Bones and Picking

Byron
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
Canto III Stanza 63

   But ere these matchless heights I dare to scan,
   There is a spot should not be pass’d in vain, —
   Morat! the proud, the patriot field! where man
   May gaze on ghastly trophies of the slain,
   Nor blush for those who conquered on that plain;
   Here Burgundy bequeath’d his tombless host,
   A bony heap, through ages to remain,
   Themselves their monument; — the Stygian coast
Unsepulchred they roam’d, and shriek’d each wandering ghost.

[Byron’s Note]
The chapel is destroyed, and the pyramid of bones diminished to a small number by the Burgundian legion in the service of France, who anxiously effaced this record of their ancestors’ less successful invasions. A few still remain notwithstanding the pains taken by the Burgundians for ages (all who passed that way removing a bone to their own country) and the less justifiable larcenies of the Swiss postillions, who carried them off to sell for knife-handles, a purpose for which the whiteness imbibed by the bleaching of years had rendered them in great request. Of these relics I ventured to bring away as much as may have made the quarter of a hero, for which the sole excuse is, that if I had not, the next passer by might have perverted them to worse uses than the careful preservation which I intend for them.

[McGann’s note to Byron’s note]
The Swiss successfully defended themselves in 1476 against the invading army of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. The battle of Morat, fought near the town and the lake of the same name, was the bloodiest of three battles (Grandson, Morat, Nancy) fought by the Swiss and the French. Charles was killed at Nancy, but he left more than ten thousand of his men dead at Morat. The ossuary in which their bones were collected was destroyed by the invading French forces in 1798, and the bones scattered about were not collected and reburied until 1822. B sent the bones he collected back to Murray in London, where they are still preserved.

Lord Byron. The Complete Poetical Works. Volume II. Child Harold’s Pilgrimage Edited by Jerome J. McGann

I remember spreading ashes. Aspiring to be tombless. Monumentless. Byron gets there by the end of Canto IV with the sea leaving no marks or markers.

And so for day 2605
30.01.2014

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