previous next
This assertion, as to pure Nature, can never be true, nor ought it to be believed. For, as in wild plants, such as wild vines, figs, and olives, Nature has implanted the principles of cultivated fruit, though crude and imperfect; so she has endowed beasts with a love of their young, though imperfect and not attaining to justice, nor proceeding further than utility. But in man, whom she produced a rational and political being, inclining him to justice, law, religion, building of cities, and friendship, she hath placed the seed of those things that are generous, fair, and fruitful,—that is, the love of their children,—following the first principles which entered into the very constitution of their bodies. For terms and expressions are wanting to declare with what industry Nature—who is skilful, unerring, and not to be surpassed, and (as Erasistratus says) has nothing idle or frivolous—has contrived all things pertaining to the procreation of mankind; and modesty will not permit it. The making and economy of milk sufficiently speak her providence and care. In women what abundance of blood more than serves for necessary uses, which, through languidness and want of spirit, wanders about and disturbs the body; being at other times by Nature in monthly periods discharged by proper canals and passages, for the relief and purgation of the body, and to render the womb like a field fit for the plough and seed, and desirous of it at seasons. But when the womb has caught the seed, and it has taken root (for the navel as Democritus says, grows first, like an anchor to keep the foetus from fluctuating, or as a stay or footstalk to the child), then Nature stops the passages proper for monthly purgations, and keeps the superfluous blood after that for nourishment and to moisten the birth, which now begins to be formed and fashioned, and at the end of a set number of days increases so in the womb, that it must seek another place and other sort of food. Then Nature, more diligent than any husbandman, [p. 194] deriving the blood to other uses, has as it were some subterranean fountains, which receive the affluent liquors; and they receive them not negligently nor without affection, but with a gentle heat and womanish softness they concoct, mollify, and alter them; for in this manner are the breasts internally affected and tempered. And milk is not poured out of them by pipes in a full stream; but the breasts, terminating in flesh that is pervious by small and insensible passages, do afford store of sweet and pleasant sucking to the infant's mouth. But for all this, such and so many instruments for procreation, such preparation, so great industry and providence, were all to no purpose, unless Nature had inbred in the mothers a love and care of their offspring.
Than man more wretched naught takes breath,
Not th' vilest thing that creeps on earth;

which infallibly holds good of infants new-born. For nothing can be beheld so imperfect, helpless, naked, shapeless, and nasty, as man is just at his birth; to whom alone almost Nature has denied a cleanly passage into the world; and as he is smeared with blood, and daubed with filth, more like to one killed than to one new-born, he could never be touched, taken in arms, kissed, or hugged by any one to whom Nature had not given an inbred affection for him. Therefore other animals have their dugs below their belly, which grow on woman above her breast, that she may the more conveniently kiss, embrace, and cherish her infant; because the end of bringing forth and rearing is not necessity but love.

1 Il. XVII. 446.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Gregorius N. Bernardakis, 1891)
load focus English (W. C. Helmbold, 1939)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: