Death and the Danse Macabre

John Cohen muses on the significance of death in literature and politics throughout history.

Fore-knowledge of his death is the proud and sovereign badge that raises man above beast. Deny him the contemplation of dying and his philosophy becomes trivial, his religion vacuous. Therefore, while science blurs the boundary between life and non-life, art bestows upon Death an immortality beyond the reach of Life. The stubborn and irreducible fact of Death is the fulcrum of ancient civilizations, as in China and Egypt, but only for medieval man does it become the unbidden guest of every household.

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