WHAT avails it that our women should be free from the perils of the field, that they should not be called upon, buckler in hand, to march with our doughty troops if, though far from the dangers of war, they wound themselves with their own shafts and with rash hands seek to compass their own destruction? She who first essayed to expel from her womb the tender fruit she bore therein, deserved to perish in the struggle she had invited. What, to avoid a few wrinkles on thy stomach, must the sand be strewed for a veritable scene of carnage?
If in the childhood of the world mothers had followed this wicked custom, the human race would have vanished from the face of the earth, and to re-people the world by sowing those stones whence our ancestors were born, a second Deucalion had been required. Who would have overthrown the kingdom of Priam if Thetis, goddess of the seas, had not been willing to bear her fruit until the term allotted by nature? If Ilia had smothered the
twins she bore within her, the founder of the ruling city of the world would never have been born. If Venus had slain Æneas in the womb, the earth would have been bereft of the Cæsars. And thou, who wast born so fair, wouldst have perished had thy mother done that act thou hast just essayed. And I, who am more fitted to die of love, would never have existed.
Wherefore despoil the fruitful vine of the swelling grape? Wherefore, with cruel hand, tear away the fruit ere it be ripe? When ripe it will drop of its own accord, and once ’tis borne, let it increase at will; to bring new life into the world is meet reward for a few months of patience.
O women, why will ye desecrate your entrails with the instruments of death? Why offer dread poisons to infants yet unborn? We curse the Colchian damsel spattered with the blood of her own children; we bewail the fate of Itys, slain by her own mother. Ay, these were fell and cruel women; but their cruelty had its motive. Each took vengeance on her husband by shedding his children's blood. Tell me, then, what Tereus, what Jason prompts you to rend your body with such desperate hand?
The Armenian tigresses behave not thus, nor dares the lioness destroy an offspring of her own. Such acts by dainty women are performed, yet not always with impunity. Many a time she slays herself who slays her offspring in the womb. She dies herself and with dishevelled hair is borne away upon her bed of anguish, and all who see her cry, "Well was her doom deserved."
But let my empty words be borne away on the wind; let my forebodings all be vain. Ye gods, be kind to her and punish not Corinna for her first misdeed. ’Tis all I ask; let your chastisement be reserved for her second lapse.
Quid iuvat inmunes belli cessare puellas,