Saturday, May 21, 2011

Death cured him

English poet Alexander Pope was born on this day in 1688. He was the greatest poet of the 18th century and is one of the most-quoted writers ever. ("A little learning's a dangerous thing;" "An honest man's the noblest work of God;" "The proper study of Mankind is Man").

Pope was afflicted with a type of tuberculosis that affected his spine -- he never grew past 4' 6", and was a hunchback -- and which ended his life at the age of 56. Here is how he summed things up:

"This long disease, my life."

Let’s just let it go, he’d told him. The cancer. Let it go. Forget about it. Don’t even bring it up.
“Let it go?” Plume had said, staring.
“That’s right.”
“I’m afraid I can’t countenance that.”
“Oh, really? If it’s saving face you’re worried about…”
“You know what I mean. It’s not something I can--”
“I know.”
“Of course I can’t compel you to…”
“No, you can’t.”
“Can I ask you what your reasoning is?”
“Sure. Go ahead.”
“All right.” Plume almost cracked a smile. “What’s your reasoning?”
“I guess it’s just something I don’t want to go through with.”
What he’d meant by that, Sully supposed, was that no matter how it turned out, whether he lived or died, he’d be disappointed. So why go to all the trouble? Besides, Plume had told him that he wouldn’t be able to drink and undergo chemotherapy. And if he couldn’t drink he might as well die.  --  Chapter 21, The Misforgotten.

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