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death,” he replied, “And Nature them.”[1] What folly, to distress ourselves on the subject of the passage to exemption from all distress! As our birth brought to us the birth of all things, so will our death the death of all things. Wherefore it is no less foolish to weep because we shall not be living a hundred years hence than to weep because we were not living a hundred years ago.[2] Death is the beginning of another life. Thus we wept; thus it was painful for us to enter into this life; thus did we divest ourselves of our former veil on entering into it.[3] Nothing can be grievous which happens but once. Is it reasonable to fear so long a thing so brief? A long life and a short life are made quite the same by death, for long and short are not of things that have ceased to be. Aristotle says that there are tiny things on the river Hypanis that live only one day.[4] The one that dies at eight o'clock in the morning dies in youth; the one that dies at five in the evening dies in decrepitude. Who of us does not find it amusing to see this moment of duration considered as good or ill fortune? The greater or the less length of our lives, if we compare it to eternity, or even to the duration of mountains and rivers and stars and trees, and even of some animals, is no less absurd.

(a) But Nature forces us to it.[5] “Go from this world,” she says, “as you came into it. The same transition that you

  1. See Diogenes Laertius, Life of Socrates. In the passage of Laertius from which Montaigne took this, there is previously a mention of the thirty tyrants, by which he was misled. The thirty tyrants had fallen four years before the death of Socrates. It was the Athenians, as Laertius says, who decreed his death.
  2. See Seneca, Epistle 77.
  3. Ainsi nous despouillames nous de nostre ancien voile en y entrant.
  4. See Cicero, Tusc. Disp., I, 39.
  5. This refers back to the sentence a few lines above: “Is there not more harm in dreading them all than in enduring one of them?” The following pages, almost to the end of the chapter, are reminiscent of the famous passage in the third book of Lucretius (near the end). It may be observed that in 1580 Montaigne’s text in this Essay was built up on borrowings from Lucretius, illustrated and filled out by translations of Seneca. The additions of 1588 are chiefly from Lucretius. Those of the Édition Municipale are almost all from Seneca. Very often the sentences in French following the quotations from Lucretius are paraphrases of connecting lines not quoted.