As indicated by the text, the male viper spits its seed into the female's mouth. The young gnaw their way out of their mother's side.

As indicated by the text, the male viper spits its seed into the female’s mouth. The young gnaw their way out of their mother’s side.

This entry turned into quite the misogynistic diatribe, with a mild smack on the hand to men.

Text Translation:

Of the viper. The viper is so called because the female gives birth with force, vi pariat. For when her belly aches with labour pains, her young do not wait to be released at the right time according to nature, but gnawing through her sides burst forth, leaving their mother dead. They say that the male spits his seed into the female, with his head inserted in her mouth. Mad with lust she bites it off. Thus it comes about that both parents die; the male during intercourse; the female at birth. Saint Ambrose says of the viper that it the vilest kind of creature and more cunning than the whole serpent species. When it feels the desire for intercourse, it goes in search of a lamprey already known to it or prepares to copulate with a new partner. It goes to the shore and makes its presence known with a hiss, inviting her to its conjugal embrace. The lamprey, once invited, does not demur and shares with the poisonous snake the union it seeks.

What should these words signify to us if not that we should put up with the behaviour of our partner, and even if his whereabouts cannot be discovered, we are to behave as if he were present? Let him be harsh, deceitful, uncouth, unreliable, drunken: are any of these things worse than the poison from which the lamprey, in intercourse, does not shrink? When she is invited, she is not found wanting and embraces the slimy snake with sincere affection.

The man puts up with your mischief and your feminine tendency towards triviality. Can you, o woman, not stand by your man? Adam was deceived by Eve, not Eve by Adam. It is right that the woman should accept as her governor the man whom she urged to do wrong, lest she fall again through her feminine disposition. But he is rough and uncouth! He pleased you once. Are you saying that a husband should be chosen on a frequent basis?

The ox seeks his partner, the horse cherishes his. If a partner is changed, however, the one that is left cannot bear the other’s yoke and feels insecure. You reject your conjugal partner and often think of changing him. If one day he is absent, you bring in a rival and at once, having discovered no reason for doing so, you avenge the injury done to your honour as if you had discovered some reason. The female viper searches for her absent male, enticing him with a seductive hiss, and when she senses that he is approaching, she spits out her poison, modestly showing reverence to her husband and the obligations of marriage.

You, o woman, repel your husband with reproaches when he returns from afar. The viper gazes out to sea, he searches for a sign that she is on her way. You put obstacles in your husband’s way. You stir up the poison of strife, you do not get rid of it. You emit a foul venom in the midst of your wifely embrace, you show no shame at the thought of your marriage vows, you show no regard for your husband.

But you too, O man, for we can also bring you into the discussion, set aside the passion in your heart and the roughness of your manner when your loving wife comes to meet you, Get rid of your ill-humour when your wife sweetly rouses you to express your love. You are not her master but her husband; you have gained not a maidservant but a wife. God wished you to govern the weaker sex, not rule it absolutely. Return her care with attention; return her love with grace. The viper pours out its poison; can you not get rid of your harsh attitude? If you are severe by nature, you should moderate your manner in consideration of your married state and set aside your harshness out of regard for your relationship.

There is another issue. Do not, O men, seek out someone else’s bed, do not plot another liaison. Adultery is a serious sin; it does harm to nature. In the beginning God made two beings, Adam and Eve, that is, man and wife; and he made the woman from the man, that is, from Adam’s rib; and he ordered them both to exist in one body and to live in one spirit. Why separate the single body, why divide the single spirit? Adultery happens in nature. The eager embrace of the lamprey and the viper makes the point: it takes place not according to the law of the species but from the heat of lust. Learn, O men, that he who seeks to seduce another man’s wife is to be compared with that snake with whom he seeks a relationship. Let him hurry off to the viper, which slithers into his bosom, not by the honest way of truth but the slimy route of inconstant love. He hurries to a woman who recovers her poison as the viper does. For they say that after the task of mating is over, the viper sucks up the poison that it had spat out beforehand.

Folio 66v – the basilisk, continued. De vipera; Of the viper.


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