(So by report the royal edict runs) No man may bury him or make lament-- Must leave him tombless
and unwept, a feast For kites to scent afar and swoop upon.
He wondered, "Was the thought of expiring on the moon an abyss of unpleasantness because the soul must rest in the tombless
vacuums of a torso dead on the moon and therefore not able to voyage toward its star?" (Of a Fire on the Moon 35).
Henry continues in the same vein: Or there we'll sit, Ruling in large and ample empery O'er France and all her almost kingly dukedoms, Or lay these bones in an unworthy urn, Tombless, with no remembrance over them.
But here the anxiety is over an "unworthy urn," or to be "tombless," images that peak in the image of anonymity, if there is "no remembrance over [these bones]." The either/or that follows, success or failure, is wagered not with broken bodies, lost titles, lands, the spoil of war, but with historical memory; either Henry will earn the "full mouth" of inscribed history or a grave with a "tongueless mouth," "like Turkish mute"--silenced, castrated, his power to effect posterity cut off.
For a case study of the use of slavery in a contemporary Malagasy village, see Sandra Evers, "People without History: The Tombless
in the Extreme Southern Highlands of Madagascar" in Zoe Crossland, Genese Sodikoff and Will Griffin, eds., Lova/Inheritance: Past and Present in Madagascar, (Michigan Discussions in Anthropology 14, 2003), p.
Yet for his final touchstone Grant opted not for politicized Dunbar but rather for a piece of existential Virgil, his description of the tombless
dead imploring Chamn to take them to their final resting place across the Styx, though they must appeal in vain until one hundred years have passed (Centum errant annos 6.329).
France being ours, we'll bend it to our awe Or break it all to pieces: or there we'll sit, Ruling in large and ample empery O'er France and her almost kingly dukedoms, Or lay these hones in an unworthy urn, Tombless
, with no remembrance over them: Either our history shall with full mouth Speak freely of our acts, or else our grave, Like Turkish mute, shall have a tongueless mouth, Not worshipp'd with a waxen epitaph.
Conscious of the obligations this heroic lineage imposes, Henry accepts their challenge, and the terms of his acceptance reveal what is personally at stake for him: Or there we'll sit, Ruling in large and ample empery O'er France and all her almost kingly dukedoms, Or lay these bones in an unworthy urn, Tombless
, with no rememberance over them.