Essays of Montaigne

People have been dying for quite a while. When contemplating making your last will and testament, take a look at Montaigne. He wrote in the mid to late 1500s, in French, but there are many English translations of his work. To give you the flavor of Montaigne, we here quote one paragraph from the 1925 Harvard University press translation by George B. Ives (Book I, Chapter XX):

Our religion has had no more solid human basis than contempt of life. Not only do reasonable considerations lead us to this: for why should we dred the loss of a thing which, when lost, can not be regretted? And since we are threatened by so many ways of dying, is there not more harm in dreading them all than in enduring one of them? What does it matter when it happens, since it is inevitable. To him who said to Socrates, “The thirty tyrants have sentenced you to death,” he replied, “And Nature them.” What folly, to distress ourselves on the subject of the passage to exemption from all distress! As our birth brought to us the birth of all things, so will our death the death of all things. Wherefore it is no less foolish to weep because we shall not be living a hundred years hence than to weep because we were not living a hundred years ago. Death is the beginning of another life. Thus we wept; thus it was painful for us to enter into this life; thus did we divest ourselves of our former veil on entering into it. Nothing can be grievous which happens but once. Is it reasonable to fear so long a thing so brief? A long life and a short life are made quite the same by death, for long and short are not of things that have ceased to be. Aristotle says that there are tiny things on the river Hypanis that live only one day. The one that dies at eight o’clock in the morning dies in youth; the one that dies at five in the evening dies in decrepitude. Who of us does not find it amusing to see this moment of duration considered as good or ill fortune? The greater or the less length of our lives, if we compare it to eternity, or even to the duration of mountains and rivers and stars and trees, and even of some animals, is no less absurd.