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FOURTH PERIOD-ADVANCED LIFE.
THE FUNCTIONS AND DISORDERS OF THE REPRODUC
TIVE ORGANS IN ADVANCED LIFE.
NORMAL FUNCTIONS IN ADVANCED LIFE.
We have seen that in childhood the generative functions should be absolutely quiescent, that even in youth the sexual powers are rather to be husbanded than taxed, and that the adult himself should be chary of exhausting those capacities which nature has given him for the extension of his species.
We have now to consider these functions, powers, and desires in advanced life; and it will appear that old age resembles youth in this, that if the elderly man wishes to preserve his intellectual faculties, health and vigor, and would enjoy a long life, he must be content with, at most, only a very moderate indulgence of the sexual passion. His motto should be, “Deposui arma miles inermis."
Fortunately for the individual, moderation is usually practised. The elderly man has generally learned from experience that the generative function cannot be wisely, or, indeed, duly exercised, before the body has attained its entire development—that it is the test of manhood, the crowning effort of maturity, and that it must diminish with a waning frame. Experience ought to have taught men that we require a sort of vital exuberance, to transmit what is superfluous to another being; and this prerogative is given to us only during the prime of our existence.
“Love,” Parise, that elegant writer, says, " at the decline of 1 It has been very much the fashion to decry the French school. That many prurient ideas have been given currency to in La Belle France no one
life, should take quite a moral character, freed from all its animal propensities. In the elderly man, it is paternal, conjugal, patriotic attachment, which, without being so energetic as the love experienced in youth, still warms old hearts and old age ;-and, believe me, these have their sweet privileges, as well as sometimes their bitter realities. These autumn roses are not without perfume—perhaps less intoxicating than that arising from first love, but presenting none of its dangers.
“One of the most important pieces of information which a man in years can attain is 'to learn to become old betimes,' if he wishes to attain old age. Cicero, we are told, was asked if he still indulged in the pleasures of love. “Heaven forbid !' replied he, 'I have foresworn it as I would a savage and a furious master.'1
“When you see an elderly man, judicious, endowed with firm reason, whose enlightened and active mind is still capable of directing his affairs ably, and making himself useful to society, be convinced that such a man is discreet and continent, and that temperance—so justly called Sophrosyne, the Guardian of Wisdom, by the ancients-has in him a fervent admirer; in fact, he has acquired his perfect moral liberty.”—Traité de la Vieillesse,
pretends to doubt, but every reader acquainted with French literature must be aware that among its writers exist men who have given most valuable assistance in recommending moral conduct. In this category no one stands more prominently forward than M. Parise, for many years Secretary to the Royal Academy. I am proud to acknowledge the great advantage I have derived from the perusal of his work on old age. It breathes that spirit of contentment, and is written in such pure and elegant French that I fear I shall be unable, in many instances, to give the true rendering of the text; but I regret this the less if I shall induce my readers to refer to the original. I am fully convinced they will not be disappointed, but agree with me that, among modern French literature, valuable moral instruction is to be found, draped in the most eloquent language.
1 This saying is attributed to more than one great man of antiquity; to Sophocles, for instance. At the beginning of Plato's Republic, the merry old Cephalus says:
“I was once in company with Sophocles, the poet, when he was asked by some one, · How do you feel, Sophocles, as to the pleasures of love ? Are you still able to enjoy them ? "Softly, friend,' replied he, 'most gladly indeed have I escaped from these pleasures, as from some furious and savage master.''
And again of Cato
“Quam in eo quidam jam affecto ætate quaereret utereturne rebus venereis Dii meliora” inquit. “s. lubenter vero istinc tanquam omino agresti et furioso profugi.”—Cato Maj., c. 47.
M. Flourens, in his “La Longévité Humaine," says—“It is at the turning point of the physique that the morale enters, in turn, upon its empire-strengthens, expands itself, and gives, as it were, a splendor to the second half of life.”
“Age has a much greater effect on physiological than on sentimental love, as the latter has less need of physical force or juvenile exaltation. There are men who, always young in heart and imagination, have towards this pure love a constant devotion which, ever renewing itself, seems to reanimate instead of exhausting the vital principle.”
