Quotes by Oscar Wilde

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Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (October 16, 1854 November 30, 1900) was an Anglo-Irish playwright, novelist, poet, and short story writer. One of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London, and one of the ... more

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A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

Always forgive your enemies -- nothing annoys them so much.
The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.
Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
Society often forgives the criminal; it never forgives the dreamer.
I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
Experience is one thing you can't get for nothing.
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction.
Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.
The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray.
Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.
How clever you are, my dear! You never mean a single word you say.
A true gentleman is one who is never unintentionally rude.
One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.
She wore far too much rouge last night and not quite enough clothes. That is always a sign of despair in a woman.
Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
For he who lives more lives than one: More deaths than one must die.
Self-denial is the shining sore on the leprous body of Christianity.
If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.
Art is not to be taught in Academies. It is what one looks at, not what one listens to, that makes the artist. The real schools should be the streets.
When a man has once loved a woman, he will do anything for her, except continue to love her.
Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one.
None of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.
When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one's self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.
I can believe anything provided it is incredible.
Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is usually Judas who writes the biography.
Alas, I am dying beyond my means.
One can survive everything nowadays, except death, and live down anything except a good reputation.
I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability.
There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously. If you pretend to be bad, it doesn't. Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism.
A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
Dullness is the coming of age of seriousness.
Imagination is a quality given a man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is.
How else but through a broken heart may Lord Christ enter in?
Where there is no extravagance there is no love, and where there is no love there is no understanding.
To love oneself is the beginning of a life long romance.
One's real life is so often the life that one does not lead.
Misfortunes one can endure -- they come from outside, they are accidents. But to suffer for one's own faults -- Ah! there is the sting of life.
Nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner.
Ambition is the last refuge of failure.
Every woman is a rebel, and usually in wild revolt against herself.
Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.
Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who know love's tragedies.
When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy.
The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence.
Oh, duty is what one expects from others, it is not what one does oneself.
There are three kinds of despots. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the body. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the soul. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the soul and body alike. The first is called the Prince. The second is called the Pope. The third is called the People.
I can resist everything except temptation.
There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.
The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.
A kiss may ruin a human life.
The longer I live the more keenly I feel that whatever was good enough for our fathers is not good enough for us.
An acquaintance that begins with a compliment is sure to develop into a real friendship.
Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.
People who love only once in their lives are shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect -- simply a confession of failures.
There is only one real tragedy in a woman's life. The fact that her past is always her lover, and her future invariably her husband.
One should never trust a woman who tells her real age. If she tells that, she'll tell anything.
One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.
Life is too important to be taken seriously.
There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating --people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.
And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats, none knew so well as I: for he who lives more lives than one more deaths than one must die.
The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.
The past is of no importance. The present is of no importance. It is with the future that we have to deal. For the past is what man should not have been. The present is what man ought not to be. The future is what artists are.
We can have in life but one great experience at best, and the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as possible.
America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.
The strength of women comes from the fact that psychology cannot explain us. Men can be analyzed, women merely adored.
A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her.
A pessimist is one who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.
When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.
I like to do all the talking myself. It saves time, and prevents arguments.
My great mistake, the fault for which I can't forgive myself, is that one day I ceased my obstinate pursuit of my own individuality.
Man is made for something better than disturbing dirt.
It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about nowadays saying things against one, behind one's back, that are absolutely and entirely true.
To be good, according to the vulgar standard of goodness, is obviously quite easy. It merely requires a certain amount of sordid terror, a certain lack of imaginative thought, and a certain low passion for middle-class respectability.
I can't help detesting my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.
The first duty of life is to be as artificial as possible. What the second duty is no one as yet discovered.
Through our sunless lanes creeps Poverty with her hungry eyes, and Sin with his sodden face follows close behind her. Misery wakes us in the morning and Shame sits with us at night.
Talk to every woman as if you loved her, and to every man as if he bored you, and at the end of your first season you will have the reputation of possessing the most perfect social tact.
The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.
The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.
The suspense is terrible, I hope it will last.
The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
The truth is rarely pure, and never simple
Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.
No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true.
Experience is the name we give to our mistakes.
Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.
Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
Men always want to be a woman's first love. That is their clumsy vanity. We women have a more subtle instinct about things. What we like is to be a man's last romance.
To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual.
The one person who has more illusions than the dreamer is the man of action.
