Nil igitur mors est ad nos neque pertinet hilum,
quandoquidem natura animi mortalis habetur.
— Titus Lucretius Carus, De Rerum Natura 3.830-831
| τὸ μὲν οὖν ταῦτα διισχυρίσασθαι οὕτως ἔχειν ὡς ἐγὼ διελήλυθα, οὐ πρέπει νοῦν ἔχοντι ἀνδρί: ὅτι μέντοι ἢ ταῦτ’ ἐστὶν ἢ τοιαῦτ’ ἄττα περὶ τὰς ψυχὰς ἡμῶν καὶ τὰς οἰκήσεις, ἐπείπερ ἀθάνατόν γε ἡ ψυχὴ φαίνεται οὖσα, τοῦτο καὶ πρέπειν μοι δοκεῖ καὶ ἄξιον κινδυνεῦσαι οἰομένῳ οὕτως ἔχειν―καλὸς γὰρ ὁ κίνδυνος―καὶ χρὴ τὰ τοιαῦτα ὥσπερ ἐπᾴδειν ἑαυτῷ, διὸ δὴ ἔγωγε καὶ πάλαι μηκύνω τὸν μῦθον.
― Plato, Phaedo, 114d
|Now to insist that these things are just as I’ve related them would not be fitting for a man of intelligence; but either this or something like it is true about our souls and their dwellings, given that the soul evidently is immortal, this, I think, is fitting and worth risking, for one who believes that it is so — for a noble risk it is — so one should repeat such things to oneself like a spell; which is just why I’ve so prolonged the tale.
― translated by David Gallop
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
— The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused — nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear — no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
— Philip Arthur Larkin (1922—1985)
29 November 1977 Times Literary Supplement,
23 December 1977
| Ya el poeta del dolor, del aniquilamiento, aquel Leopardi que, perdido el último engaño, el de creerse eterno
Peri l’inganno estremo
ch’etemo io mi credei,
le hablaba a su corazón de l’infinita vanitá del tutto, vio la estrecha hermandad que hay entre el amor y la muerte y cómo cuando «nace en el corazón profundo un amoroso afecto, lánguido y cansado juntamente con él en el pecho, un deseo de morir se siente». A la mayor parte de los que se dan a sí mismos la muerte, es el amor el que les mueve el brazo, es el ansia suprema de vida, de más vida, de prolongar y perpetuar la vida lo que a la muerte les lleva, una vez persuadidos de la vanidad de su ansia.
| Leopardi, poet of sorrow and annihilation, having lost the ultimate illusion, that of thinking himself immortal,
Peri l’inganno estremo
ch’etemo io mi credei,
spoke to his heart of “the infinite vanity of everything,” l’infinita vanità del tutto, and saw the close kinship between love and death, and how when “a languid and weary loving affection is born in the depths of the heart, along with it is felt a desire to die.” The larger number of those who take their own life are moved by love, by the supreme longing for life, for more life. Led on by the urge to prolong and perpetuate life, they are driven to death once they fully realize the vanity of their longing.
|Trágico es el problema y de siempre, y cuanto más queramos de él huir, más vamos a dar en él. Fue el sereno ―¿sereno?― Platón, hace ya veinticuatro siglos, el que, en su diálogo sobre la inmortalidad del alma, dejó escapar de la suya, hablando de lo dudoso de nuestro ensueño de ser inmortales, y del riesgo de que no sea vano aquel profundo dicho: ¡hermoso es el riesgo! Καλὸς γὰρ ὁ κίνδυνος, hermosa es la suerte que podemos correr de que no se nos mu era el alma nunca, germen esta sentencia del argumento famoso de la apuesta de Pascal.||The problem is tragic and and eternal, and the more we try to escape it, the more it is thrust upon us. The serene Plato―was he really so serene?―allowed a profound cry to escape from his own soul, twenty-four centuries ago, in his dialogue on the immortality of the soul, where he speaks of the uncertainty of our dream of being immortal, and of the risk that it may be vain: “Beautiful risk!”― καλὸς γὰρ ὁ κίνδυνος ―. Beautiful the chance that our souls may never die. And this verdict is the origin of Pascal’s famous argument of the wager.|
|Frente a este riesgo, y para suprimirlo, me dan raciocinios en prueba de lo absurda que es la creencia en la in mortalidad del alma; pero esos raciocinios no me hacen mella, pues son razones y nada más que razones, y no es de ellas de lo que se apacienta el corazón. No quiero mo rirme, no, no quiero ni quiero quererlo; quiero vivir siempre, siempre, siempre, y vivir yo este pobre yo que me soy y me siento ser ahora y aquí, y por esto me tortura el problema de la duración de mi alma, de la mía propia.||Faced with this risk, I am presented with arguments calculated to eliminate it, arguments to prove the absurdity of a belief in the immortality of the soul. But these ratiocinations do not move me, for they are reasons and no more than reasons, and one does not feed the heart with reasons. I do not want to die. No! I do not want to die, and I do not want to want to die. I want to live always, forever and ever. And I want to live, this poor I which I am, the I which I feel myself to be here and now, and for this reason I am tormented by the problem of duration of my soul, of my own soul.|
