The Works of Aristotle the Famous Philosopher

Page 49 of 76

Now this may proceed from a natural cause, for if the man and woman be of one complexion, they seldom have children, and the reason is clear, for the universal course of nature being formed of a composition of contraries, cannot be increased by a composition of likes; and, therefore, if the constitution of the woman be hot and dry, as well as the man's there can be no conception; and if, on the contrary, the man should be of a cold and moist constitution, as well as the woman, the effect would be the same; and this barrenness is purely natural. The only way to help this is, for people, before they marry, to observe each others constitution and complexion, if they design to have children. If their complexions and constitutions be alike, they are not fit to come together, for discordant natures only, make harmony in the work of generation.

Another natural cause of barrenness, is want of love between man and wife. Love is that vivid principle that ought to inspire each organ in the act of generation, or else it will be spiritless and dull; for if their hearts be not united in love, how should their seed unite to cause Conception? And this is sufficiently evinced, in that there never follows conception on a rape. Therefore, if men and women design to have children, let them live so, that their hearts as well as their bodies may be united, or else they may miss their expectations.

A third cause of natural barrenness, is the letting virgins blood in the arm before their natural courses are come down, which is usually in the fourteenth and fifteenth year of their age; sometimes, perhaps before the thirteenth, but never before the twelfth. And because usually, they are out of order, and indisposed before their purgations come down, their parents run to the doctor to know what is the matter; and he, if not skilled, will naturally prescribe opening a vein in the arm, thinking fullness of blood the cause; and thus she seems recovered for the present: and when the young virgin happens to be in the same disorder, the mother applies again to the surgeon, who uses the same remedy; and by these means the blood is so diverted from its proper channel, that it comes not down the womb as usual, and so the womb dries up, and she is for ever barren. To prevent this, let no virgin blood in the arm before her courses come down well; for that will bring the blood downwards, and by that means provoke the menstrua to come down.

Another cause of natural barrenness, is debility in copulation. If persons perform not that act with all the bent and ardour that nature requires, they may as well let it alone; for frigidity and coldness never produces conception. Of the cure of this we will speak by and by, after I have spoken of accidental barrenness, which is occasioned by some morbific matter or infirmity in the body, either of the man or of the woman, which being removed they become fruitful. And since, as I have before noted, the first and great law of creation, was to increase and multiply, and barrenness is in direct opposition to that law, and frustrates the end of our creation, and often causes man and wife to have hard thoughts one of another, I shall here, for the satisfaction of well meaning people, set down the signs and causes of insufficiency both in men and women; premising first that when people have no children, they must not presently blame either party, for neither may be in fault.

SECT. II.—Signs and Causes of Insufficiency in Men.

One cause may be in some viciousness of the yard, as if the same be crooked, or any ligaments thereof distorted and broken, whereby the ways and passages, through which the seed should flow, come to be stopped or vitiated.

Another cause may be, too much weakness of the yard, and tenderness thereof, so that it is not strong enough erected to inject seed into the womb; for the strength and stiffness of the yard very much conduces to conception, by reason of the forcible injection of the seed.

Also, if the stones have received any hurt, so that they cannot exercise the proper gift in producing seed, or if they be oppressed with an inflammation, tumour, wound or ulcer, or drawn up within the belly, and not appearing outwardly.

Also, a man may be barren by reason of the defect of seed, as first, if he cast forth no seed at all, or less in substance than is needful. Or, secondly, if the seed be vicious, or unfit for generation; as on the one side, it happens in bodies that are gross and fat, the matter of it being defective; and on the other side, too much leanness, or continual wasting or consumption of the body, destroys seed; nature turning all the matter and substance thereof into the nutriment of the body.

Too frequent copulation is also one great cause of barrenness in men; for it attracteth the seminal moisture from the stones, before it is sufficiently prepared and concocted. So if any one, by daily copulation, do exhaust and draw out all their moisture of the seed, then do the stones draw the moist humours from the superior veins unto themselves; and so, having but a little blood in them, they are forced of necessity to cast it out raw and unconcocted, and thus the stones are violently deprived of the moisture of their veins, and the superior veins, and all the other parts of the body, of their vital spirits; therefore it is no wonder that those who use immoderate copulation are very weak in their bodies, seeing their whole body is deprived of the best and purest blood, and of the spirit, insomuch that many who have been too much addicted to that pleasure, have killed themselves in the very act.

Gluttony, drunkenness, and other excesses, do so much hinder men from fruitfulness, that it makes them unfit for generation.

But among other causes of barrenness of men, this also is one, and makes them almost of the nature of eunuchs, and that is the incision or the cutting of the veins behind their ears, which in case of distempers is oftentimes done; for, according to the opinions of most physicians and anatomists, the seed flows from the brain by those veins behind the ears, more than any part of the body. From whence it is very probable, that the transmission of the seed is hindered by the cutting of the veins behind the ears, so that it cannot descend to the testicles, or may come thither very crude and raw.

SECT. III.—Signs and Causes of Insufficiency or Barrenness in Women.

Although there are many causes of the barrenness of women, yet the chief and principal are internal, respecting either the privy parts, the womb or menstruous blood.

Therefore, Hippocrates saith (speaking as well of easy as difficult conception in women) the first consideration is to be had of their species; for little women are more apt to conceive than great, slender than gross, white and fair than ruddy and high coloured, black than wan, those that have their veins conspicuous, than others; but to be very fleshy is evil, and to have great swelled breasts is good.

The next thing to be considered is, the monthly purgations, whether they have been duly every month, whether they flow plentifully, are of a good colour, and whether they have been equal every month.

Then the womb, or place of conception, is to be considered. It ought to be clean and sound, dry and soft, not retracted or drawn up; not prone or descending downward; nor the mouth thereof turned away, nor too close shut up. But to speak more particularly:—

The first parts to be spoken of are the pudenda, or privities, and the womb; which parts are shut and enclosed either by nature or against nature; and from hence, such women are called imperforate; as in some women the mouth of their womb continues compressed, or closed up, from the time of their birth until the coming down of their courses, and then, on a sudden, when their terms press forward to purgation, they are molested with great and unusual pains. Sometimes these break of their own accord, others are dissected and opened by physicians; others never break at all, which bring on disorders that end in death.

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