The Works of Aristotle - THE SECRETS OF NATURE DISPLAYED IN THE PRODUCTION OF MAN.

THE SECRETS OF NATURE DISPLAYED IN THE PRODUCTION OF MAN.

 

CHAPTER 1.

 

WHAT CONCEPTION IS; WHAT IS PRE-REQUISITE THERETO; HOW A WOMAN MAY KNOW WHETHER SHE HATH CONCEIVED, AND WHETHER A BOY OR GIRL.

 

SEC. I. Of Conception, what it is, etc.

HAVING, in the first part of this work, described the instruments of generation in both sexes, and the use for which those instruments were intended by nature, I shall, in the part before me, proceed to show what conception is; the signs and token thereof; and what are the pre-requisites thereunto; for when once a woman has conceived, the work of generation is begun, and time with nature's help, will perfect the work.

Now in conception, that which is first to be regarded, and without which it cannot be, is the seed of the man, that being the active principle, or efficient cause of the foetus, the matter of which is arterial blood and animal spirits, which are elaborated into seed in the testicles, and from thence by proper vessels conveyed into the yard, and in the act of copulation, it is injected or emitted into the womb. The next thing is the passive principle of the foetus (for there must be both in order to conception) and this is an ovum or egg, impregnated by the man's seed; on being conveyed to it the womb closes up, that no air may enter therein, but the impregnated ovum may swell into a foetus. This is that which is truly and properly conception, and the pre-requisites thereunto I shall make the subject of the next section.

 

SEC. II. Of the pre-requisites of Conception.

I HAVE shown in the former section that there are two things to be regarded chiefly in conception, to wit, the active and passive principles. This in part shows that difference of sexes is a prerequisite to conception. So nature has ordained, there must be a proper vehicle for the active principle to be injected thereinto, and there must also be a passive principle to be impregnated thereby; so the woman has no active principle to impregnate, and therefore, without different sexes, there can be no conception.

Rut this is not all; for it is not enough that there be different sexes, but these different sexes must unite, and there must be coition, in order to conception; and it is coition, or the mutual embraces of both sexes, which nature has made so desirable to each other; which, when authorised in the way heaven has ordained, there is no need of ravishing; for the fair bride will quickly meet her bridegroom with equal vigour. But since in that there may be over-doing, and such errors committed by their giving way to the impetuosity of their desires, as may be prejudicial to conception, it will not be amiss to give some directions to make this operation the more effectual.

 

SEC. III. A Word of Advice to both Sexes; of Directions respecting the Act of Coition or Carnal Copulation.

TH0UGH there are some that desire not to have children, and yet are very fond of nocturnal embraces, to whom these directions will be no way acceptable, because it may probably produce those effects which they had rather be without; yet I doubt not but the generality of both sexes, when in a married state. have such a desire to produce the fair image of themselves, that nothing can be more welcome to them than those directions that may make their mutual embraces most effectual to that end; and therefore let none think it strange that we pretend to give directions for the promoting that which nature itself teacheth all to perform; since 'tis no solecism for art to be a handmaid to nature, and to assist her in her noblest operations. Neither is it the bare performing of that act which we here direct to, but the performing of it so as to make conducive unto the work of generation. And since this act is the foundation of generation, and without which it cannot be, some care ought to be taken, and, consequently, some advice given, how to perform it well; and therein I am sure the proverb is on our side, which tells us that what is once well done is twice done. But yet what we shall advance on this nice subject shall be offered with that caution, as not to give offence to the chastest ear, nor put the fair sex to the trouble of blushing. What I shall offer will consist of two parts; First, something previous to it; and secondly, something consequential to it.

For the first, When married persons design to follow the propensions of nature for the production of the fair image of themselves, let everything that looks like care and business be banished from their thoughts, for all such things are enemies to Venus; and let their animal and vital spirits be powerfully exhilarated by some brisk and generous restoratives; and let them, to invigorate their fancies, survey the lovely beauties of each other, and bear the bright ideas of them in their minds; and if it happens, that instead of beauty there is anything that looks like imperfection or deformity (for nature is not alike bountiful to all), let them be covered over with a veil of darkness and oblivion. And since the utmost intention of desire is required in this act, it may not be amiss for the bridegroom, for the more eager heightening of his joy, to delineate the scene of their approaching happiness to his fair languishing bride, in some such amorous rapture as this:

 

Now, my fair bride, now I will storm the mint
Of love and joy and rifle all that is in't.
Now my infranchis'd hand on ev'ry side,
Shall o'er thy naked polish'd ivory glide.
Freely shall now my longing eyes behold,
Thy bared snow, and thy undrained gold:
Nor curtain now, tho' of transparent lawn
Shall be before thy virgin treasure drawn.
I will enjoy thee now, my fairest; come,
And, fly with me to love's elysium;
My rudder with thy bold hand, like a try'd
And skilful pilot, thou shalt steer, and guide
My bark in love's dark channel, where it shall
Dance, as the bounding waves do rise and fall.
Whilst my tall pinnace in the Cyprian streight,
Rides safe at anchor, and unlades the freight.

