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On Love To One’s Offspring
by [?]

Sec. I. Appeals to foreign law-courts were first devised among the Greeks through mistrust of one another’s justice, for they looked on justice as a necessity not indigenous among them. Is it not on much the same principle that the philosophers, in regard to some of their questions, owing to their variety of opinion, have appealed to the brute creation as to a strange state, and submitted the decision to their instincts and habits as not to be talked over and impartial? Or is it a general charge against human infirmity that, having different opinions on the most necessary and important things, we seek in horses and dogs and birds how to marry and beget and rear children, as though we had no means of making our own nature known, and appeal to the habits and instincts of the brute creation, and call them in to bear witness against the many deviations from nature in our lives, which from the first are confused and disorderly. For among the brutes nature remains ever the same, pure and simple, but in men, owing to reason and habit, like oil in the hands of the perfumers, being mixed up with many added opinions, it becomes various and loses its original simplicity. And let us not wonder that the brutes follow nature more closely than human beings, for in that respect even they are outstripped by inanimate things, which, being dowered neither with imagination nor any appetite or inclination contrary to nature, ever continue in the one path which nature has prescribed for them, as if they were tied and bound. But in brutes the gentleness of mood inspired by reason, the subtlety, the love of freedom, are not qualities found in excess, but they have unreasonable appetites and desires, and act in a roundabout way within certain limits, riding, as it were, at the anchor of nature, and only going straight under bit and bridle. But in man reason, which is absolute master, inventing different modes and fashions of life, has left no plain or evident trace of nature.[44]

Sec. II. Consider in their marriages how much the animals follow nature. For they do not wait for any legislation about bachelor or late-married, like the citizens of Lycurgus and Solon, nor do they fear penalties for childlessness, nor are they anxious for the jus trium liberorum,[45] like many of the Romans, who only marry and have children for the privileges it bestows, not to have heirs, but to be qualified for succeeding themselves to inheritances. Then, again, the male animal does not go with the female at all times; for its aim is not pleasure but procreation: so in the season of spring, the most appropriate time for such pairings,[46] the female being submissive and tender attracts the male by her beautiful condition of body, coming as she does from the dew and fresh pastures, and when pregnant modestly retires and takes thought for the birth and safety of her offspring. We cannot adequately describe all this, but every animal exhibits for its young affection and forethought and endurance and unselfishness. We call the bee wise, and celebrate its “making the yellow honey,”[47] flattering it for its tickling sweetness; but we neglect the wisdom and ingenuity of other creatures, both as regards the birth and bringing up of their young. For example, the kingfisher after conception weaves its nest with the thorns of the marine needle, making it round and oblong in shape like a fisherman’s basket, and after deftly and closely weaving it together, subjects it to the action of the sea waves, that its surface may be rendered waterproof by this plash and cement, and it is hard for even iron or stone to break it. And what is more wonderful still, so symmetrically is the entrance of the nest adjusted to the kingfisher’s shape and size, that no beast either greater or smaller can enter it, they even say that it does not admit the sea, or even the very smallest things. And cats, when they breed, very often let their kittens go out and feed, and take them back into their entrails again.[48] And the bear, a most savage and ugly beast, gives birth to its young without shape or joints, and with its tongue as with an instrument moulds its features, so that it seems to give form as well as life to its progeny. And the lion in Homer, “whom the hunters meet in the wood with its whelps, exulting in its strength, which so frowns that it hides its eyes,”[49] does it not intend to bargain with the hunters for its whelps? For universally the love of animals for their offspring makes timid ones bold, and lazy ones energetic, and greedy ones unselfish. And so the bird in Homer, feeding its young “with its beak, with whatever it has captured, even though it goes ill with itself,”[50] nourishes its young at the cost of its own hunger, and when the food is near its maw abstains from it, and holds it tightly in its mouth, that it may not gulp it down unawares. “And so a bitch bestriding her tender pups, barks at a strange man, and yearns for the fray,”[51] making her fear for them a sort of second anger. And partridges when they are pursued with their young let them fly on, and, contriving their safety, themselves fly so near the sportsmen as to be almost caught, and then wheel round, and again fly back and make the sportsmen hope to catch them, till at last, having thus provided for the safety of their young, they lead the sportsmen on a long way. As to hens, we see every day how they watch over their chicks, dropping their wings over some, and letting others climb on their backs, or anywhere about them, and clucking for joy all the time: and though they fly from dogs and dragons when only afraid for themselves, if they are afraid for their chicks they stand their ground and fight valiantly. Are we to suppose then that nature has only implanted these instincts in fowls and dogs and bears, anxious only about their offspring, to put us mortals out of countenance and to give us a bad name? considering these examples for us to follow, while disgrace justly attaches to our inhumanity, for mankind only is accused of having no disinterested affection, and of not knowing how to love except in regard to advantage. For that line is greatly admired in the theatres, “Man loves man only for reward,” and is the view of Epicurus, who thinks that the father so loves his son, the mother her child, children their parents. Whereas, if the brutes could understand conversation, and if anyone were to introduce horses and cows and dogs and birds into a common theatre,[52] and were to change the sentiment into “neither do dogs love their pups, nor horses their foals, nor birds their young, out of interest, but gratuitously and by nature,” it would be recognized by the affections of all of them to be a true sentiment. Why it would be disgraceful, great God, that birth and travail and procreation should be gratis and mere nature among the beasts, while among mankind they should be merely mercenary transactions!