|Yo soy el centro de mi universo, el centro del universo, y en mis angustias supremas grito con Michelet: «¡Mi yo, que me arrebatan mi yo!» ¿De qué le sirve al hombre ganar el mundo todo si pierde su alma? (Mat. XVI, 26). ¿Egoísmo decís? Nada hay más universal que lo individual, pues lo que es de cada uno lo es de todos. Cada hombre vale más que la humanidad entera, ni sirve sacrificar cada uno a todos, sino en cuanto todos se sacrifiquen a cada uno. Eso que llamáis egoísmo, es el principio de la gravedad psíquica, el postulado necesario. «¡Ama a tu prójimo como a ti mismo!», se nos dijo presuponiendo que cada cual se ame a sí mismo; y no se nos dijo, ¡ámate! Y, sin embargo, no sabemos amarnos.||I am the center of my Universe, the center of the Universe, and in my extreme anguish I cry, along with Michelet: “My I! They are stealing my I!” For “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matt. 16:26.) Egoism, you say? There is nothing more universal than the individual, for what becomes of one becomes of all. Every man is worth more than all Humanity. Nor is there any point in sacrificing each to all, save in so far as all sacrifice themselves to each. What we call egoism is the principle of psychic gravity, the necessary postulate. “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” we were told, on the presupposition that each man loves himself, so that it was not necessary to say: “Love thyself.” And yet, we do not know how to love ourselves.|
|Quitad la propia persistencia, y meditad lo que os dicen. ¡Sacrifícate por tus hijos! Y te sacrificarás por ellos, porque son tuyos, parte prolongación de ti, y ellos a su vez se sacrificarán por los suyos, y estos por los de ellos, y así irá, sin término, un sacrificio estéril del que nadie se aprovecha. Vine al mundo a hacer mi yo, y ¿qué será de nuestros yos todos? ¡Vive para la Verdad, el Bien, la Belleza! Ya veremos la suprema vanidad, y la suprema in sinceridad de esta posición hipócrita.||Put aside the perseverance of your own self, and then ponder their platitudes. For example: “Sacrifice yourself for your children!” And you sacrifice yourself for them because they are yours, part and prolongation of yourself, and they in turn will sacrifice themselves for their children, and these children for theirs, and so it will go on without end, a sterile sacrifice profiting no one. I came into the world to create my self. And what is to become of all our selves? Or: “Live for Truth, Good, Beauty!” We shall see the far-fetched insincerity and supreme vanity of this hypocritical posture.|
|«¡Eso eres tú!» ―me dicen con las Upanisadas―. Y yo les digo: sí, yo soy eso, cuando eso es yo y todo es mío y mía la totalidad de las cosas. Y como mía la quiero y amo al prójimo porque vive en mí y como parte de mi conciencia, porque es como yo, es mío.||“That art thou!” they tell me with the Upanishads. And I answer: “Yes, I am that, when that is I and all is mine and the totality of things is mine. As mine, I love the all, and I love my neighbor because he lives in me and is part of my consciousness, and because he is like me and is mine.”|
|― Miguel de Unamuno, Del Sentimiento Tragico de la Vida en los Hombres y en los Pueblos (1913)||― Miguel de Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Nations, translated by Anthony Kerrigan, Princeton University Press, 1978, pp. 50-52|
One other notable occurrence straddling the battle lines was the change of attitude of the most prominent intellectuals of pre-war Spain. Most of these had found themselves in republican Spain at the time of the rising. They signed a manifesto pledging support of the republic. The signatures had included those of the physician and historian Dr Marañón; the ex-ambassador and novelist Perez de Ayala; the historian Menendez Pidal; and the prolific philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset: friends, founders even, of the republic of 1931. But the atrocities and the increasing influence of the communists caused all these  men to take what opportunity they could find to flee abroad. There, they repudiated their support of the republic.1
