02 May, 2010

what ever happened to famous last words?

yesterday i was re-watching the hbo series rome, that i cannot recommend enough btw, when SPOILER ALERT caesar is killed in the senate and finally dies at the hand of his pseudo (maybe actual) son brutus. his last words were, 'et tu, brute?' meaning, 'even you, brutus'. this got me thinking, you only ever hear about famous last words in history and also do they really even matter?

admiral lord horatio nelson's, who died after the battle of trafalgar, last words are heavily debated, 'kiss me hardy', 'fan fan....rub rub....drink drink', and 'thank god i have done my duty' are all posited as his final testament. i think the last is the most poetic, if it's true. the poet that lives in us all, yes i believe we all have one, is driven to say something ethereal in those final moments before the complete unknown. when asked by her husband how she felt on her death bed elizabeth barrett browning said simply, 'beautiful'. to feel and articulate such a thing when in pain and presumably shit scared is a testament to a persons mind, life and subsequent spirit.

still, on the flip side we have h.g. wells, who was another great writer. his final words reflected his life in another way. in his independence and willingness to buck conventions he said, 'go away. i'm alright!'. in more recent years our heros have decided to find the funny. humphry bogart famously said, 'i should never have switched from scotch to martinis.'. we are forced to laugh at the absurdity of death and how we treat it with kid gloves. maybe, it's all the life insurance ads on morning tv talking now but, everybody is going to die. you may as well go out in style.

my personal favourite has got to be oscar wilde, 'my wallpaper and i are fighting a duel to the death. one or the other of us has to go.'. he died how he lived with eloquence and humor. i guess that is what i want. not for my final words to sum up my life, because they simply can't. but to say something profane, to have the last thing you say to impact the people still alive is terribly precious and powerful.

karl marx must have had a similar idea, the man didn't want his final words recorded and as a result they were, 'go on, get out - last words are for fools who haven't said enough'. maybe that's true. but, the reason we feel the need to record and look back on them is because these were people who did have a lot to say. men and women who did the world a service (or disservice) and are celebrated or condemned accordingly. last words only seem to matter if the words of a life time are deemed to matter.

i suppose what it comes down to is having a legacy, having done something with your life that has left the world slightly better off. that and i'm terrified of going out without style. 'hey, everybody, watch this!' or 'don't worry, they don't usually swim backwards.' are terrible examples. my biggest fear isn't dying or even being locked in a cage. but, if i end up in the darwin awards then i will haunt the entire world until the end of time.

2 comments:

damien said...

I'm extremely disappointed, young jedi, that you forgot Australia's most famous final words... "such is life"

Darth Michelle said...

Nicole Kidman is dead?? When did this happen?

Ned Kelly was a criminal! I refuse to celebrate such violence. :P

Love you Obi Damo Kenobie!

Post a Comment