Thursday, February 5, 2015


“If the love between parents is weak,
And the seed from the husband is meek,
Then it’s easy to see
What the baby will be:
Just a bitter and twisted young freak."

Note: Hildegard of Bingen, a Christian mystic and Benedictine abbess, wrote treatises on medicine, composed music, and was often consulted by powerful political and religious personages.  She subscribed to a version of Galenic medicine, according to which the body is governed by four humors/fluids: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.  She tried to explain the dispositions of children in terms of the relations between their parents, so that, e.g., parents who love each other give birth to children with positive dispositions, while parents who do not love each other give birth to children who are bitter.  There is something to this idea, though the mechanisms are surely psychological rather than (as she supposed) biological.  I have added the word “freak”, both because it provides an irreverent twist on Hildegard’s interesting scientific hypothesis and, more importantly, because it does a better job of rhyming with “weak” and “meek” than does the word “baby”. 

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