Tag Archives: Bleeding Corpses

Marginalia, no.102

The Turkish Emperour odious for other crueltie was herin a remarkable master of mercy; killing his favourite in his sleepe, and sending him from the shade into the house of darkness.  He that had been destroyed, would hardly have bled at the presence of his destroyer, where men are already dead by metaphor, and passe but from one sleepe unto another.

~ Sir Thomas Browne, from the Notebooks

“Dead by metaphor” is very nice.  Nice too is the whimsical spelling.  Why do we always correct Shakespeare and Milton but never Browne?  The folkloric notion that murdered corpses bleed in the presence of their murderer is echoed in Lady Anne’s words to Gloucester in Richard III: “See, see dead Henry’s wounds / Open their congealed mouths and bleed afresh / For ‘tis thy presence that exhales this blood / From cold and empty veins where no blood dwells.”  Criminal forensics must have been a simpler science when the killer could be identified by wheeling the victim round town for a game of Hotter/Colder.

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