The Dance of Death HTML version

The Dance of Death
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"Many words for few things!" "Death ends all; judgment comes to all."
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[This work may be called a prose poem. It is impregnated with the spirit of romanticism,
which at the time of writing had a temporary but powerful hold on the mind of Gustave
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At night, in winter, when the snow-flakes fall slowly from heaven like great white tears, I
raise my voice; its resonance thrills the cypress trees and makes them bud anew.
I pause an instant in my swift course over earth; throw myself down among cold tombs;
and, while dark-plumaged birds rise suddenly in terror from my side, while the dead
slumber peacefully, while cypress branches droop low o'er my head, while all around me
weeps or lies in deep repose, my burning eyes rest on the great white clouds, gigantic
winding-sheets, unrolling their slow length across the face of heaven.
How many nights, and years, and ages have I journeyed thus! A witness of the universal
birth and of a like decay; Innumerable are the generations I have garnered with my
scythe. Like God, I am eternal! The nurse of Earth, I cradle it each night upon a bed both
soft and warm. The same recurring feasts; the same unending toil! Each morning I depart,
each evening I return, bearing within my mantle's ample folds all that my scythe has
gathered. And then I scatter them to the four winds of Heaven!
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When the high billows run, when the heavens weep, and shrieking winds lash ocean into
madness, then in the turmoil and the tumult do I fling myself upon the surging waves, and
lo! the tempest softly cradles me, as in her hammock sways a queen. The foaming waters
cool my weary feet, burning from bathing in the falling tears of countless generations that
have clung to them in vain endeavour to arrest my steps.
Then, when the storm has ceased, after its roar has calmed me like a lullaby, I bow my
head: the hurricane, raging in fury but a moment earlier dies instantly. No longer does it
live, but neither do the men, the ships, the navies that lately sailed upon the bosom of the