Just in case anyone ever thought that any act of conception, any process of engendering and generation—including that most natural instance of a child’s creation—was ever thought free from artifice . . .
Update—To respond to a comment asking after the place of this image in Roman de la rose, I cracked open my translation and, luckily, found the passages from which this image derives. Here are the details I outlined in my reply:
We find out all about Nature’s baby forge in the lines leading up to her confession, about two-thirds of the way through the Roman. It comes in the context of a discourse on death and the role of nature in preserving species from extinction. There is a whole neoplatonic discussion about the repeated resurrection of a phoenix. The fiery bird represents the “ideal common form that Nature reshapes into individuals” as Death comes along and greedily devours phoenix after phoenix. The phoenix then serves as an allegory for life in general: “All things under the circle of the moon have this very same mode of being, so that if one of them can remain, its species so lives in it that Death can never catch up with it” (15977-16005).
Next, we enter the forge itself, where the allegory of Death, Corruption, Nature, and generation gives way to one of Art and Nature, and the craftsmanship analogy that underpins the Platonic doctrine of forms comes to the fore:
But when Nature, sweet and compassionate, sees that envious Death and Corruption come together to put to destruction whatever they find within her forge, she continues always to hammer and forge and always to renew the individuals by means of new generation. When she can bring to other counsel to her work, she cuts copies in such letters that she gives them true forms in coins of different monies. From these, Art makes her models, but she does not make her forms as true. However, with very attentive care, she kneels before Nature like a truant beggar, poor in knowledge and force, and begs and requests and asks of her. She struggles to follow he so that Nature may wish to teach her how with her ability she may propoerly subsume all creatures in her figures. She also watches how Nature works, for she would like very much to perform such a work, and she imitates her like a monkey. But her sense is so bare and feeble that she cannot make living things, no matter how newborn they seem. (16005-35)
It is particularly interesting to me that the discourses of artifice and life get so trammelled up. The philosophical discussion of technics seems inseparable from one of natality and mortality. . . .