die in harness

die in harness

To die while still actively working or still of the age or physical condition to do so (i.e., before retirement). With medicine and healthcare improving at such vast rates, far fewer people die in harness than ever before.
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die in harness

die before retirement.
This expression is drawing a comparison between a person at work and a horse in harness drawing a plough or cart.
1992 Harper's Magazine Don't overly concern yourself with the union pension fund. Musicians mostly die in harness.
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die in ˈharness

die while you are still working
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die in harness, to

To keep on working to the end. The analogy of a draft horse working until it drops dates from Shakespeare’s time (or earlier). “At least we’ll die with harness on our back,” says Macbeth before his fateful battle with Macduff (Macbeth, 5.5). Such a death, incidentally, is considered desirable and admirable. “It is a man dying with his harness on that angels love to escort upward,” said the American preacher Henry Ward Beecher (Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, 1887). Precisely the same is meant by to die with one’s boots on, although more likely this expression comes from the battlefield (soldiers dying on active duty).
See also: die