everybody, buckle up; it’s the first annual Rochester special, and it’s gonna get
wild. If you haven’t heard of the lusty earl, you’re in for a surprise. This week and next I’ll
be posting poems from the raunchiest rake in English history. The Earl of Rochester
(né John Wilmot) was the greatest lover of the seventeenth century and the
naughtiest poet since Aretino.
So famous were his charm and lovemaking, that Rochester-like
characters appeared in plays on the English stage for over a century after his death.
Ah, fame . . . and what better to be famous for?
But now, though Rochester’s legend has cooled, his poems remain as steamy as* * *
ever. The first is a dialogue between Rochester and a postboy, and is a kind of seventeenth-century
“mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the baddest of them all?” The postboy’s answer
won’t surprise us, for Rochester’s list of infamies is unrivaled. The second poem is a
dialogue between Rochester and his insatiable lover, Phyllis. He asks her why, if he
swives (fucks) so well, she has to take forty more lovers. Her response is classic — a call
to arms for nymphomaniacs everywhere. Finally, Rochester sings a little song against
having sex with a woman on her period (in seventeenth-century slang, when she’s “in time
of flowers”). And though the poem’s sentiment might be amiss, Rochester’s ditty still
makes for riotous reading, and is a worthy testament to the height of humor in the service
From The Complete Poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
To the Postboy
Rochester: Son of a whore, God damn you! Can you tell
A peerless peer the readiest way to Hell?
I’ve outswilled Bacchus, sworn of my own make
Oaths would fright Furies, and make Pluto quake;
I’ve swived more whores more ways than Sodom’s walls
E’er knew, or the College of Rome’s Cardinals.
Witness heroic scars — Look here, ne’er go! —
Cerecloths and ulcers from the top to toe!
Frightened at my own mischiefs, I have fled
And bravely left my life’s defender dead;
Broke houses to break chastity, and dyed
That floor with murder which my lust denied.
Pox on’t, why do I speak of these poor things?
I have blasphemed my God, and libeled kings!
The readiest way to hell — Come, quick!
The readiest way, my Lord, ‘s by Rochester.
The Mock Song
“I swive as well as others do;
I’m young, not yet deformed;
My tender heart, sincere and true,
Deserves not to be scorned.
Why Phyllis, then why will you swive,
With forty lovers more?”
“Can I,” said she, “with nature strive?
Alas I am, alas I am a whore!”
Were all my body larded o’er
With darts of love, so thick
That you might find in every pore
A well-stuck standing prick,
Whilst yet my eyes alone were free,
My heart would never doubt,
In amorous rage and ecstasy,
To wish those eyes, to wish those eyes fucked out.”
By all love’s soft, yet mighty powers,
It is a thing unfit
That men should fuck in time of flowers,
Or when the smock’s beshit.
Fair nasty nymph, be clean and kind,
And all my joys restore
By using paper still behind
And sponges for before.
My spotless flames can ne’er decay
If after every close,
My smoking prick escape the fray
Without a bloody nose.
If thou wouldst have me true, be wise
And take to cleanly sinning;
None but fresh lovers’ pricks can rise
At Phyllis in foul linen.