Page:Tragedies of Seneca (1907) Miller.djvu/336

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318
The Tragedies of Seneca


Perchance he threw the corpses to be torn
By raving beasts, and kept them from the fire?

Messenger: Would that he had! I do not pray for this,

That friendly earth may give them burial,
Or funeral fires consume; but only this, 750
That as a ghastly meal they may be thrown
To birds and savage beasts. Such is my prayer,
Which otherwise were direful punishment.
Oh, that the father might their corpses see
Denied to sepulture! Oh, crime of crimes,
Incredible in any age; a crime
Which coming generations will refuse
To hear! Behold, from breasts yet warm with life, 755
The exta, plucked away, lie quivering,
The lungs still breathe, the timid heart still beats.
But he the organs with a practiced hand
Turns deftly over, and inquires the fates,
Observing carefully the viscera.
With this inspection satisfied at length,
With mind at ease, he now is free to plan 760
His brother's awful feast. With his own hand
The bodies he dismembers, carving off
The arms and shoulders, laying bare the bones,
And all with savage joy. He only saves
The heads and hands, those hands which he himself
Had clasped in friendly faith. Some of the flesh
Is placed on spits and by the roasting fires 765
Hangs dripping; other parts into a pot
Are thrown, where on the water's seething stream
They leap about. The fire in horror shrinks
From the polluting touch of such a feast,
Recoils upon the shuddering altar-hearth
Twice and again, until at last constrained,
Though with repugnance strong, it fiercely burns.
The liver sputters strangely on the spits; 770
Nor could I say whether the flesh or flames
Groan more. The fitful flames die out in smoke
Of pitchy blackness; and the smoke itself,
A heavy mournful cloud, mounts not aloft