Gardening Quotes (2 quotes)
[Literally] Earth’s entrails
[or, entrails of earth, or earth’s intestine, or earth’s guts: earthworm. Often seen out of context as “Earthworms are the intestines of the soil.”].
Contrary to the widespread quote, Webmaster has not yet found a complete sentence in the original Greek translating as “Earthworms are the intestines of the soil.” Webmaster believes Aristotle did not write such a sentence. As far as Webmaster can figure out, Aristotle had no other word for an earthworm than the descriptive two-word phrase above. The word γῆς translates directly as “earth” and ἔντερα as “intestine.” In the context, Aristotle wrote only this, without any other wording for “earthworm,” in De Generatione Animalium (On the Generation of Animals), Book III, 10, 762b. Identified in Arthur Platt, De Generatione Animalium (1910), unpaginated page 23, end of 762b, footnote 1. The Greek phrase is given in William Keith and Chambers Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy: Aristotle, an Encounter (1981), Vol. 4, 290, footnote 3. The context, from the Platt translation is: “For all of these [animals], though they have but little blood by nature, are nevertheless sanguinea, and have a heart with blood in it as the origin of the parts; and the so-called ‘entrails of earth’, in which comes into being the body of the eel, have the nature of a scolex.” The translator footnotes that: “These ‘entrails of earth’ are earthworms almost certainly. A. thinks they are spontaneously generated, and develop into eels.” An alternate interpretation is given by A.L. Peck in Generation of Animals, With an English Translation (1943), 361. “The ‘earth’s-guts’ as they are called have the nature of a larva; the body of the eels forms within them.” Peck footnotes: “The ‘earth’s-guts’ are apparently the round-worm Gordius. Webmaster note: These are hairlike, very long, and very thin, nematoid worms that are parasites—not earthworms. Webmaster concludes that gardeners saying “Earthworms are the intestines of the soil” are quoting something that Aristotle did not say, per se, and he did not specifically talk about earthworms as gardeners’ friends conditioning the soil.
The commonest forms of amateur natural history in the United States are probably gardening, bird watching, the maintenance of aquarium fish, and nature photography.
In The Nature of Natural History (1950, 1990), 265.