"men who have heard the death-watch"

The Death-Watch Beetle
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Death-Watch Beetle - Credit: Sarefo/wikimedia commons
The Death-watch beetle is a wood-boring beetle that creates a distinctive ticking sound, often heard in the rafters or floorboards during quiet nights. Because of this they have become associated with the watch kept over the dying, and so their ticking noise is sometimes considered to be an omen of death. A person who hears the death-watch beetle, according to superstition, does not have long to live.