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July 20, 2009


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First question - answer #2
Second question - none of the above - what he actually said was "I TOLD you it was only a cigar."

The answer to #2 is certainly none of the above. These are, however, all famous dying words. The sources are:

Mehr licht! Mehr licht!--Goethe
More beer!--Captain Hazelwood of the Exxon Valdez
Either the wallpaper goes, or I do.--Of course, Wilde.
Friends, applaud! The comedy is finished.--Beethoven
Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something.--Pancho Villa
Am I dying, or is it my birthday--Nancy Astor

Freud's dying words--supposedly--were "What do women want?"

And let me end with Emily Dickinson's dying words: "I must go in. The fog is rising."

The occasion of his death was cancer of the jaw/mouth/throat, but the immediate cause of his death was an overdose of morphine administered at his urgent wish by his long-time friend and physician, Max Schur. Freud's last words, before Schur had given the first of three injections, were: "My dear Schur, you certainly remember our first talk. You promised me then not to forsake me when my time comes. Now it is nothing but torture and makes no sense any more." [Mein lieber Schur, du erinnerst dich bestimmt an unserem ersten Gespraech. Du hast mich damals versprochen, mich nicht zu verlassen als meine Zeit zu Ende kaeme. Jetzt ist es nichts als Qual und hat kein Sinn mehr. (my translation)]

That said, I should have used the formal case.

After Schur had agreed, Freud said, "Tell Anna," and his LAST last words were: "The little pleasure that a man can extract from life lets him die of hunger."

It's no wonder he was awarded the Goethe Prize, one of the highest literary honors in Europe.

That's a mouthful to say as you're dying. And in German.

A recent article in the NY Times includes the following: "Freud, sick as he was during the early spring of 1938, generally refused to take any medication stronger than aspirin... He stayed away from morphine and from liquor." Obviously he changed his mind at the very end. And I agree with Laura: it is impressive that he could speech such fluent German as the curtain fell. It's quite a difficult grammar. I only wish his final sentence were rendered here in the original. Buehler? Buehler??

Die kleine Freude (yep, that's what his name means), was man dem Leben herausholen kann, erlaubt ihm nur, aus Hunger zu verdorben."

That he was still able to construct such a sentence to express such a thought is why he asked Schur to remember the earlier promise.

Schiesse! I mean, "verderben".


That is a most fantastic last sentence. Thank you, Karen. And thank you all who commented. Everyone got the first question right, but the other dates given are not utterly arbitrary. Freud was born 6 May 1856. Robespierre was guillotined on 28 July 1794. Traumdeutung came out in late 1899 (with a 1900 pub date) though the food poisoning was made up. And didn't Marx die in North London on March 14, 1883, on the side of the engels, as always, but a deeply disappointed man?

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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This Way Out

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Ringfinger was nervous
Pinky terrified
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