It is because Humanity has never known where it was going that it has been able to find its way.
The only thing that one really knows about human nature is that it changes. Change is the one quality we can predicate of it. The systems that fail are those that rely on the permanency of human nature, and not on its growth and development. The error of Louis XIV was that he thought human nature would always be the same. The result of his error was the French Revolution. It was an admirable result.
And now, I am dying beyond my means. [Sipping champagne on his deathbed]
No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.
It is he who has broken the bond of marriage -- not I. I only break its bondage.
She is absolutely inadmissible into society. Many a woman has a past, but I am told that she has at least a dozen, and that they all fit.
Women are never disarmed by compliments. Men always are. That is the difference between the two sexes.
To become a spectator of one's own life is to escape the suffering of life.
The husbands of very beautiful women belong to the criminal classes.
I have nothing to declare except my genius.
One should always play fair when one has the winning cards.
The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.
An ordinary man away from home giving advice.
Despotism is unjust to everybody, including the despot, who was probably made for better things.
Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow.
When a woman marries again it is because she detested her first husband. When a man marries again it is because he adored his first wife. Women try their luck; men risk theirs.
Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.
It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned.
To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune... to lose both seems like carelessness.
When one pays a visit it is for the purpose of wasting other people's time, not one's own.
The greatest of all sins is stupidity.
Plain women are always jealous of their husbands. Beautiful women never are. They are always so occupied with being jealous of other women's husbands.
Questions are never indiscreet. Answers sometimes are.
Man can believe the impossible, but man can never believe the improbable.
Genius lasts longer than Beauty. That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves.
I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.
What a fuss people make about fidelity! Why, even in love it is purely a question for physiology. It has nothing to do with our own will. Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot: that is all one can say.
Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven't got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.
The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.
There is luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves, we feel no one else has a right to blame us.
It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up.
Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.
Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.
If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.
Murder is always a mistake. One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner.
We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.
One can only give an unbiased opinion about things that do not interest one, which is no doubt the reason an unbiased opinion is always valueless. The man who sees both sides of a question is a man who sees absolutely nothing.
I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.
Romance should never begin with sentiment. It should begin with science and end with a settlement.
Nothing spoils a romance so much as a sense of humor in the woman.
There is no sin except stupidity.
What is said of a man is nothing. The point is, who says it.
The only thing that ever consoles man for the stupid things he does is the praise he always gives himself for doing them.
Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
The intellect is not a serious thing, and never has been. It is an instrument on which one plays, that is all.
I'm sure I don't know half the people who come to my house. Indeed, from all I hear, I shouldn't like to.
Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.
We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
Fathers should be neither seen nor heard. That is the only proper basis for family life.
The great events of life often leave one unmoved; they pass out of consciousness, and, when one thinks of them, become unreal. Even the scarlet flowers of passion seem to grow in the same meadow as the poppies of oblivion.
Better the rule of One, whom all obey, than to let clamorous demagogues betray our freedom with the kiss of anarchy.
Children begin by loving their parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.
Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing.
No woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.
Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attraction of others.
A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.
In this world there are two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst.
Do you really think, Arthur, that it is weakness that yields to temptation? I tell you that there are terrible temptations that it requires strength, strength and courage, to yield to.
There's nothing in the world like the devotion of a married woman. It's a thing no married man knows anything about.
What is mind but motion in the intellectual sphere?
When I was young I used to think that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old, I know it is.
Morality is the attitude we adopt toward people whom we personally dislike.
Scandal: gossip made tedious by morality.
A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
The liar at any rate recognizes that recreation, not instruction, is the aim of conversation, and is a far more civilized being than the blockhead who loudly expresses his disbelief in a story which is told simply for the amusement of the company.
Nothing looks so like innocence as an indiscretion.
Ignorance is like a delicate fruit; touch it, and the bloom is gone.
The brotherhood of man is not a mere poet's dream: it is a most depressing and humiliating reality.
Like two doomed ships that pass in storm we had crossed each other's way: but we made no sign, we said no word, we had no word to say.
Examinations, sir, are pure humbug from beginning to end. If a man is a gentleman, he knows quite enough, and if he is not a gentleman, whatever he knows is bad for him.
As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied.
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
A man's very highest moment is, I have no doubt at all, when he kneels in the dust, and beats his breast, and tells all the sins of his life.
