After the Dash: Last Words of the Politically and Historically Infamous
The thing that is so fascinating about a person’s final words is, of course, that the person rarely knows those utterances will be his or her last.
One of my favorite poems is W.S. Merwin‘s “For the Anniversary of My Death”:
Every year without knowing it I have passed the dayWhen the last fires will wave to meAnd the silence will set outTireless travelerLike the beam of a lightless starThen I will no longerFind myself in life as in a strange garmentSurprised at the earthAnd the love of one womanAnd the shamelessness of menAs today writing after three days of rainHearing the wren sing and the falling ceaseAnd bowing not knowing to what.
Here are ten of those now-famous, or at least, interesting, last words:
“Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose.” – after she accidentally stepped on the foot of her executioner as she went to the guillotine.
“I am about to — or I am going to — die: either expression is correct.”
“Bugger Bognor.”” – to his physician, who had suggested that he relax at his seaside palace in Bognor Regis.
“It’s stopped. “- upon checking his own pulse.
“You have won, O Galilean. ” – attempted to reverse the official endorsement of Christianity by the Roman Empire.
“No, you certainly can’t. “- in reply to Nellie Connally, wife of Governor John Connally, who said to Kennedy before he got in the convertible, “You certainly can’t say that the people of Dallas haven’t given you a nice welcome, Mr. President.”
“I feel ill. Call the doctors.”
“Put out the bloody cigarette!!” – to a fellow officer while in a trench during World War One, for fear the smoke would give away their positions. He was then shot by a German sniper who had heard the remark.
“Please don’t let me fall.” – before being hanged for her part in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln. She was the first woman executed by the United States federal government.
“Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.” – when asked by a priest to renounce Satan.