By John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
In the summer of 1982 I worked the night shift at Gonzaga Law Library with my friend Bridget, who was a fellow 21-something kid, and a sweet funny 40-something law student named John. We looked up Wilmot’s works when we discovered that he was quoted under every dirty word in the “Oxford English Dictionary”—all three of us were kids!
Wilmot was the subject of a Johnny Depp movie called “The Libertine,” that depicts him, at the age of 33, arguing in favor of King Charles II in the House of Lords during the Exclusion Act crisis. That was around 1680, the year in which he published this book anonymously in Antwerp, and incidentally, the year of his death. The movie shows him speaking in the House of Lords, so hideously disfigured from syphilis that he had to appear in a mask.
This piece and “The Imperfect Enjoyment” are his most blatantly erotic. In one, he rails against his penis for being “a common fucking post, / On whom each whore relieves her tingling cunt, / As hogs on gates do rub themselves and grunt,” while going limp the one time he actually falls in in love. The “Ramble” on the other hand is a diatribe against the woman he loves for spurning him, in which he swears an oath, “The Jesuit’s Fraternity shall leave the use of buggery … e’re I desist with all my power to plague this woman and undo her.” That made me feel kind of naughty pulling it off the bookshelf at a Jesuit library!
I’m only giving excerpts. Links to the complete piece are below.
Much wine had past, with grave discourse
Of who fucks who, and who does worse,
such as you usually do hear
From those that diet at the Bear,
When I, who still take care to see
Drunkenness reliev’d by Lechery,
Went out into St. James’s Park
To cool my head, and fire my heart.
But tho’ St. James has th’ honor on ’t,
’Tis consecrate to Prick and Cunt.
There, by a most incestuous Birth,
strange Woods spring from the teeming Earth;
* * * *
And nightly now beneath their shade
Are Bugg’ries, Rapes, and Incests made.
Unto this all-sin-sheltering Grove
Whores of the Bulk, and the Alcove,
Great Ladies, Chamber Mayds, and Drudges;
The Rag-picker, and Heiresse trudges.
Car-men, Divines, great Lords, and Taylors,
Prentices, Pimps, Poets and Gaolers;
Foot-Men, fine Fops, do here arrive,
And here promiscuously they swive.
Along these hallow’d Walks it was
That I beheld Corinna pass.
Who ever had been by to see
The proud disdain she cast on me
Through charming Eyes, he would have swore
she drapt from Heav’n that very hour,
Forsakeing the Divine abode
In scorn of some despaireing God.
But mark what Creatures Women are:
How infinitely vile, and fair:
Three Knights o’ th’ Elbow, and the slurr,
With wrigling Tails made up to her.
* * * *
In short, without much more ado,
Joyful and pleas’d away she flew,
And with these Three confounded Asses
From Park to Hackney Coach she passes.
* * * *
Gods ! that a thing admir’d by me
shou’d tast so much of Infamy.
Had she pickt out, to rub her Arse on
some stiff-Prickt Clown or well hung Parson,
Each job of whose spermatique sluce
Had filled her Cunt with wholesom Juice,
I the proceeding shou’d have prais’d
In hope she had quencht a fire I rais’d.
such nat’ral freedoms are but just,
There’s something gen’rous in mere Lust.
* * * *
But why am I of all Mankind,
To so severe a fate designed?
Ungrateful! why this Treachery
To humble, fond, believing me?
Who gave you Privileges above
The nice allowances of Love?
* * * *
May stinking Vapours choak your Womb
such as the Men you dote upon.
May your deprav’d Appetite
That cou’d in whiffling Fools delight,
Beget such Frenzies in your Mind
You may go mad for the North-wind.
And fixing all your hopes upon’t
To have him bluster in your Cunt.
Turn up your longing Arse to th’ Air,
And perish in a wild despair.
But Cowards shall forget to rant,
school-boyes to Frigg, old Whores to Paint;
The Jesuits Fraternity
shall leave the use of Buggery;
Crab-louse inspir’d with Grace divine,
From Earthly Cod to Heav’n shall climb;
Physicians shall believe in Jesus,
And disobedience cease to please us,
E’re I desist with all my Pow’r
To plague this Woman and undo her.
But my Revenge will best be tim’d
When she is Marry’d that is lymd.
In that most lamentable state
I’ll make her feel my scorn and hate:
Pelt her with scandals, Truth, or Lies,
And her poor Curr with jealousies
Till I have torn him from her Breech
While she whines like a Dog-drawn Bitch;
Loath’d, and depriv’d, kickt out of Town
Into some dirty hole alone
To chew the Cud of Misery,
And know she owes it all to Me.
And may no Woman better thrive,
Who dares prophane the Cunt I swive.
See Poems On Several Occasions, By the Right Honourable, the E of R—. Printed at Antwerp, 1680.
The editor was overly fond of italics, and put some kind of punctuation at the end of every line. I’ve tried to keep the italics to People and Places, and have used punctuation and capitalization less ubiquitously, more in line with modern conventions. Otherwise, I tried to present the spelling and typography as much like the 1680 edition as I could. I hope it’s not too much of a distraction.
There’s a modern English rendition from Ealasaid Haas’s The Earl of Rochester Fan Page.
Here’s another favorite (just to show he didn’t always do pornography):
Seneca’s Troas, Act 2. Chorus.
After Death, nothing is, and nothing, Death:
the utmost Limit of a gasp of Breath.
Let the ambitious Zealot lay aside
his hopes of Heaven, (where Faith is but his pride).
Let Slavish Souls lay by their Fear,
nor be concerned which way, nor where,
after this life they shall be hurled.
Dead, we become the Lumber of the World;
And to that Mass of Matter shall be swept,
where things destroyed, with things Unborn, are kept.
Devouring time swallows up whole.
Impartial (Death confounds Body and Soul.
For Hell, and the foul Fiend that rules
God’s everlasting fiery Jails,
(devised by Rogues, dreaded by Fools),
with his grim, griezly Dog that keeps the Door,
are senseless stories, idle tales,
dreams, whimseys, and no more.