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Dialogue between Fashion and Death

Excerpt from the poem written by Giacomo Leopardi in 1824

Fashion: Madam Death, Madam Death!

Death: Wait until your time comes, and then I will appear without being called by you.

Fashion: Madam Death!

Death: Go to the devil. I will come when you least expect me.

Fashion: As if I were not immortal!

Death: Immortal? “Already has passed the thousandth year,” since the age of immortals ended.

Fashion: Madam is as much a Petrarchist as if she were an Italian poet of the fifteenth or eighteenth century.

Death: I like Petrarch because he composed my triumph, and because he refers so often to me. But I must be moving.

Fashion: Stay! For the love you bear to the seven cardinal sins, stop a moment and look at me.

Death: Well. I am looking.

Fashion: Do you not recognise me?

Death: You must know that I have bad sight, and am without spectacles.
The English make none to suit me; and if they did, I should not know where to put them.

Fashion: I am Fashion, your sister.

Death: My sister? Fashion: Yes. Do you not remember we are both born of Decay?

Death: As if I, who am the chief enemy of Memory, should recollect it!

Fashion: But I do. I know also that we both equally profit by the incessant change and destruction
of things here below, although you do so in one way, and I in another.

Death: Unless you are speaking to yourself, or to some one inside your throat, raise your voice, and pronounce
your words more distinctly. If you go mumbling between your teeth with that thin spider-voice of yours, I shall never
understand you; because you ought to know that my hearing serves me no better than my sight.

Fashion: Although it be contrary to custom, for in France they do not speak to be heard, yet, since we are sisters, I will speak as you wish, for we can dispense
with ceremony between ourselves. I say then that our common nature and custom is to incessantly renew the world. You attack the life of man, and overthrow all
people and nations from beginning to end; whereas I content myself for the most part with influencing beards, head-dresses, costumes, furniture, houses, and the like.
It is true, I do some things comparable to your supreme action. I pierce ears, lips, and noses, and cause them to be torn by the ornaments I suspend from them.
I impress men’s skin with hot iron stamps, under the pretence of adornment. I compress the heads of children with tight bandages and other contrivances; and make
it customary for all men of a country to have heads of the same shape, as in parts of America and Asia. I torture and cripple people with small shoes. I stifle women with
stays so tight, that their eyes start from their heads; and I play a thousand similar pranks. I also frequently persuade and force men of refinement to bear daily numberless
fatigues and discomforts, and often real sufferings; and some even die gloriously for love of me. I will say nothing of the headaches, colds, inflammations of all kinds,
fevers – daily, tertian, and quartan – which men gain by their obedience to me. They are content to shiver with cold, or melt with heat, simply because it is my will that
they cover their shoulders with wool, and their breasts with cotton. In fact, they do everything in my way, regardless of their own injury...

Video played at the Symposium, Vienna.

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