February 17 1816: White Tusks Crunch’d O’er The Whiter Skull

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I went to Mr. Porden’s.  There I read aloud Lord Byron’s Siege of Corinth – a story disgusting and horrid in its effects … All is horror throughout, and a description of dogs eating dead bodies surpasses in filthiness Lord Byron’s usual style.

— Henry Crabb Robinson writes in his diary for February 17 1816.

Though he heard the sound, and could almost tell
The sullen words of the sentinel,
As his measured step on the stone below
Clank’d, as he paced it to and fro;
And he saw the lean dogs beneath the wall
Hold o’er the dead their carnival,
Gorging and growling o’er carcass and limb!
They were too busy to bark at him!
From a Tartar’s skull they had stripp’d the flesh,
As ye peel the fig when its fruit is fresh;
And their white tusks crunch’d o’er the whiter skull,
As it slipped through their jaws, when their edge grew dull,
As they lazily mumbled the bones of the dead,
When they scarce could rise from the spot where they fed;
So well had they broken a lingering fast
With those who had fall’n for that night’s repast.
And Alp knew, by the turbans that roll’d on the sand,
The foremost of these were the best of his band:
Crimson and green were the shawls of their wear,
And each scalp had a single long tuft of hair,
All the rest was shaven and bare.
The scalps were in the wild-dog’s maw,
The hair was tangled round his jaw.
But close by the shore, on the edge of the gulf,
There sat a vulture flapping a wolf,
Who had stolen from the hills, but kept away,
Scared by the dogs, from the human prey;
But he seized on his share of a steed that lay,
Pick’d by the birds, on the sands of the bay.

— Extract from The Siege Of Corinth by Lord Byron.

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