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Life's brief candle. A Shakespearean guide to death and dying for compassionate physicians.
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Quote by William Shakespeare: “Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking sh”
Feb 19, AM. Mikael 5 books view quotes. Feb 09, PM. Samanth books view quotes. Feb 07, AM. Lanore 0 books view quotes. Jan 31, PM. Macbeth falls into the sear, the yellow leaf; he has "lived long enough. And there is justification for selecting this particular object. A candle is not, of course, really "brief"; it is short, and it burns for a relatively short time only. But we feel at once that it would be absurd for Macbeth to say, "Out, out, short candle! What really justifies the term "brief" is the parallelism between Macbeth's life, as he now sees it, and a candle.
Neither lasts for long; each implies a limit of time; both are about to go "out. Shakespeare, therefore, in the light of his intuition, does not apply to the word "candle" an adjective appropriate directly to the object itself; he uses a word which signifies how Macbeth himself reads into the candle, or finds paralleled in it, an important part of his central experience at this moment. It is a perfect example, in unobtrusive form, of what I mean by personalising.
The difference between this kind of significant personalising and the less serious and effective form of it may be seen by comparing the expression "brief candle" with Coleridge's little poem To my Candle : Good Candle, thou that with thy brother, Fire, Art my best friend and comforter at night, Just snuff'd, thou look'st as if thou didst desire That I on thee an epigram should write. Dear Candle, burnt down to a finger-joint, Thy own flame is an epigram of sight; 'T is short , and pointed , and all over light, Yet gives most light and burns the keenest at the point. The italics are Coleridge's own.
The word "short," accordingly, takes on special significance.
Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science
It was deliberately selected. But we recognise that these lines are playful and fanciful rather than an expression of something closely connected with life. Coleridge has seen the similarity not as between a tragic life and a candle, but between an epigram and a candle. And an epigram is something that is physically "short. In the one case a candle is like a human life, in the other it is like an epigram.
Both are true; but we value the one expression above the other in the same proportion in which we value life more than an epigram. The reader may be interested to compare with these examples Wordsworth's statement: "There never perhaps existed a schoolboy who, having, when he retired to rest, carelessly blown out his candle, and having chanced to notice, as he lay upon his bed in the ensuing darkness, the sullen light which had survived the extinguished flame, did not, at some time or other, watch that light as if his mind were bound to it by a spell.
It fades and revives gathers to a point seems as if it would go out in a moment again recovers its strength, nay becomes brighter than before; it continues to shine with an endurance which in its apparent weakness is a mystery it protracts its existence so long, clinging to the power which supports it, that the observer, who had lain down in his bed so easy-minded, becomes sad and melancholy; his sympathies are touched it is to him an intimation and an image of departing human life, the thought comes nearer to him it is the life of a venerated parent, of a beloved brother or sister, or of an aged domestic; who are gone to the grave, or whose destiny it may soon be thus to linger, thus to hang upon the last point of mortal existence, thus finally to depart and to be seen no more.
The Making of Poetry.