EMBALM, v.i. [1.] To cheat vegetation by locking up the gases upon which it feeds. By embalming their dead and thereby deranging the natural balance between animal and vegetable life, the Egyptians made their once fertile and populous country barren and incapable of supporting more than a meagre crew. The modern metallic burial casket is a step in the same direction, and many a dead man who ought now to be ornamenting his neighbor’s lawn as a tree, or enriching his table as a bunch of radishes, is doomed to a long inutility. We shall get him after awhile if we are spared, but in the meantime the violet and rose are languishing for a nibble at his glutæus maximus. [2.] To cure the human bacon. The processes of embalming have been essentially the same in all ages and countries. The following recipe from an ancient papyrus, discovered in the pocket of a mummy in a museum, gives a good general notion of the business:
Remove the decedent’s refractory tripes
And glut him with various kinds of swipes
Till the pickle pervades all his tissues and drips
In a delicate odorous dew from the tips
Of his fingers and toes. Then carefully stitch
In a league of linen bedaubed with pitch.
Sign him and seal him and pot him away
To await the dawn of the Judgment Day,
A source — as he tranquilly presses his shelf —
Of joy to his widow and pride to himself.