If November 1 is Día de Todos los Santos, All Saints’ Day, then November 2 is Día de los Muertos;  English, seemingly more death-averse yet also more forward-looking than Spanish, calls that All Souls’ Day in preference to the literal Day of the Dead. Spanish muerto comes from Latin mortuus ‘dead,’ the past participle of the Latin verb morire ‘to die’ that has become Spanish morir. In contrast to the masculine muerto and feminine muerta, both adjectives meaning ‘dead,’ the feminine muerte is a noun that means ‘death.’

And after writing the words morir and muerte, I can’t help but want to quote the famous lines written by the 15th-century Spanish poet Jorge Manrique as part of Coplas por la muerte de su padre, or Stanzas on the Death of His Father:

Nuestras vidas son los ríos
que van a dar en la mar,
que es el morir.

Our lives are the rivers
that will flow into the sea
that is death.

And after that, what more is there to say?

© 1476 Jorge Manrique and © 2010 Steven Schwartzman

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jayne Cotten
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 04:37:55

    Circa 1974, while in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I happened upon a restaurant with that Manrique quotation painted in large letters that formed a border at the top of the wall all the way around the room. The beauty (and truth) of those words lives with me every day.


  2. wordconnections
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 21:08:40

    That’s not like any restaurant I’ve ever been in or heard of, so I’m glad you had the chance to see it. Maybe you can convince a Latino restaurant in Austin to put those lines up around one of its rooms.


  3. Trackback: Life after death « Spanish-English Word Connections
  4. Trackback: mortaja « Spanish-English Word Connections
  5. Trackback: An end to death « Spanish-English Word Connections

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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