The Works of Aristotle - Of Infants.

Of Infants.


Why are some children altogether like the father, some like the mother, some to both, and some to neither?
If the seed of the father do wholly overcome that of the mother, the child doth wholly resemble the father; but if the mother's predominate, then it is like the mother; but if he be like neither, that doth happen for many causes; sometimes through the four qualities, sometimes through the influence of some heavenly constellation. Albertus gives an example, and saith, that there was on a time a good constellation for begetting hogs and a child was then begotten and brought forth, which had a face like a hog; and according to this divers sorts of monsters are brought forth.

Why are children oftener like the father than the mother?
That proceeds of imagination of the mother in the act of copulation, and therefore by reason of the strong imagination in the time of conception, the children get the disposition of the father; as appeared before of the queen which had her imagination on a blackamoor, and of an Ethiopian queen, which brought forth a white child, because her imagination was upon a white colour; as is seen in Jacob's skill in casting rods of divers colours into the water when his sheep went to ram.

Why doth children sometimes resemble more the grandfathers and great-grandfathers than their parents?
Because the virtue and force of the grandfather is grafted in the heart of the begetter, and it may be said that sometimes it doth proceed of the similitude of the nutriture, and then the child is formed by the similitude of the grandfather.

Why doth children, according to the common course and use of nature, come out of the mother's womb in the ninth month?
Because the child is then fully perfect, or else because some benign place doth reign, as Jupiter, who is a friend of nature; for according to astronomers, he is hot and moist; and therefore doth temper the malice and naughtiness of Saturn, which is cold and dry; and therefore for the most part children born in the ninth month are healthful.

Why do children born in the eighth month for the most part die quickly; and why are they called the children of the moon?
Because the moon is a cold planet, which has dominion over the child, and therefore doth bind it with its coldness, which is the cause of its death.

Why doth a child cry as soon as it is born?
Because of the sudden change from heat to cold, which cold doth hurt its tenderness. Another reason is, because the child's soft and tender body is wringed and put together, coming out of the narrow and straight passage of the matrix, and especially the brain being moist, and the head pressed and wrinkled together, is the cause that some humours do distil by the eyes which are the cause of tears and weeping. The divines say, it is for the transgression of our first fathers and original sin.

Why doth a child put his finger into his mouth when he cometh first into the world?
Because that coming out of the womb be cometh out of a hot bath, and entering into the cold puts his fingers into his mouth for want of heat.

How doth a child come into the world out of the womb?
He cometh forth with the head forward; for if he should come with the thighs or arms he would kill himself and the mother.


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