Page:Ten Tragedies of Seneca (1902).djvu/149

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Lines 749—779]

the Fates, he examines critically for some clue, as to what their divination might reveal; he observes, that those viscera are still retaining some amount of animal heat, and soon after, he satisfies his judgment, that the sacrifices offered up were pleasing to the Deities, and persuaded himself, that the augury boded success, and that the brother's feast was now only anxiously, waiting for the human remains to perform their part of the business! He then cut up the body into pieces, amputated the prominent parts from the shoulder, and the fleshy portions from the arms, from the ligamentous attachments, which connected them with the body, with unshaken nerves! He strips off the flesh from the various limbs, and chops up the different bones,—he keeps back the heads, however, and those very hands, which had once signalized their confidence in him (the hand-shake)! The viscera with some other portions hang on the spit, and what escapes during the roasting drips slowly down from the stove—the remainder, received into the hissing caldron, (which seemed to utter tones of remonstrance at the monstrosity of the deed) is soon tossed about by the impetuosity of the boiling water—the fire, in jerking flames leaped in disgust about the terrible feast, which was placed above it, and threw itself two or three times upon the trembling altars (but was kept down, by the weight of the caldron) and being thus constrained temporarily by some inscrutable impulse, to submit to such an interruption, begins to burn again, but in a very surly mood! (The Poet here personifies the Element "Fire" [Prosopopœia] and suggests Its unwillingness, as an universal purifier, to lend its assistance, to such an overt act of contamination.) The liver, however, of the victims transfixed on the spit, crackled with a sound ominous and weirdish! and to speak the real truth, I cannot tell thee, the sound which groaned the more, the bodies or the flames! The fire, becoming as black as pitch, passes off in dense fumes, and the mournful smoke, as a heavy cloud, does not ascend, but hovers around the altar, and oppresses the Penates themselves, with its abnormal blackness and density, O! patient Phœbus, it would have been merciful, if thou hadst expunged this day out of the calendar of time, and immured it, unseen in the middle of the Heavens! Thou hast disappeared below the Horizon, only too late! The father, Thyestes, carves up his own sons, served up on the platter and chews with a relish, in his unfortunate mouth, his own offspring. His appearance is smart, with his locks extravagantly anointed with perfumed grease, but he feels rather oppressed (qualmish) with the wine, with which he has washed down his own flesh and blood!