Tuesday, March 28, 2006



Sebastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort, Products of the Perfected Civilization. Selected Writings, tr. W.S. Merwin (New York: Macmillan, 1969), p. 128:
Living is an ailment which is relieved every sixteen hours by sleep. A palliative. Death is the cure.

Vivre est une maladie dont le sommeil nous soulage toutes les seize heures; c'est un palliatif: la mort est le remède.
Cf. Alexander Pope, Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, line 132: "this long disease, my life," and Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, Part 2, § 9: "I boast nothing, but plainly say, we all labour against our own cure; for death is the cure of all diseases."

There are probably many classical analogues, but only two come to mind.

Aeschylus, fragment 353 Nauck (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
Since unjustly men hate death, which is the greatest defence against their many ills.

ὡς οὐ δικαίως θάνατον ἔχθουσιν βροτοί,
ὅσπερ μέγιστον ῥῦμα τῶν πολλῶν κακῶν.
Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead 27.9 (tr. H.W. and F.G. Fowler):
Well, we need wonder no more at youth, when age is still in love with life; one would have thought it should court death as the cure for its proper ills.

τί οὖν ἄν τις ἔτι λέγοι περὶ τῶν νέων͵ ὁπότε οἱ τηλικοῦτοι φιλόζωοί εἰσιν͵ οὓς ἐχρῆν διώκειν τὸν θάνατον ὡς τῶν ἐν τῷ γήρᾳ κακῶν φάρμακον.

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