Amazing Famous Last Words
Famous Last Words
After the resounding success of my previous entry (top quotes ever) I have decided to write about my favorite selection of famous last words by once again looking at the life and context of the lives of those who spoke them, as well as the words themselves and the effect they have had on society as a whole.
I have tried my best to offer as diverse a selection as possible, from the gripping to the humorous to the inspiring. I have also tried to ignore phrases which are based on tenuous evidence -- with the exception of a quote which I hope you'll excuse me for adding despite its questionable relevance, but I couldn't resist!
"I am not the least afraid to die."
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
At first glance, the quote appears relatively mundane and straight-forward -- if rather ballsy. I freely admit that this quote's beauty may be purely subjective, the essence of its inspiration and poignancy lies at the heart of the often-debated critique of morality and existentialism. But more on that in a minute.
After having published his controversial and ground-breaking book "The Origin of Species" in 1859, Darwin would spent much of the rest of his life debating theistic evolution and design with liberal clergymen and the Church of England.
The reason I mention this is to highlight the remarkably changed man he would become. Preceding the heady days of natural selection and common ancestry, Darwin was a young man who took the bible and its contents literally.
"DURING THESE two years I was led to think much about religion. Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality." From Darwin's autobiography.
Twenty years later, Darwin would have become the negative of his earlier convictions, which, whether you agree with his philosophy or not, requires courage and strength. The beauty of this quote lies in both the times and this remarkable reversal of beliefs. In an age where religion still claimed moral exclusivity, Atheism would have been regarded as a sad and nihilistic philosophy. Especially having once, as Darwin had, tasted from the cup of immortality that theism offered its believers.
In claiming that he was not afraid to die, I believe that Darwin saw the importance in standing for the beauty of a material creation, that a short, furious life as envisioned by Darwinists is neither morally ambiguous or gray.
"They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist…"
General John B. Sedgwick (1813-1864)
It would be unfair to General Sedgwick to affirm that he is most famous for his unfortunate last words (the context of which should be fairly self-explanatory).
The full ironic proceedings as listed as follows, courtesy of Wikipedia's mirthful explanation of his last famous words:
"His corps was probing skirmish lines ahead of the left flank of Confederate defenses and he was directing artillery placements. Confederate sharpshooters were about 1,000 yards (910 m) away and their shots caused members of his staff and artillerymen to duck for cover.
Sedgwick strode around in the open and was quoted as saying, "What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? I am ashamed of you. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." Although ashamed, his men continued to flinch and he repeated, "I'm ashamed of you, dodging that way. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."
Just seconds later he fell forward with a bullet hole below his left eye."
To his credit, "Uncle John" as he was fondly named by the army, was revered for his care and respect for his soldiers. He was a solid and dependable General whose death, according to Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant, was equivalent to that of an entire division.
An embarrassing state of affairs
"This is no time to make new enemies."
Volatire's notoriety derives from his writings on philosophy and civil liberty and his critique of the established religious order. Despite the controversy he created throughout his life by critisizing the church, Voltaire was a form of Pantheist and at the age of 83, believing he was about to die he was quoted as saying:
"I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition.".
But fortunately for both us and him, he recovered his strength after his crippling journey and life went on as heartily as ever(he had better in store for us).
His life was one of constant friction of authority, an authority which included the influence and control of the church. His letters, poetry and prose made fun of religious morality and exposed the oppression that the church exerted on society.
The beauty of this quote lies in remaining true, to the very end, to his convictions. Before Voltaire died, he was asked by a priest on his deathbed to renounce Satan. The answer was the quote in question: "This is no time for making new enemies".
I can think of no better way for Voltaire to have secured his legacy and cemented his character for eons to come.
"Don't disturb my circles!"
Archimedes (287-212 BC)
Without a doubt my favorite quote of them all. In short, Archimedes was and is one of the most influential interdisciplinary geniuses of all time. his list of accomplishments is simply to great to list in a mere hub, so I will save my hand and instead direct you to a separate and entirely serviceable link if you are curious about just how much this man was able to pioneer.
List of accomplishments: Archimedes.
Now, to the quote itself. Preceding the death of Archimedes, his town of Syracuse was in the sights of the Roman empire. Archimedes's fascination with mechanics and siege engines cost the Roman invasion dearly. Ultimately, the Romans resorted to trickery, by attacking during a holiday in order to overrun the city of Syracuse.
Archimedes, who was absorbed with his work, failed to realize that his city had fallen and continued to work on his drawings on the ground.The story leading up to his famous last words was summarized by Plutarch as follows:
"But nothing afflicted Marcellus so much as the death of Archimedes, who was then, as fate would have it, intent upon working out some problem by a diagram, and having fixed his mind alike and his eyes upon the subject of his speculation, he never noticed the incursion of the Romans, nor that the city was taken. In this transport of study and contemplation, a soldier, unexpectedly coming up to him, commanded him to follow to Marcellus; which he declining to do before he had worked out his problem to a demonstration, the soldier, enraged, drew his sword and ran him through." Plutarch (AD 45-120)
I've had to remove the 5th entry, and will have it up as soon as possible! Sorry!