Death, Dying, Grief and Mourning

            "Death is always the same,
                               but each man dies in his own way."

Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1960

   

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in Western Literature

An Anthology by  Adrienne Nater

 • Home •  • Preface • • Introduction •  • Chronology •  • Index •  • About the Author •

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John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga, 1918

 

Death of Old Jolyon:
 Indian Summer of a Forsyte


Death of Old Jolyon: Indian Summer of a Forsyte

The stable clock struck four; in half an hour she would be here. He would have just one tiny nap, because he had had so little sleep of late; and then he would be fresh for her, fresh for youth and beauty, coming towards him across the sunlit lawn — lady in grey! And settling back in his chair he closed his eyes. Some thistledown came on what little air there was, and pitched on his moustache more white then itself. He did not know; but his breathing stirred it, caught there. A ray of sunlight struck through and lodged on his boot. A bumble-bee alighted and strolled on the crown of his Panama hat. And the delicious surge of slumber reached the brain beneath that hat, and the head swayed forward and rested on his breast. Summer — summer! So went the hum.

The stable clock struck the quarter past. The dog Balthasar stretched and looked up at his master. The thistledown no longer moved. The dog placed his chin over the sunlit foot. It did not stir. The dog withdrew his chin quickly, rose, and leaped on old Jolyon’s lap, looked in his face, whined; then leaping down, sat on his haunches, gazing up. And suddenly he uttered a long, long howl.

But the thistledown was still as death, and the face of his old master.

Summer — summer — summer! The soundless footsteps on the grass!

1917.

Death of the Dog Balthasar: Chapter X

…He passed the pond and mounted the hill slowly. Near the top a hoarse barking greeted him. Up on the lawn above the fernery he could see his old dog Balthasar. The animal, whose dim eyes took his master for a stranger, was warning the world against him. Jolyon gave a special whistle. Even at that distance of a hundred yards and more he could see the dawning recognition in the obese brown-white body. The old dog got off his haunches, and his tail, close-curled over his back, began a feeble, exciting fluttering; he came waddling forward, gathered momentum, and disappeared over the edge of the fernery. Jolyon expected to meet him at the wicket gate, but Balthasar was not there, and, rather alarmed, he turned into the fernery. On his fat side, looking up with eyes already glazing, the old dog lay.

"What is it, my poor old man?" cried Jolyon. Balthasar’s curled and fluffy tail just moved; his filming eyes seemed saying: "I can’t get up, master, but I’m glad to see you."

Jolyon knelt down; his eyes, very dimmed, could hardly see the slowly ceasing heave of the dog’s side. He raised his head a little— very heavy.

"What is it, dear man? Where are you hurt?" The tail fluttered once; the eyes lost the look of life. Jolyon passed his hands all over the inert warm bulk. There was nothing — the heart had simply failed in that obese body from the emotion of his master’s return. Jolyon could feel the muzzle, where a few whitish bristles grew, cooling already against his lips. He stayed for some minutes kneeling, with his hands beneath the stiffening head. The body was very heavy when he bore it to the top of the field; leaves had drifted there, and he strewed it with a covering of them, there was no wind, and they would keep him from the curious eyes until the afternoon. ‘I’ll bury him myself,’ he thought. Eighteen years had gone since he first went into the St. John’s Wood house with that tiny puppy in his pocket. Strange that the old dog should die just now! Was it an omen? He turned at the gate to look back at that russet mound, then went slowly towards the house, very choky in the throat.

 

   
 

Adrienne Nater, 2008

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