domingo, 5 de septiembre de 2010
The Seed of Man
Of the Seed of Man or Beasts.
How, and of what cometh the seed of man?
There are diverse opinions of philosophers and
physicians on this point. Some say it is a superfluous
humour of the fourth digestion; others say, that the seed
is pure blood flowing from the brain, concocted and
whitened in the testicles, and some again say it is the
superfluity of the second or third digestion; but because
sweat, urine, spittle, phlegm, choler, and the like,
Aristotle says, the seed is always the superfluity of the
last nutriment, that is of blood dispersed throughout the
body, and comes chiefly from the heart, liver, and brain:
an argument of this is, because those parts are greatly
weakened by casting seed, and therefore it appears that
carnal copulation is not good. But some think this to be
true by over-vehement practice in this act; but
moderately used, it is very wholesome, as was said
Why is a man's seed white, and a woman's red?
It is white in men by reason of his great heat and
quick digestion, because rarefied in the testicles; but a
woman's is red, because it is the superfluity of the
second digestion, which is done in the liver. Or else we
may say, it is because the terms corrupt the undigested
blood, and hath its colour.
Doth the seed of man come from the parts of the
body, or from the humours?
Some say from the parts of the body, and that we
prove, because we find a lame man begets a lame child;
and if the father hath a scar, the child hath one also,
as Aristotle alleges, Lib. de Animal, which could not be
if the seed did not fall from the parts of the body. Some
say it comes from the humours, by reason it is made of
the last nutriment, and that is no part but a humour. As
for lameness or scars, that proceeds from the imagination
of the mother at the time of carnal copulation, as
Aristotle saith, Lib. de Generat. Animal.
How comes the imagination of the mother to bring
forth a blackamore, as Albertus Magnus reports of a
queen, whoa in the act of carnal copulation, imagined a
black being printed, and in her sight?
Avicen says, the imagination of a fall makes a man
fall, and the imagination of a leprosy makes a man a
leper. So in this the imagination is above the forming
power and therefore the child born followeth the
imagination, and not the power of forming and shaping,
because it is weakest.
Doth the man's seed enter into the substance of the
The seed of both father and mother go into the
substance of the child in the womb, as cream goeth to the
substance of the cheese. Yet this opinion doth not seem
to be of force, therefore, according to our author, and
other philosophers we say the seed doth not go into the
substance of the child; and it is proved thus, because
that so the matter and the efficient cause should be all
one, which is against the philosopher. The consequence is
good, because seed is the efficient cause of the house,
and therefore is not the material cause of the child.
This is proved another way: As there is the self-same
material cause of nourishment and generation, 2 de Anima,
so we have our being and nourishment of the same matter;
but the seed cannot be the material cause of nourishment,
according to Averrois, therefore not of the being: and as
both seeds are shut up in the womb, so that of the man
disposeth and prepares the woman's to receive the form,
perfection, or soul; which being done, it is converted
into a humidity that is breathed out by the pores of the
How comes females to have monthly courses?
Because they are cold in respect of men, and because
all their nourishment cannot be converted into blood, a
great part whereof turns to menses, which are monthly
expelled; I mean every woman in health, and of thirteen
years old, seldom before; nay, some distempered women
have them not at all.
For what reason do they not come down before
Because young women are hot and digest all their
nourishment, therefore have them not before that age.
For what reason do they leave off at fifty?
Some answer that old women be barren, and therefore
they cease; but a better answer is that then nature is
weaker in them, and therefore they cannot expel them by
reason of weakness; there is great store of immundicities
bred in them, which lies in a lump; this makes them
troubled with coughs and other infirmities. Men should
refrain their use at those times.
Why have not breeding women the menses?
Because that then they turn into milk, and into the
nourishment of the child; for if a woman with child have
them, it is a sign she will miscarry.
Why are they termed Menstrua, from the word mensis,
Because it is a space of time which measures the
moon as she ends her course in twenty-nine days and
fourteen hours. Now the moon hath dominion over most
things, and by reason the menses are humid, they are
called menses profluvium; for moist things increase and
decrease as the moon does.
Why do they continue longer with some than others,
as with some six or seven, but commonly with all three
The first are colder, therefore they increase most
in them, and consequently are longer in expelling; other
women are more hot, and therefore they have fewer, and
are soon expelled.
Where are the terms retained before they run?