Parise says—“It is usually at the age of fifty or sixty that the generative function becomes weakened. It is at this period that man, elevated to the sacred character of paternity, and proud of his virile power, begins to remark that power decrease, and does so almost with a feeling of indignation. The first step towards feebleness announces to him, unmistakably, that he is no longer the man he was. He may retard the effect up to a certain point, but not entirely. This law must have its full and entire execution, “dura lex sed lex." The activity of the generative organs diminishes, their functions abate, languish, and then cease entirely. The wish and the want are no longer one and the same thing; the imagination does not exercise its olden power and fascination on these organs.
“Blood now only flows in small quantities towards the testes. Their sensibility becomes blunted, and is reduced to what is sufficient for the nutrition of the parts. The scrotum is observed to become wrinkled and diminished in size, the testicles atrophy, and the complicated vascular tissues which form them become
1 The Cardinal Maury is said to have told the celebrated Portal that “. man of sense past fifty ought to give up the pleasures of love, for every time he indulged in them he threw on his head a handful of earth.” (Anglice, " drove a nail into his coffin.")
obliterated; the semen, that peculiar secretion of the blood, is not only less abundant, but has lost its consistence and its force. The animalculæ, or zoosperms, which constitute its nature or its essence, far from being as numerous or active as formerly, are, on the contrary, few and languid.”
Dr. Duplay, physician to the Hospital of Incurables in Paris, states that he examined the generative organs, in order to discover the existence of semen, in 51 old men who died of various acute and chronic diseases, aged from sixty to eighty-six. In 37 he established the presence of spermatozoa, and in the other 14 he was unable to find traces of them. In 27 instances the spermatozoa were perfectly well formed, and similar in every respect to those found in the adult. In the other ten cases neither the heads of the spermatozoa nor their tails were perfect. The quantity varied greatly. In some old men spermatozoa was as numerous as in adults; in 14 instances they were rare, but still perfectly developed.
Spermatozoa may be found in the whole extent of the vasa deferentia, as happened in 26 instances, or at one point only of the secreting apparatus. Thus, three times only, the semen contained in the vasa deferentia alone showed them; that in the vesiculæ evincing no traces. Once their presence was shown in the liquid of the vesiculæ seminales, and not in that of the vasa deferentia. They were found seven times in only one vesicula, four times in the right and three times in the left to the exclusion of that on the opposite side and of the two deferent canals.
Semen was very abundant in 3 cases, moderately so in 24, and in 10 cases there was but little to be seen.
Semen may be discovered in old men whose testes are atrophied to a considerable extent.
It clearly appears then, from the above investigations, that the secretion of semen takes place in the old man, although slowly, just like that of the saliva, bile, or pancreatic fluid. What proves it is, that semen is found in the whole course of the spermatic canal; it is met with not only in the vesiculæ seminales, but in the deferent canals, in the epididymis, and in the testis itself (see Diagram, page 286, in explanation of this); and the spermatozoa are found alike in all these situations. It is, therefore, probable that if, among the spermatozoa which the microscope enables us to discover, some date from long antecedent periods, there are others that have been recently formed. The oldest of these twenty-seven persons in whom spermatozoa were found was eighty-two years of age; and the rest were from sixty to eightytwo.
Dr. Duplay concludes by saying,—“If old men are not so apt to beget children as adults, their inaptitude depends less on the composition of the semen than it does on a want of the other conditions essential to the reproductive acts.” 1
I would supplement these observations of others by the statement made to me by several most observant and intelligent elderly persons, who assure me that as they have advanced in life the emission of semen has been attended with absolute pain—a sort of scalding or burning as the fluid passes. This is so great that they dread the occurrence, as it takes away from the pleasure of the act. Does this arise from the muscles aiding in the act very feebly? Can it depend upon the canal being less previous, or upon a diminution of the accessory fluid which make up the bulk of the semen? I cannot decide, but of the facts I have no doubt.
Should any after this exclaim in reply to my cautions against excesses, as some of my senior patients have, “Why may I not exercise my sexual organs, as your science shows that nature still provides fertile semen?" My answer is, “ do not attempt to spend a great deal out of your small capital.” Old age cannot support the drain, and the subsequent nervous depression arising from ejaculation. Science merely shows that secretion is not absolutely stopped by bountiful nature; it only proves that semen is formed slowly, and with effort, and may remain for a long time pent up in the canals which have secreted it. I have often occasion to reiterate that professed breeders of animals refuse to rear the produce of old sires or dams, and have learned to recognize this class of young stock by several marks,
1 « Archives Générales de Médécine,” quatrième série, tom. lxxx, Dec., 1852,