 

Having by these and other amorous acts (which love can better dictate than my pen) wound up your fancies to the highest ardour and desires.

 

Perform those rites nature and love requires,
Till you have quench'd each other's am'rous fires.

 

When the act of coition is over, and the bridegroom has done what nature prompted him to do, he ought to take care not to withdraw too precipitately from the field of love, lest he should, by so doing, let the cold into the womb, which might be of dangerous consequence. But when he has given time for the matrix to close up, he may withdraw, and leave the bride to her repose, which ought to be with all the calmness possible, betaking herself to rest on the right side, and not removing without great occasion, till she has taken her first sleep. Coughing and sneezing if possible should be avoided, or anything that agitates or causes a motion of the body. These amorous engagements should not be often repeated till the conception is confirmed. And it may not be amiss to remind the bridegroom that the fair lasts all the year, and that he should be careful not to spend his stock lavishly, as women in general are better pleased in having a thing once well done than often ill done.

 

SEC. IV. How a Woman may know when she has Conceived.

AFTER the means made use of in order to conception, according to the directions given before, there is reason to expect that conception should follow; but as things do not always succeed according to desire, so therefore conception does not always follow upon coition. For there are many women, especially those newly married, who know not whether they have conceived or not, after coition; which if they were assured of, they might and would avoid several inconveniences which they now run upon. For, when after conception a woman finds an alteration in herself, and yet not knows from whence it arises, she is apt to run to the doctor, and inquires of him what is the matter, who not knowing that she is with child, gives her a strong potion, which certainly destroys the conception. There are others who, out of foolish bashful coyness, though they know that they have conceived, yet will not confess it, that they may be instructed how to order themselves accordingly. Those that are coy may learn in time to be wise; and for the sake of those that are ignorant, I shall set down the signs of conception, that women may know thereby whether they have conceived or not.

If a woman hath conceived, the vein under her eye will be swelled, i.e., under the lower eyelid; the vein in the eyes appearing clearly, and the eyes somewhat discoloured; it the woman hath not her terms upon her, nor hath watched the night before, there is a certain sign of her having conceived; and this appears most plainly just upon the conception, and holds for the first two months after.

Stop the urine of the woman close in a glass or bottle three days, at the expiration of which time strain it through a linen rag; if you perceive small living creatures in it, you may instantly conclude that she hath conceived; for the urine, which was before part of her own substance, will be generative as well as its mistress.

A coldness and chillness of the outward parts after copulation shows a woman to have conceived, the heat being retired to make the conception; and then the veins of the breasts are more clearly seen than they were before. The tops of the nipples look redder than formerly; the body is weakened and the face discoloured; the belly waxeth very fat, because the womb closes itself together to nourish and cherish the seed. If she drinks cold water a coldness is felt in the breast; she has also loss of appetite, sour belchings, and exceeding weakness of the stomach; the breasts begin to swell and wax hard, not without pain or soreness; wringing or griping pains like the cramp happen in the belly above the navel; also divers appetites and longings are engendered. The veins of the eyes are also clearly seen, and the eyes seem something discoloured, as a looking-glass will show. The excrements of the guts are voided painfully, because the womb swelling, thrusteth the right gut together; likewise let her take a green nettle, and put it into her urine, cover it closely, and let it remain all night; if she is with child it will be full of red spots on the next morning, if she is not with child it will be blackish.

By these experiments, some of which never fail, a woman may know whether she has conceived or not, and to regulate herself accordingly. For

 

When women once with child conceived are,
They of themselves should take especial care.

 

SEC. V. How to know whether a Woman be conceived of a male or female Child.

IN the present section I shall endeavour to gratify the curiosity of many persons who are very desirous to know whether they are conceived of a male or female. For the satisfaction of such, I shall give the sign of a male child being conceived; and the reverse thereof, that of a female.

It is then a sign of a male child when the woman feels it first on the right side of the womb; the woman also when rising from her chair, doth sooner stay herself upon the right hand than on the left. And also the belly lies rounder and higher than when it is a female. The colour of the woman is not so swarthy, but more clear than when it is a girl. The right side is likewise more plump and harder than the left, the right nipple redder. She likewise breeds a boy easier and with less pain than a girl, and carries her burthen not so heavily, but is more nimble and stirring.

I will only, as to this, add the following experiments, which I never know to fail. If the circle under the woman's eyes, which is of a wan blue colour, be more apparent under the right eye, and that most discoloured, she is with child of a boy; if the mark be most apparent in her left eye, she is with child of a girl. The other is, let her drop a drop of her milk in a basin of fair water; if it sinks to the bottom as it drops in, round in a drop, it is a girl she is with child of; for if it be a boy it will spread and swim at top. This I have often tried, and it never failed.

 

For whether male or female child it be
You have conceived by these rules you'll see.

 

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