This section is from the book "Aphrodisiacs And Anti-Aphrodisiacs", by John Davenport. Also available from Amazon: Love Stimulants, Aphrodisiacs and Anti-aphrodisiacs.
The history of the middle ages abounds with complaints of the lubricity, gluttony, and drunkenness of the monks, vices which are described as being their ruin, in the following pithy distich:
"Sunt tria nigrorum qiue vestant res monachorum, Renes et venter et pocula sunipta frequenter."†
"Three things to ruin monks combine - Venery, gluttony, and wine." A monk who was a great enemy to adultery, was one day preaching against it, and grew so warm in his argument, and took so much pains to convince his congregation of his own abhorrence of it, that at last he broke out in the following solemn declaration:
* Martial, Epigram, lib. xiii. epig. 34. † Ducange, Glossaire.
"Yea, my brethren, I had rather, for the good of my sou!, have to do with ten maids every month, than, in ten years, to touch one married woman!"
The celebrity they acquired in the field of Venus may readily be imagined from a quatrain that was affixed in a conspicuous part of the Church of St. Hyacinthe, and which runs thus: "Femmes qui desirez de devenir enceinte Addressez cy vos voeux au grand Saint Hyacinthe, Et tout ce que pour vous le Saint ne pourra faire Les moines de ceans pourront y satisfaire."* You ladies who for pregnancy do wish To great St. Hyacinthe your prayers apply, And what his Saintship cannot accomplish The monks within wi1l surely satisfy" It would have been well had these holy men been contented with these, comparatively, venial indulgences. The following macaronic epigram, however, shows that they were but too much addicted to the Amour Socratique:
"Let a friar of some order tecum pernoctare Either thy wife or thy daughter hie vult violare, Or thy son he will prefer, sicut fortem fortis, God give such a friar pain in Inferni portis." † But the open violation of their monastic vows, especially that of chastity, sometimes subjected monks to very severe punishment, a singular instance of which is recorded by Thevet,‡ who, on account of the inimitable quaintness of his language and style, must be allowed to tell his own story:
* J. H. Meibomius de flagrorum usu in Re medica et Venerea, Paris, 1792 p. 125.
† See Macaroneana, par M. Octave Delepierre, Paris, 1852,p. 3.
‡ Thevit, Portraits des Vies des Hommes Illustres, Vol. I., p. 13, fol. edit., Paris, 1584.
"Phillippus Bourgoin, grad Prieur de l'Abbaye de Cluny, voyant 1'insolence, ribleries et putasseries que menoient certains religieux de l'abbaye de Cluny les fist appeller particulierement, leur demonstra le tort qu'ilz se faisoient et a la sainctete de leur ordre, et appercevant qu'ilz continuoient leur train, en pleine voute ou assemblee, qu'ils font en leur chapitre, leur denonca, pu'estat en son oratoire Sainct Hugues s'estoit apparu a luy, le chargeant de leur fair entendre qu'ilz amendassent leur vie, ou autremet, qu'ilz tomberoient en son indignation, les ayant en telle verdeure envoya querir des maistres operateurs secretment en son logis et mada querir une nuict tous les plus mauvais garcons de Moynes, les uns apre's les autres, qui n'estaient plutot entrez au logis du Prieur qu'o leur badoit les yeux, et apres les maistres leurs netldiet bragardement leurs petites bour-settes de ce qui les faisoit hennir apres leurs voluptez et apres les renvoiet en leurs chambres, plus legiers de deux grains qu'i/z n'etoiet anparavant, les ayant chapponez.
Apres telle execution le bruict courut qu'o avoit veu Sainct Hugues se pour-meant pres de l'enfermerie de l'abbaye, qui fist croire aux pauvres Moynes hongres, que par adresse autre qu'humaine, ils avoiet ainsi este estropiez de leur virilite".
To these poor monks may, however, be applied the sly remark of Hume, upon a similar act of cruelty perpetuated, though for a far more innocent cause, by Geoffry, the father of Henry II., upon the prior and chapter of Seez in Normandy, viz., that "of the pain and danger they might justly complain, yet, since they had vowed chastity, he deprived them of a superfluous treasure," *
If the properties of ambergris be less potent than those of phosphorus, they are certainly less fatal. According to Boswell, * three grains of the former suffice to produce a marked acceleration of the pulse, a considerable development of muscular strength, a greater activity in the intellectual faculties, and a disposition to cheerfulness and venereal desires. The same author also says that it is a medicine which can, for a short time, restore an effete old man to juvenility. † The ancients reposed great confidence in the virtues of this drug, employing it as a renovator of the vital powers and of the organs, whose energy had been exhausted by age or by excess; and throughout the East this perfume still maintains a reputation for life-preserving qualities.
* Hume's Hist, of England, Vol. I., p. 348.
Madame Du Barry, ‡ the infamous mistress of Louis XV., is reported to have availed herself of its aphrodisiacal qualities in order to stimulate the jaded appetites of her royal paramour. "L'attachement du roi pour Madame Du Barry* lui est venu des efforts prodigieux qu'elle lui fit faire au moyen d'an bap-teme (lavement) ambre dont elle se parfuma interieurement tous les jours. On ajoute qu'elle joignit a cela un secret dont on ne se sert pas encore en bonne societe".
* Dissertatio Inauguralis de Ambra, § iv. p. 36.
† Medicamentum quod non solum potemer stimulat, sed vel effaetum senem, pro brevi tempore, ad juventutem iterum restituit. Bid. § viii., p. 44.
‡ Nee dans une condition obscure, vouee au libertinage des sa plus tendre jeunesse, autant par gout que par etat, Made. Du Barry ne put offrir a son auguste amant, malgre la fleur de la jeunesse et les brillants appas dont elle etoit encore pourvue, que les restes de la plus vile canaille, de la prostitution." Vie privee des maitresses de Louis XV., p. 153. - "You are no doubt curious to hear an opinion of Madame Du Barn's beauty from the lips of one who has seen her both in her days of prosperity and after her downfall. She was a person of small, almost diminutive stature, extremely frail and delicate in feature, which saved her from being vulgar; but even from the first, she always wore that peculiarly fane look which she owed to a youth of dissipation. a maturity of unbounded indulgence. At the period of my visit she was about thirty-six years of age, but, from her child-like form and delicacy of countenance, appeared much younger, and her gambades and unrestrained gestures of supreme delight on having, as she said, quelqu'un a qui parler, did not seem displaced.
Although alone, and evidently not in expectation of visitors, her toilet was brilliant and recherche, the result of the necessity of killing time." - "Talleyrand Papers".