You may say plenty of profound things in your life but posterity seems to put significant weight on the ones you say right before you die

To celebrate our Life & Death issue we’ve compiled some of our favorite final pronouncements by a rogues gallery of European greats. May they rest in peace.

last word
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
German poet – March 22, 1832 // © Joseph Karl Stieler, 1828

“Mehr Licht.”
(More light.)






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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Austrian composer – December 5, 1791

“Der Geschmack des Todes ist auf meiner Zunge, ich fühle etwas, das nicht von dieser Welt ist.”
(The taste of death is on my tongue, I feel something that is not from this world.)





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Immanuel Kant
German Enlightenment philosopher – February 12, 1804

“Es ist gut.”
(It is good.)






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Karl Kraus
Austrian satirist and author – June 12, 1936

“Pfui Teufel!”
(Ugh, disgusting!)






last word
Oscar Wilde
Irish playwright, novelist and poet – November 30, 1900 // © Napolean Sarony – Library of Congress

“My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”






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Gustav Mahler
Austrian composer – May 18, 1911 // © Josef Székely/Wikimedia Commons



 “Mozart! Mozart!”







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Leo Tolstoy
Russian novelist – November 20, 1910


 “But the peasants…how do the peasants die?”







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French Enlightenment philosopher, when asked by a priest to renounce Satan. – May 30, 1778 // © Workshop of Nicolas de Largillière

“Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.”







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Elisabeth (Sisi), Empress of Austria
stabbed to death –September 10, 1898. // © ÖNB

“Was ist mit mir geschehen?”
(What has happened to me?)






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John-Maynard Keynes
English economist – April 21, 1946 // © Harvard Theatre Collection

“I should have drunk more Champagne.”







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Joseph Haydn
Austrian composer –Last words, as Napoleon’s troops lay siege upon Vienna. May 31, 1809 // © Thomas Hardy

“Kinder, seid’s doch getröstet. Mir gehts gut.”
(Children take comfort, I am well.)







last word
Edith Piaf
French chansonniere – October 10, 1963 // © Nationaal Archief

“Every damn fool thing you do in this life you pay for.”