Pic and a Word #161: Remember to die

Live and let die, and then remember. Let’s go all poetic today.

Do you know how you sometimes can’t tell exactly what a Latin proverb means? Is memento mori remember the dead or remember to die?

In any case, I see it as the imperative so I impair (which I hope is an old English word for learn, if not – false friend).

When I was studying English at the university, there was a poem that especially got to me. Plus it includes Patrick’s key word for this week, remembrance.

I wonder if you know it. This is how it begins:

Before the beginning of years
There came to the making of man
Time, with a gift of tears;
Grief, with a glass that ran;
Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
Summer, with flowers that fell;
Remembrance fallen from heaven,
And madness risen from hell;
Strength without hands to smite;
Love that endures for a breath;
Night, the shadow of light,
And life, the shadow of death.

This is the chorus from Atalanta in Calydon, poetic play by Algernon Charles Swinburne from a couple of centuries ago, of whom I never heard before or since.

What follows is a poem on death and the nation by Slovenian contemporary poet Tone Pavček, who by now is also gone, just like we all will be one day. Unless we forget to die. Here it is in my translation, since translating is what I do and should be doing more often.

The Final Poem
by Tone Pavček
Translated by Manja Maksimovič

How neat are Slovenians as we go,
our search for perfection drains the cup,
in dying persistent and far from slow,
we perish before our time is up.

Moreover, our death has Slovenian flair:
by fire or water, poison or gas,
it’s all such a grave and solemn affair,
as if country or god were calling express.

One day, maybe soon, we’ll go to the last,
but before we can rot and turn into pus,
new names will be given to everything fast,
while death will be named after us…

Tone Pavček: Zadnja

Kako Slovenci lepo umiramo,
vztrajno in ne ravno počasi,
iskalci popolnosti scagamo, shiramo,
še preden se stečejo naši časi.

A tudi umiramo tako po slovensko:
z vrvjo, v vodi, s strupom in s plinom,
zmeraj nekako slovesno in hudo resno,
kot bi šlo za boga ali za domovino.

Nekoč, morda kmalu, pomremo do zadnjega.
In potem, še preden zgnijemo v jami,
dajo nova imena vsemu na tem koščku sveta,
a smrt poimenujejo z nami. . .


Recently I’ve realised that I do photography in the same way I translate: I keep out by staying in.

In the photo part of the post, twenty images from my graveyard hopping in Slovenia this summer. I visited:

  • Žale Cemetery in Ljubljana (first five photos);
  • Nova vas above Dragonja in Istria (next three photos);
  • Piran on the coast (next five photos); and
  • Žužemberk in the southern region of Dolenjska (the last seven photos).

So as you go through life, keep in mind: there is a space for you.

As for me, I’m off to Slovenia for a week and won’t be posting much. They promise some inches of drama on Tuesday. This is how amore calls snow. Be well and grateful.

If you like cemeteries, here are two more posts from Žale Cemetery and one from the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome:

In response to Patrick Jennings’ Pic and a Word Challenge #161: Remembrance

33 thoughts on “Pic and a Word #161: Remember to die

      1. Drive carefully. No we got about 10 cms last weekend and we’re getting about 15 cms today. Lots of accidents on the road already though. Many people still don’t have their winter tires on yet.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Maggie, I’m glad you like my photos. Well, it’s not so easy to answer this. First, there is my Slovenian, and then neighbouring Croatian and Serbian and Bosnian (these three are really more or less one language). Then it’s English in which I converse with amore (and the world), Italian which I’m learning by living here, Spanish I had for 4 years in high school but haven’t used since, non-grammatical German I can (could?) use while shopping and ordering, and not much else, really. I only translate from English and into English.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Gosh, it is really to the point! No glossing over death, particularly with the “pus” line! But there is no sense being precious about it. Death comes to all of us, eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. I am getting out all my summery shirts and tops as the heat and humidity level starts to kick in. Are you getting ready for a cold winter/ preparing for the festive season?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hehe, good to hear! 🙂 Oh yes, I’ve just packed two coats, scarfs, cap and gloves for a week in Slovenia. Snow promised on Tuesday! Then I return home but will be back for a week in December too.


        1. Haha…I know, but I was thinking about how you got it really…and you told me about colder weather…
          Hopefully you will get better soon!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I particularly like the one near the end of your post with the star and the “as you reach my grave” quote. Sounds like something I’d consider putting on my own gravestone.

    Is there a reason why the candle-holders are mostly red? Symbolic, or just because?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Pistachios! ❤ I wouldn't mind putting something like this on mine either, maybe with a bit more thought out translation. I was in a hurry to post. As for the colour red, amore immediately offered a long and complicated Catholic explanation. I admit I wasn't listening very closely. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely post. I am approaching the same conclusion about death as the poet you translated. Fantastic translation. And I am also a big fan of your cemetery photos. Have a good trip this week!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I worked on the second and third seasons of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the first episode of season two was set at Prufrock Prep, whose school motto is Memento Mori … which was translated in the script as “Remember You Will Die.” (Google quite literally translates as “Remember Death.”)

    I am a little fascinated by the cultural variations in the laying to rest of the dead. North Americans are so very solemn, with solid square blocks of dark granite being the norm. Slovenians, it would seem, allow a certain vibrance and dynamism with their headstones, flowers and — as you noted — candles.


    1. Thank you, Patrick. I see now that this comment went to spam for some reason. I haven’t seen any of this series yet. I’m fascinated too, ever since I was roaming around Père Lachaise in Paris on November 1st and there were no crowds and no candles. In Slovenia it’s almost a grave-hopping party that day.

      Liked by 1 person

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