remains the flimsiest of our ideas and the only one that is backward? How should we know the one power which we never looked in the face? How could it profit by flashes kindled only to help us escape it? To fathom its abysses, we wait until the most enfeebled, the most disordered moments of our life arrive. We do not think of death until we have no longer the strength, I will not say, to think, but even to breathe. A man returning among us from another century would not recognize without difficulty, in the depths of a present-day soul, the image of his gods, of his duty, of his love, or of his universe; but the figure of death, when everything has changed around it, and when even that which composes it and upon which it rests has vanished, he would find almost untouched, roughdrawn as it was by our fathers, hundreds, nay, thousands of years ago. Our intelligence, grown so bold and active, has not worked upon this figure, has added no single touch to it. Though we may no longer believe in the tortures of the damned, all the vital cells of the most sceptical among us are still steeped in the appalling mystery of the Hebrew Sheol, the pagan Hades, or the Christian Hell. Though it may no longer be lighted by very definite flames, the gulf still opens at the end of life, and, if less known, is all the more formidable. And, therefore, when the impending hour strikes to which we dared not raise our eyes, everything fails us at the same time. Those two or three uncertain ideas whereon, without examining them, we had meant to lean, give way like rushes beneath the weight of the last moments. In vain we seek a refuge among reflections that rave or are strange to us and do not know the roads to our heart. No one awaits us on the last shore, where all is unprepared, where naught remains afoot save terror.

The Land Which No One Knows by Ebenezer Elliott

DARK, deep, and cold the current flows
Unto the sea where no wind blows,
Seeking the land which no one knows.

O'er its sad gloom still comes and goes
The mingled wail of friends and foes,      
Borne to the land which no one knows.

Why shrieks for help yon wretch, who goes
With millions, from a world of woes,
Unto the land which no one knows?

Though myriads go with him who goes,
Alone he goes where no wind blows,
Unto the land which no one knows.

For all must go where no wind blows,
And none can go for him who goes;
None, none return whence no one knows.

Yet why should he who shrieking goes
With millions, from a world of woes,
Reunion seek with it or those?

Alone with God, where no wind blows,
And Death, his shadow—doom'd, he goes.
That God is there the shadow shows.

O shoreless Deep, where no wind blows!
And thou, O Land which no one knows!
That God is All, His shadow shows.

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