Sunday, March 1, 2015

Irish Eyes

"Good, a woman who can fart . . ."

We, in Ireland, are very proud of some of the last words of our heroes, Robert Emmets last words spoken from the dock is one example. Or Erskine Childers’s instruction to the firing squad, “Come closer boys, it will be easier for you.” And Oscar Wilde’s “ I am in a duel to death with this wallpaper. One of us has to go.” There are many examples of last words from around the world.

Last words can vary from the amusing to the philosophical.

From Seattle Slew’s “You get on with your life. I’ve got to Go” , to The much quoted , George Bernard Shaw finished with, “Sister, you’re trying to keep me alive as an old curiosity but I’m done , I’m finished, I’m going to die.”

John Barrymore said, “Die, I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.” Of course not everyone feels ready to go. Madame Pompadour felt the need to apply more rouge and said, “Wait a second.”

Harry Houdini gave up at Halloween in 1926 with the words, “ I’m tired of fighting. I guess this thing is going to get me.”

George Kelly, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and uncle of Grace Kelly, expected the utmost elegance from his relatives. On his deathbed he told his niece, “My dear, before you kiss me goodbye, fix your hair. It’s a mess.” Restaurateur Fred Harvey’s final instruction to his sons was, “Don’t cut the ham too thin.”

Lorenz Hart went out with a question, “What have I lived for?” and Lady Astor finished with a good question also, ”Am I dying or is this my birthday?” Historians are not sure of the final question of Edward the Seventh. Was it “How is the Empire?” Or “What is on at the Empire”? When Disraeli was on his death bed he too had a question. When he was told the Queen Victoria wanted to see him he asked, “What for? She’ll only want me to take a message to Albert.”

Of course last words can be cut short. Such was the case with General John Sedwick when he said, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist . . . “

P. J. Barnum’s last enquiry, “How were the circus receipts in Madison Square Garden?” reminded me of the old quarry-owner in Ballyknockan who was almost on his last breath when his son told him, “Da, the quarry is not payin.” He said what any committed entrepreneur would say, “Get me me boots an’ I’ll make it pay.” And Louis B. Mayer reckoned ,” It wasn’t worth it.”

Karl Marx didn’t see any need for last words but he expired after saying the following, “Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.” Florenz Ziegfeld called for, “ Curtains, fast music, Light. Ready for the last finale. Great. The show looks good. “ And poet, Johann Wolfgang Von Goathe asked for, “More light.”

In 1728 aristocratic Comtesse de Vercellis broke wind on her deathbed. Her final comment was more like the language of Kylebeg or Lacken than that of a French aristocrat. Before expiring she said, “ Good, a woman who can fart is not dead.”

If I get the chance, before I reach the back door of Tony Clarke’s hearse, perhaps I should repeat the last words of Leonardo da Vinci, “ I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”

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