Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lady Philosophy on Children

Summers are so short in Canada. I could be inside reading Boethius all summer long but once in a while, I like to feel the sun on my face even if turns my face red. Actually, I have been lolling about.
While Boethius is having his conversation with Lady Philosophy about what is good and results in a happiness that no one can take away from one, they turn to a discussion on children and wives in book III, chapter VII.
"Honestissima quidem coniugis foret liberorumque iucunditas, sed nimis e natura dictum est nescio quem filios invenisse tortores: quorum quam sit mordax quaecumque condicio, neque alias expertum te neque anxium necesse est admonere. In quo Euripidis mei sententiam probo, qui carentem liberis infortunio dixit esse felicem."
"In fact, the highest good should be the pleasure of a wife and children, but it is too often said of their natural temperament that someone, I know not who, invented children to be our tormentors. How bitter is the condition of any of those(parents). It is necessary to remind you who has previously neither experienced this or been anxious on that account. On which subject, I commend the opinion of Euripides, my pupil, that he who is lacking in children may be said to be fortunate in his misfortune."
One would think, since the Bible says to be fruitful and multiply and seeing how Jesus loves little children in the Apostles, that having children should be a blessing to be sought after by any good Christian. How interesting that Boethius quotes a Greek pagan philosopher and declares children to be a torment inflicted on parents. (or lays this at Lady Philosophy's feet) Even more interesting that this book was so influential to medieval thought. I know what he means; I have children too, but no one ever said it would be easy. Oprah (who knows nothing about raising children) calls it the hardest job in the world. In the words of Joe South, whose immortal words have been sung by many: "I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there has got to be a little rain sometime." Kids do not ask to be born. Once you have children, I do not think you are ever free from worrying about them even when they are good.
I am amazed at how differently various translators treat this and other passages. I have already said I do not like the Loeb translation and am going with my own but I have been comparing my understanding of the text with other translators and there is little agreement among them.
The quote from Euripides is from Andromache, line 420.


Anachronist said...

I know nothing about raising children but I quite agree with Boethius and Euripides - children more often are a curse than a blessing. If you think they won't disappoint you you are in for a very unpleasant surprise.

By the way I hope your little darlings are well ;P

Kristin said...

"I know not who, invented children to be our tormentors."

I guess some things never change!

The Red Witch said...

The problem with quoting Euripides is this is probably about Andromache having her beloved Astynax torn from her arms and hurled, although just an infant, from the walls of Troy. astynax never lived long enough to disappoint her and, with a father like Hector, it is unlikely that he would have.
It is surprising (not entirely) to see an influential Christian slamming family life.

Tracy said...

No, it certainly isn't easy having children (have just got back from a family holiday with two teenagers! Daughter dyed her hair on the first day, only this time it didn't go quite according to plan - I like the shade, but it took her a few days, plus a new hat to cover it, to get used to it) - but life is certainly more fulfilling, not to mention eventful, with them.