horrent opācā fronde nigrantēs comae,
taxum imminentem quā tenet sēgnis Sopor690
Famēsque maesta tābidō rictū iacet
Pudorque sērus cōnsciōs vultūs tegit.
Metus Pavorque, Fūnus et frendēns Dolor
āterque Lūctus sequitur et Morbus tremēns
et cīncta ferrō Bella; in extrēmō abdita695
iners Senectūs adiuvat baculō gradum.
Theseus proceeds to catalog the personifications of suffering who live in the Underworld, including Hunger, War, Old Age and others.
The passage adapts the list of personifications that Virgil’s Aeneas sees in the Underworld (Aeneid 6.273–84).
Seneca establishes this connection by repeating seven personifications from Virgil (Sopor, Famēs, Metus, Lūctus, Morbus, Bella, Senectūs). But he also varies his model in several ways. For instance, Virgil describes Somnia (“Dreams”) hanging from an elm tree at the end of his list of personifications. Seneca adapts this as Sopor (“Sleep”) hanging from a yew tree at the start of his list. Letus (“Death”) in Virgil becomes the stronger Funus (“Violent Death”) in Seneca. And the combination Metus Pavorque recalls a similar combination, Pavor et Terror, in a short list of Underworld personifications in Ovid (Metamorphoses 4.484–85).
689–90 “Black leaves bristle on dark branches, where sluggish Sleep occupies a looming yew tree.” opācā fronde: a metrically convenient equivalent to opācīs frondibus. comae: “hair” is a common metaphor for leaves in Latin poetry (LS coma II). tenet: “occupies” (LS teneo I.A.2.b).
691 tābidō rictū: ablative of quality (AG 415). The open mouth (rictus) of Fames is tābidus because hunger has caused it to waste away.
692 Pudorque sērus: the personification acts according to its nature: “shame” is ashamed because it has come too late to prevent bad behavior. cōnsciōs: “guilty” (LS conscius II.B).
693 After three lines with one personification per line (690–92), Seneca varies the pace of his description with four personifications in this single line. He then presents one personification per half line in 694–95 before ending with the longest description of a personification (1.5 lines for Senectus).
694 sequitur: “follow (behind the other personifications).” The subjects of this verb are all the personifications from Metus to Bella.
695 cīncta ferrō Bella: “Wars armed with a sword” (LS cingo I.B.1). in extrēmō abdita: “hidden at the back.”
696 baculō: ablative of means (AG 408).
horreō horrēre horruī: to shake, dread
opācus –a –um: shady, dark
frōns frondis f.: leaf, foliage
nigrō nigrāre nigrāvī nigrātus: to be or make black
taxus –ī f.: a yew-tree
immineō imminēre: to threaten; overhang
sēgnis sēgne: slow, sluggish, lazy
sopor –ōris m.: deep sleep
tābidus –a –um: melting away, wasting, languishing
rictus –ūs m.: an open mouth, gaping jaws
sērus –a –um: late, too late
cōnscius –a –um: knowing, self-knowing
pavor pavōris m.: fear, trembling
frendō frendere — frēsum: to gnash; crush, grind
āter atra atrum: black
lūctus lūctūs m.: mourning, grief
tremō tremere tremuī: to shake, quiver
abditus –a –um: removed, hidden
iners: unskilled; idle; sluggish
senectūs senectūtis f.: old age
adiuvō adiuvāre adiūvī adiūvatus: to help, assist, support
baculum –ī n.: staff, walking stick