It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.
It's absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
There is no such thing as a moral book or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.
The old believe everything; the middle aged suspect everything, and the young know everything.
The youth of America is their oldest tradition. It has been going on now for three hundred years.
Action is the last resource of those who know not how to dream.
The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat.
The worst form of tyranny the world has ever known the tyranny of the weak over the strong. It is the only tyranny that lasts.
All trials are trials for one's life, just as all sentences are sentences of death.
Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease. Fortunately, in England at any rate, thought is not catching. Our splendid physique as a people is entirely due to our national stupidity.
The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life.
The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.
Yet each man kills the thing he loves from all let this be heard some does it with a bitter look some with a flattering word the coward does it with a kiss the brave man with the sword.
Twenty years of romance make a woman look like a ruin, but twenty years of marriage make her something like a public building.
My experience is that as soon as people are old enough to know better, they don't know anything at all.
I never approve, or disapprove, of anything now. It is an absurd attitude to take towards life. We are not sent into the world to air our moral prejudices. I never take any notice of what common people say, and I never interfere with what charming people do.
Of course the music is a great difficulty. You see, if one plays good music, people don't listen, and if one plays bad music people don't talk.
The way of paradoxes is the way of truth. To test Reality we must see it on the tight-rope. When the Verities become acrobats we can judge them.
It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
The condition of perfection is idleness: the aim of perfection is youth.
The true perfection of man lies not in what man has, but in what man is.
Popularity is the crown of laurel which the world puts on bad art. Whatever is popular is wrong.
Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live; it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people's lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognizes infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it.
Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.
I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.
I never saw a man who looked with such a wistful eye upon that little tent of blue which prisoners call the sky.
A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?
Where there is sorrow there is holy ground.
Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching.
There is much to be said in favor of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community. By carefully chronicling the current events of contemporary life, it shows us of what very little importance such events really are. By invariably discussing the unnecessary, it makes us understand what things are requisite for culture, and what are not.
It is only the unimaginative who ever invents. The true artist is known by the use he makes of what he annexes.
A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.
The value of an idea has nothing whatever to do with the sincerity of the man who expresses it.
They are horribly tedious when they are good husbands, and abominably conceited when they are not.
The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one's clean linen in public.
Nothing is so dangerous as being too modern; one is apt to grow old fashioned quite suddenly.
I am dying beyond my means.
Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.
The best way to make children good is to make them happy.
All charming people, I fancy, are spoiled. It is the secret of their attraction.
The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.
It is better to be beautiful than to be good, but it is better to be good than to be ugly.
By persistently remaining single, a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation. Men should be more careful.
The basis of optimism is sheer terror.
No great artist ever sees things as they really are, if he did he would cease to be an artist.
People sometimes inquire what form of government is most suitable for an artist to live under. To this question there is only one answer. The form of government that is most suitable to the artist is no government at all.
Vulgarity is simply the conduct of other people.
Vulgarity is the conduct of other people, just as falsehoods are the truths of other people.
If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.
If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading at all.
Pray don't talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else.
She lacks the indefinable charm of weakness.
This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again.
Youth! There is nothing like youth. The middle-aged are mortgaged to Life. The old are in Life's lumber-room. But youth is the Lord of Life. Youth has a kingdom waiting for it. Every one is born a king, and most people die in exile.
There are only two types of people in the world. Those who make people happy wherever they go and those who make others happy whenever they go.
The man who says he has exhausted life generally means that life has exhausted him.
They flaunt their conjugal felicity in one's face, as if it were the most fascinating of sins.
The Ideal Man should talk to us as if we were goddesses, and treat us as if we were children. He should refuse all our serious requests, and gratify every one of our whims. He should encourage us to have caprices, and forbid us to have missions. He should always say much more than he means, and always mean much more than he says.
The fact is, you have fallen lately, Cecily, into a bad habit of thinking for yourself. You should give it up. It is not quite womanly... men don't like it.
Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them, they will forgive us everything, even our gigantic intellects.
There is always something infinitely mean about other people's tragedies.
Life would be dull without them.
Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.
Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.
Philanthropic people lose all sense of humanity. It is their distinguishing characteristic.
I adore political parties. They are the only place left to us where people don't talk politics.
In America, the President reigns for four years, and journalism governs for ever and ever.
