pallida mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
regumque turris.

Horace, Odes, 1.4.13-14.

"Pale death knocks at the doors of all alike, be it the pauper's garret or the king's tower": so writes Horace in this poem which exhorts his friend Sestius (and us, the larger audience he hoped for) to seize the day and enjoy life while it is still possible (and fun to do so). Soon enough, pale death will come knocking for us all, and that includes you, buster.

This sentiment is phrased more interestingly in the Latin than in my uninspiring translation. Rendering it more literally, we get: "pale death beats with equal foot on the garrets of paupers and the towers of kings." Romans (and Greeks) sometimes found their feet better than their knuckles for knocking on a door. Death knocks with an "equal" foot because Horace uses a common figure and transfers the idea of death's impartiality to the foot with which he imperiously knocks. Similarly, death is pale not because he (it?) is, but because corpses are; this characterization is still common, of course.

But perhaps most interestingly, this verse-and-a half gives voice to the knocking by its insistant repetition of the explosive "p" sounds--five times in one line. And why has death come knocking? It was . . . the salmon mousse!

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