A different course was taken by the Basque philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, arch-priest of the Generation of ‘98. As rector of the University of Salamanca, he had found himself at the start of the civil war in nationalist territory. The republic had disillusioned him, he had admired some of the young falangists, and he gave money to the rising. As late as 15 September, he was supporting the nationalist movement.2 But by 12 October his view had changed. He had become, as he said later, ‘terrified by the character that this civil war was taking, really horrible, due to a collective mental illness, an epidemic of madness, with a pathological substratum’.3 On that date, the anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America, celebrated as the ‘Day of the Race’, a ceremony was held in the great hall (paraninfo) of the University of Salamanca. There was Dr Plá y Deniel, bishop of Salamanca;4 there was General Millán Astray, the founder of the Foreign Legion, at the time an important if unofficial adviser to Franco. His black eye-patch, his one arm, his mutilated fingers made him a hero of the moment; and, in the chair, there was Unamuno, rector of the university. The meeting occurred within a hundred yards of Franco’s headquarters, recently established in the bishop’s palace in Salamanca, on the prelate’s invitation. After the opening formalities, there were speeches by the Dominican Father Vicente Beltrán de Heredia, and the monarchist writer Jose Maria Pemán. Both delivered hot-tempered speeches. So did Professor Francisco Maldonado, who made a violent attack on Catalan and Basque nationalism, describing them as ‘cancers in the body of the nation’. Fascism, Spain’s ‘health-giver’, would know how to exterminate both, ‘cutting into the live healthy flesh like a resolute surgeon free from false sentimentality’. A man at the back of the hall cried the Foreign Legion’s motto: ‘¡Viva la Muerte!’ (Long live  death!). Millán Astray then gave the now usual rabble-rousing slogans: ‘Spain!’ [‘¡España!’] he cried. Automatically, a number of people shouted ‘One!’ [‘¡Una!’] ‘Spain!’ [‘¡España!’] shouted Millán Astray again. ‘Great!’ [‘¡Grande!’] replied the audience. To Millán Astray’s final cry of ‘Spain!’ [‘¡España!’] his bodyguard gave the answer ‘Free!’ [‘¡Libre!’] Several falangists, in their blue shirts, gave a fascist salute to the sepia photograph of Franco which hung on the wall over the dais. All the eyes were turned to Unamuno, who it was known disliked Millán Astray and who rose to close the meeting and said:1
He paused. There was a fearful silence. No speech like this had been made in nationalist Spain. What would the rector say next?
Estáis esperando mis palabras. Me conocéis bien, y sabéis que soy incapaz de permanecer en silencio. A veces, quedarse callado equivale a mentir. Porque el silencio puede ser interpretado como aquiescencia. Quiero hacer algunos comentarios al discurso — por llamarlo de algún modo — del general Millán Astray que se encuentra entre nosotros. Dejaré de lado la ofensa personal que supone su repentina explosión contra vascos y catalanes. Yo mismo, como sabéis, nací en Bilbao. El obispo — y aquí Unamuno señaló al tembloroso prelado que se encontraba a su lado — lo quiera o no lo quiera, es catalán, nacido en Barcelona. All of you are hanging on my words. You all know me and are aware that I am unable to remain silent. At times to be silent is to lie. For silence can be interpreted as acquiescence. I want to comment on the speech-to give it that name-of Professor Maldonado. Let us waive the personal affront implied in the sudden outburst of vituperation against the Basques and Catalans. I was myself, of course, born in Bilbao. The bishop [here Unamuno indicated the quivering prelate sitting next to him], whether he likes it or not, is a Catalan, from Barcelona. At this Millán Astray was unable to restrain himself any longer. ‘Death to intellectuals!’ ‘¡Mueran los intelectuales!‘ [‘¡Abajo la inteligencia!’] he shouted. ‘Long live death!’ [‘¡Viva la Muerte!’] There was a clamour of support for this remark from the  falangists, with whom the simple, soldierly Millán Astray had actually little in common. ‘Down with false intellectuals! Traitors!’ [‘¡No! ¡Viva la inteligencia! ¡Mueran los malos intelectuales!’] shouted Jose Maria Pemán, anxious to paper over the cracks in the nationalist front. But Unamuno went on:
Pero ahora — continuó Unanumo — acabo de oír el necrófilo e insensato grito, “Viva la muerte”. Y yo, que he pasado mi vida componiendo paradojas que excitaban la ira de algunos que no las comprendían, he de deciros, como experto en la materia, que esta ridícula paradoja me parece repelente. El general Millán Astray es un inválido. No es preciso que digamos esto con un tono más bajo. Es un inválido de guerra. También lo fue Cervantes. Pero desgraciadamente en España hay actualmente demasiados mutilados. Y, si Dios no nos ayuda, pronto habrá muchísimos más. Me atormenta el pensar que el general Millán Astray pudiera dictar las normas de la psicología de la masa. Un mutilado que carezca de la grandeza espiritual de Cervantes, es de esperar que encuentre un terrible alivio viendo como se multiplican los mutilados a su alrededor. Just now [Unamuno went on] I heard a necrophilistic and senseless cry: ‘Long live death!’ And I, who have spent my life shaping paradoxes which have aroused the uncomprehending anger of others, I must tell you, as an expert authority, that this outlandish paradox is repellent to me. General Millán Astray is a cripple. Let it be said without any slighting undertone. He is a war invalid. So was Cervantes. Unfortunately there are too many cripples in Spain just now. And soon there will be even more of them if God does not come to our aid. It pains me to think that General Millán Astray should dictate the pattern of mass psychology. A cripple who lacks the spiritual greatness of a Cervantes is wont to seek ominous relief in causing mutilation around him. There was a long pause. Some of the legionaries around Millán Astray began to close in on the platform menacingly. Millán Astray’s bodyguard pointed his machine-gun at Unamuno. Franco’s wife, Doña Carmen, came up to Unamuno and Millán Astray and insisted that the rector give his arm to her. He did so and the two slowly left together. But this was Unamuno’s last public address. That night, Unamuno went to the club in Salamanca, of which he was president. As the members, somewhat intimidated by these events, saw the rector’s venerable figure ascending the stairs, some shouted out: ‘Out with him! He is a red, not a Spaniard! Red, traitor!’ Unamuno continued and sat down, to be told by a certain Tomas Marcos Escribano, ‘You ought not to have come here, Don Miguel, we are sorry for what happened today in the University but all the same you ought not to have come.’ Unamuno left, accompanied by his son, the shouts of ‘traitor’ accompanying him. One minor writer, Mariano de Santiago, alone went with them. Thereafter, the rector rarely went out, and the armed guard that followed him were perhaps necessary to ensure his safety. The senate of the university ‘demanded’ and obtained his dismissal from the rectorship. He died broken-hearted on the last day of 1936.1
Este es el templo de la inteligencia. Y yo soy su sumo sacerdote. Estáis profanando su sagrado recinto. Venceréis porque tenéis sobrada fuerza bruta. Pero no convenceréis. Para convencer hay que persuadir. Y para persuadir necesitaréis algo que os falta: razón y derecho en la lucha. Me parece inútil el pediros que penséis en España. He dicho. This is the temple of the intellect. And I am its high priest. It is you who profane its sacred precincts. You will win, because you have more than enough brute force. But you will not convince. For to convince, you need to persuade. And in order to persuade you would need what you lack: reason and right in the struggle. I consider it futile to exhort you to think of Spain. I have done.
1. The novelist Pio Baroja, saved from execution by Carlists led by Colonel Martinez Campos, fled from the republic to nationalist Spain, which he also abandoned.
2. He was reported as saying this in an interview in Le Petit Parisien of that date. On 12 August, the government of Madrid had deprived Unamuno of his rectorship for ‘disloyalty’, and on 1 September the Burgos junta had confirmed it.
3. Quoted Aurelio Núfiez Morgado, Los sucesos de Espaila vistos por an diplomático (Buenos Aires, 1941), p. 169f.
4. This prelate, it seems, had already used the word ‘crusade’ to describe the nationalist movement, in a pastoral letter of 30 September, Las dos Españas (see Abella, p. 177).
1. Unamuno was at this time seventy-two. Next day, the Salamanca papers published the speeches of Pemán, Heredia, Francisco Maldonado and José María Ramos, but made no mention that Unamuno had even spoken.
1. See Unamuno’s Last Lecture by Luis Portillo, whose version of Unamuno’s remarks this is. Published in Horizon, and reprinted in Cyril Connolly, The Golden Horizon (London, 1953), pp. 397-409. For another account see Emilio Salcedo’s recent Vida de don Miguel (Madrid, 1964), p. 409f. I am grateful to Ronald Fraser for advice on details. There will never be full agreement on what was said and the tone in which it was said. I discussed this version with Luis Portillo, and with Ilse Barea, who translated it. But see Pemán’s account ‘La Verdad de aquel dia’, ABC, 12 October 1965. One may well wonder why the Falange were present in such strength.
— Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War: Revised Edition, Modern Library Paperbacks, 2001, pp. 485-488; the original version of the remarks and variant readings are reproduced from La guerra civil española, Hugh Thomas, España contemporánea, Editions Ruedo ibérico — Libro IV Apartado 42, Páginas 294 a 295.