We who live in prison, and in whose lives there is no event but sorrow, have to measure time by throbs of pain, and the record of bitter moments.
Punctuality is the thief of time. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
The sick do not ask if the hand that smoothes their pillow is pure, nor the dying care if the lips that touch their brow have known the kiss of sin.
I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect.
It is well for his peace that the saint goes to his martyrdom. He is spared the sight of the horror of his harvest.
The great things in life are what they seem to be. And for that reason, strange as it may sound to you, often are very difficult to interpret (understand). Great passion are for the great of souls. Great events can only be seen by people who are on a level with them. We think we can have our visions for nothing. We cannot. Even the finest and most self-sacrificing visions have to paid for. Strangely enough, that is what makes them fine.
Skepticism is the beginning of Faith.
The fact is, that civilization requires slaves. Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralizing. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends.
Talk to a woman as if you loved her, and to a man as if he bored you.
There is no such thing as an omen. Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise or too cruel for that.
There is something terribly morbid in the modern sympathy with pain. One should sympathize with the color, the beauty, the joy of life. The less said about life's sores the better.
To have the reputation of possessing the most perfect social tact, talk to every woman as if you loved her, and to every man as if he bored you.
As one knows the poet by his fine music, so one can recognize the liar by his rich rhythmic utterance, and in neither case will the casual inspiration of the moment suffice. Here, as elsewhere, practice must precede perfection.
When liberty comes with hands dabbled in blood it is hard to shake hands with her.
We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.
Bad manners make a journalist.
It was a fatal day when the public discovered that the pen is mightier than the paving-stone, and can be made as offensive as the brickbat. They at once sought for the journalist, found him, developed him, and made him their industrious and well-paid servant. It is greatly to be regretted, for both their sakes.
The modern sympathy with invalids is morbid. Illness of any kind is hardly a thing to be encouraged in others.
One knows so well the popular idea of health. The English country gentleman galloping after a fox -- the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.
One should not be too severe on English novels; they are the only relaxation of the intellectually unemployed.
Crying is the refuge of plain women but the ruin of pretty ones.
To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist -- the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know exactly how much oil one must put with one's vinegar.
Conversation should touch everything, but should concentrate itself on nothing.
Who is that man over there? I don't know him. What is he doing? Is he a conspirator? Have you searched him? Give him till tomorrow to confess, then hang him! -- hang him!
Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.
Few parents nowadays pay any regard to what their children say to them. The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying out.
It is only the superficial qualities that last. Man's deeper nature is soon found out.
Each of the professions means a prejudice. The necessity for a career forces every one to take sides. We live in the age of the overworked, and the under-educated; the age in which people are so industrious that they become absolutely stupid.
It is very vulgar to talk about one's business. Only people like stockbrokers do that, and then merely at dinner parties.
Bad artists always admire each other's work. They call it being large-minded and free from prejudice. But a truly great artist cannot conceive of life being shown, or beauty fashioned, under any conditions other than those he has selected.
I dislike arguments of any kind. They are always vulgar, and often convincing.
There can be nothing more frequent than an occasional drink.
I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.
Whatever harsh criticisms may be passed on the construction of her sentences, she at least possesses that one touch of vulgarity that makes the whole world kin.
London is full of women who trust their husbands. One can always recognize them. They look so thoroughly unhappy.
His style is chaos illumined by flashes of lightning. As a writer he has mastered everything except language.
In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.
One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything.
Only the shallow know themselves.
Talent borrows, genius steals
The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.
I was disappointed in Niagara -- most people must be disappointed in Niagara. Every American bride is taken there, and the sight of the stupendous waterfall must be one of the earliest, if not the keenest, disappointments in American married life.
It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style.
Time is waste of money.
Anybody can be good in the country. There are no temptations there.
Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when called upon to act according with the dictates of reason.
Technique is really personality. That is the reason why the artist cannot teach it, why the pupil cannot learn it, and why the aesthetic critic can understand it. To the great poet, there is only one method of music -- his own. To the great painter, there is only one manner of painting -- that which he himself employs. The aesthetic critic, and the aesthetic critic alone, can appreciate all forms and all modes. It is to him that Art makes her appeal.
We quaff the cup of life with eager haste without draining it, instead of which it only overflows the brim -- objects press around us, filling the mind with the throng of desires that wait upon them, so that we have no room for the thoughts of death.