Some say in the matrix or womb; but Averrois says,
the matrix is the place for the generation, and that
those terms further not generation at all. Therefore he
asserts, that there are certain veins about the back-bone
which retain them; a sign of which is, those women at
that time have great pains in their back.
Whether are the menses which are expelled, and those
which the child is engendered of, all one?
No, because the one are unclean, and unfit for that
purpose, but the other very pure and clean, therefore
fittest for generation.
Why doth those got with child when they have the
terms upon them bring forth weak and leprous children?
Because they are venomous; so the cause appears in
the effect, as philosophers say the effect carrieth the
likeness or the cause; therefore such a child must needs
be ill disposed of body.
Why hath not women these at one and the same time,
but some in the new moon, some in the full, and others at
By reason of their several complexions; and though
all women (in respect of men) are phlegmatic, yet some
are more sanguine than others, some more choleric; and as
months have their quarters, so have women their
complexions, the first sanguine, the second choleric. One
of a sanguine complexion hath her terms in the first
quarter, a choleric in the second, a melancholy in the
third, and so in the rest.
Why have the sanguine theirs in the first quarter?
Because, saith Galen, every such thing added to such
a thing doth make it more such: therefore the first
quarter of the moon increaseth blood in a sanguine
complexion, and then she expels it.
How do they come in the end of the month?
Because most women then are phlegmatic, and the last
quarter is phlegm. Or else it proceeds from defect, and
therefore cold works do then multiply the matter, and so
multiplied, is then expelled.
How happens pain and grief at that time?
Because it is like the pain of the stranguary, in
making water drop by drop: for the stranguary, by reason
of the drink undigested, offends the subtile passage of
the urine, as happens after bathing; so the menses,
undigested and of an earthly substance, hurt the passage
by which they go.
Why do women easily conceive after their menses?
Because the womb being cleaned, they are better
prepared for conception.
Why do women look pale when they are upon them?
Because then the heat goes from the outward parts of
the body to the inward, to help nature and expel their
terms, which depravation of heat doth cause a paleness in
the face. Or else it is because that flux is caused of
raw humours which when they run they make the face
Why do they at that time abhor their meat?
Because nature labours more to expel their terms
than digest, and therefore if they should eat, it would
remain raw in the stomach.
Why are some women barren and cannot conceive?
According to physicians, for divers reasons; first,
because it proceeds sometimes of the man, who may be of a
cold nature, so his seed is unfit for generation;
secondly, because it is waterish, and so doth not stay in
the womb; thirdly, by reason the seed in them both has
not a like proportion, as if the man be melancholy and
the woman phlegmatic; for it is evident in philosophy,
that the agent and the patient ought to have the same
proportion, else the action is hindered.
Why do fat women seldom conceive with child?
Because they have a slippery womb, and the seed will
not stay in; or else because the mouth of the matrix is
very straight, and the seed cannot enter in, or if it
does, it is so very slowly that it grows cold in the mean
time, so is unfit for generation, and is dissolved into a
Why do those of very hot constitutions seldom
conceive with child?
Because the seed in them is extinguished or put out
as water cast into fire; wherefore we find, that women
who vehemently desire the flesh seldom conceive with
Why are whores never with child?
By reason of diverse seeds, which corrupt and spoil
the instruments of conception, for it makes them so
slippery that they cannot retain seed. Or else it is
because one man's seed destroys another, so neither is
good for generation. Albertus says, the best thing to
help conception is to take the matrix of a hare beat to
powder, and so put in drink.
Why have some women long and slender children, and
others short and thick?
Because, as Galen and Averrois say, the child is
formed according to the dimensions of the womb:
wherefore, because some women have a long and narrow
womb, their children are long and slender, others, on the
contrary, short and large, therefore their children be
short and thick.
For why doth a woman conceive twins?
According to Galen, because there are several cells
or receptacles in the womb, wherefore they may naturally
have so many children at once; as there falls seed in
those cells: there are three in the right side and three
in the left: in the right side boys are engendered; in
the left girls; and in the midst of these cells or
chambers there is another where the ancients assert
hermaphrodites to be engendered: if a woman should have
more than two children at once, it should be rather
miraculous than natural.
Why are twins but half men, and not so strong as
By reason the seed which should have been for one is
divided into two, and therefore they are weakly, and in
truth do not often live long.