Montesquieu
 

XXIII.1 Of men and animals, with respect to the multiplication of their species

O Vénus ! ô mere de l’Amour ! ………………………………………………………………….

Dès le pre­mier beau jour que ton astre ramène,

Les zéphirs font sen­tir leur amou­reuse haleine ;

La terre orne son sein de brillan­tes cou­leurs,

Et l’air est par­fumé du doux esprit des fleurs.

On entend les oiseaux, frap­pés de ta puis­sance,

Par mille tons las­cifs célé­brer ta pré­sence ;

Pour la belle génisse, on voit les fiers tau­reaux,

Ou bon­dir dans la plaine, ou tra­ver­ser les eaux ;

Enfin, les habi­tants des bois et des mon­ta­gnes,

Des fleu­ves et des mers, des ver­tes cam­pa­gnes,

Brûlant à ton aspect d’amour et de désir,

S’enga­gent à peu­pler par l’attrait du plai­sir :

Tant on aime à te sui­vre, et ce char­mant empire

Que donne la beauté sur tout ce qui res­pire.1

O Venus ! O mother of Love ! […]

From the first fine day which thy star brings back,

The zephyrs blow their loving breath,

The earth adorns its bosom in brilliant colors,

And the air is scen­ted with the sweet spi­rit of flo­wers.

We hear the birds, struck with thy might,

For the fair hei­fer, we see the proud bulls

Bound in the plain, or cross the waters.

In short, the inha­bi­tants of the woods and moun­tains,

Of rivers and seas and green land­sca­pes,

Burning at thy sight with love and desire,

Engaging to popu­late through the attrac­tion of plea­sure ;

So do we love to fol­low thee, and the char­ming domi­nion

That beauty gives to eve­ry­thing that brea­thes.

The fema­les of ani­mals have fairly cons­tant fer­ti­lity. But in the human spe­cies, the man­ner of thin­king, the cha­rac­ter, the pas­sions, the fan­cies, the caprice, the idea of pre­ser­ving one’s beauty, the ungain­li­ness of pre­gnancy, and the nui­sance of an over­large family, dis­rupt pro­pa­ga­tion in a thou­sand ways.

Translation of the beginning of Lucretius by Mr. Hénault. [This invocation to Venus is all that is extant of Hénault’s translation of three books of De rerum natura.]