Thursday, July 24, 2008

In praise of procreation

Shakespeare's second sonnet is a paean that praises procreation as a preserver of beauty:

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter'd weed, of small worth held:
Then being ask'd where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty's use,
If thou couldst answer 'This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,'
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.

This explains in part why parents rejoice in their offspring and why we are so happy for our new-parent friends. We think of our loved ones, who, like us, are showing signs of life's wear and tear, and then look at their sons and daughters (the 'treasure of [their] lusty days') and say, 'how cute!' In a very real sense, since cell replaces cell all down our ancestral line, procreation ensures that our 'eternal summer shall not fade'.

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