Stories which have failed either to become popular folk lore or to be embalmed in old newspaper files are in great danger of oblivion. If they are saved, often it is by the merest chance. And that chance may well depend upon one individual with a treasure-story bent and a retentive memory.
History that is presented only as ink-embalmed data is as a flower pressed in a book. Although the dry petals still hold all the elements of the original flower, they cannot show us how it looked blooming in the field. The color and fragrance - the true reality - or the flowers are gone.
Rex Alan Smith
Coffined thoughts around me, in mummycases, embalmed in spice of words. Thoth, god of libraries, a birdgod, moonycrowned. And I heard the voice of that Egyptian highpriest. In painted chambers loaded with tilebooks. They are still. Once quick in the brains of men. Still: but an itch of death is in them, to tell me in my ear a maudlin tale, urge me to wreak their will.
On those remote pages [of 'a certain Chinese encyclopedia'] it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f ) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.
Jorge Luis Borges
Of what use are the great number of petrifactions, of different species, shape and form which are dug up by naturalists? Perhaps the collection of such specimens is sheer vanity and inquisitiveness. I do not presume to say; but we find in our mountains the rarest animals, shells, mussels, and corals embalmed in stone, as it were, living specimens of which are now being sought in vain throughout Europe. These stones alone whisper in the midst of general silence.
What are our conductors giving us year after year? Only fresh corpses. Over these beautifully embalmed sonatas, toccatas, symphonies and operas the public dance the jitterbug. Night and day without let the radio drowns us in a hog-wash of the most nauseating, sentimental ditties. From the churches comes the melancholy dirge of the dead Christ, a music which is no more sacred than a rotten turnip.
What a lesson, indeed, is all history and all life to the folly and fruitlessness of pride! The Egyptian kings had their embalmed bodies preserved in massive pyramids, to obtain an earthly immortality. In the seventeenth century they were sold as quack medicines, and now they are burnt for fuel! The Egyptian mummies, which Cambyses or time hath spared, avarice now consumeth. Mummy is become merchandise.
Edwin Percy Whipple
Writing is eternal, For therein the dead heart liveth, the clay-cold tongue is eloquent, And the quick eye of the reader is cleared by the reed of the scribe. As a fossil in the rock, or a coin in the mortar of a ruin, So the symbolled thoughts tell of a departed soul: The plastic hand hath its witness in a statue, and exactitude of vision in a picture, And so, the mind, that was among us, in its writings is embalmed.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
A good story is alive, ever changing and growing as it meets each listener or reader in a spirited and unique encounter, while the moralistic tale is not only dead on arrival, it's already been embalmed. It's safer that way. When a lively story goes dancing out to meet the imagination of a child, the teller loses control over meaning. The child gets to decide what the story means.
But here there is no light, Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet..Fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine, The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
A great many film stars perched on unstable ravine edges in the canyon systems of Los Angeles will, like the cemeteries there, eventually slide down to join their unfortunate fellows in the canyon floors, with mud, cars, and embalmed or living film stars in one glorious muddy mass. We should not lend our talents to creating such spectacular catastrophes...
Of all books printed, probably not more than half are ever read. Many are embalmed in public libraries; many go into private quarters to fill spaces; many are glanced at and put away... scarcely opened until the fire needs kindling. The most ardent book-lovers are not always the greatest readers; indeed, the rabid bibliomaniac seldom reads at all. To him books are as ducats to the miser, something to be hoarded and not employed... So pleasant it is to buy book; so tiresome to utilize them.
Flora Haines Loughead
No tabloid will ever print the startling news that the mummified body of Jesus of Nazareth has been discovered in old Jerusalem. Christians have no carefully embalmed body enclosed in a glass case to worship. Thank God, we have an empty tomb. The glorious fact that the empty tomb proclaims to us is that life for us does not stop when death comes. Death is not a wall, but a door.
No doubt Carlyle has a propensity to exaggerate the heroic in history, that is, he creates you an ideal hero rather than another thing.... Yet what were history if he did not exaggerate it? How comes it that history never has to wait for facts, but for a man to write it? The ages may go on forgetting the facts never so long, he can remember two for every one forgotten. The musty records of history, like the catacombs, contain the perishable remains, but only in the breast of genius are embalmed the souls of heroes.
Henry David Thoreau
Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return-prepared to send beck our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, brother and sister, and wife and child and friends and never see them again,-if you have paid your debts and made your will, and settled your affairs and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk.
Henry David Thoreau
From his soft fur, golden and brown, Goes out so sweet a scent, one night I might have been embalmed in it By giving him one little pet. He is my household's guardian soul; He judges, he presides, inspires All matters in his royal realm; Might he be fairy? or a god? When my eyes, to this cat I love Drawn as by a magnet's force, Turn tamely back upon that appeal, And when I look within myself, I notice with astonishment The fire of his opal eyes, Clear beacons glowing, living jewels, Taking my measure, steadily.
Up and away for life! be fleet!- The frost-king ties my fumbling feet, Sings in my ears, my hands are stones, Curdles the blood to the marble bones, Tugs at the heart-strings, numbs the sense, And hems in life with narrowing fence. Well, in this broad bed lie and sleep,- The punctual stars will vigil keep,- Embalmed by purifying cold; The winds shall sing their dead-march old, The snow is no ignoble shroud, The moon thy mourner, and the cloud.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
(...) Sir Boris had fought and killed the Paynim; Sir Gawain, the Turk; Sir Miles, the Pole; Sir Andrew, the Frank; Sir Richard, the Austrian; Sir Jordan, the Frenchman; and Sir Herbert, the Spaniard. But of all that killing and campaigning, that drinking and love-making, that spending and hunting and riding and eating, what remained? A skull; a finger. Whereas, he said, turning to the page of Sir Thomas Browne, which lay open upon the table - and again he paused. Like an incantation rising from all parts of the room, from the night wind and the moonlight, rolled the divine melody of those words which, lest they should outstare this page, we will leave where they lie entombed, not dead, embalmed rather, so fresh is their colour, so sound their breathing - and Orlando, comparing that achievement with those of his ancestors, cried out that they and their deeds were dust and ashes, but this man and his words were immortal.
..the past kept pricking at me and I knew that all the elements of those nineteen days in July were astir within me, like phlegm in an attack of bronchitis, waiting to come up. I had kep them buried all these years, but they were there, I knew, the more complete, the more unforgotten, for being carefully embalmed. Never, never had they seen the light of day; the slightest stirring had been stifled with a scattering of earth. My secret- the explanation of me- lay there. I take myself much too seriously, of course. What does it matter to anyone what I was like, then or now? But every man is important to himself at one time or another; my problem had been to reduce the importance, and spread it out as thinly as I could over half a century. Thanks to my interment policy I had come to terms with life, I had made a working -working was the word - arrangement with it, on the one condition that there should be no exhumation. Was it true, what I sometimes told myself, that my best energies had been given to the undertaker's art? If it was, what did it matter? Should have I acquitted myself better, with the knowledge I had now? I doubted it; knowledge may be power, but it is not resilience, or resourcefulness, or adaptability to life, still less is it instinctive sympathy with human nature; and those where qualities I possessed in 1900 in far greater measure that I possess them in 1952. Prologue, page 16