to week two of the Earl of Rochester special. Last week, you got an introduction to the
rakishness of the Macdaddy of the Restoration, but this week you’ll get to see his softer side. And by soft I
mean not hard. Limp, detumescent, flaccid, droopy, withered, recently spent; in other words, not hard at all.
For even Rochester, apparently, was occasionally felled by that supremely male condition: the
quick trigger, followed by the unwilling willie. Though we men rarely talk about it publically (or even
with each other), sometimes when the equipment is really needed, it’s just not up for the task. And
normally it happens right when it matters most, when the woman (or man) you adore is really hot to trot,
on that dreamy night when it should have all worked out. Alas, such are the vagaries of the male beast.
We are fragile things, and, loath as we are to admit it, we actually do have hang-ups. As Woody Allen
demonstrated so beautifully in the last skit of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, the
voices in the brain headquarters should be kept as far away as possible from the men working the turbines
in the erection room. Too much desire means too much pressure means too much threat to the ego, and the
whole house of cards can crumble under the weight. Not, of course, that it’s ever happened to me
. . .
Rochester’s case is about as bad as it gets. A quick spurt and then . . . And* * *
then? This is his lover’s question, and his body has no answer. Quite the pickle. But I’ll let you read it for yourself,
for the comic value is tops. And see if Rochester’s solution doesn’t make you blush.
“The Imperfect Enjoyment” from The Complete Poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Naked she lay, clasped in my longing arms,
I filled with love, and she all over charms;
Both equally inspired with eager fire,
Melting through kindness, flaming in desire,
With arms, legs, lips close clinging to embrace,
She clips me to her breast, and sucks me to her face.
Her nimble tongue, Love’s lesser lightning, played,
Within my mouth, and to my thoughts conveyed
Swift orders that I should prepare to throw
The all-dissolving thunderbolt below.
My fluttering soul, sprung with the pointed kiss,
Hangs hovering o’er her balmy brinks of bliss.
But whilst her busy hand would guide that part
Which should convey my soul up to her heart,
In liquid raptures I dissolve all o’er,
Melt into sperm, and spend at every pore.
A touch from any part of her had done ‘t:
Her hand, her foot, her very look’s a cunt.
Smiling, she chides in a kind murmuring noise,
And from her body wipes the clammy joys,
When, with a thousand kisses wandering o’er
My panting bosom, “Is there then no more?”
She cries. “All this to love and rapture’s due;
Must we not pay a debt to pleasure too?”
But I, the most forlorn, lost man alive,
To show my wished obedience vainly strive:
I sigh: alas! and kiss, but cannot swive.
Eager desires confound my first intent,
Succeeding shame does more success prevent,
And rage at last confirms me impotent.
Ev’n her fair hand, which might bid heat return
To frozen age, and make cold hermits burn,
Applied to my dead cinder, warms no more
Than fire to ashes could past flames restore.
Trembling, confused, despairing, limber, dry,
A wishing, weak, unmoving lump I lie.
This dart of love, whose piercing point oft tried,
With virgin blood ten thousand maids have dyed;
Which nature still directed with such art
That it through every cunt reached every heart —
Stiffly resolved, ‘twould carelessly invade
Woman or man, nor ought its fury stayed:
Where’er it pierced, a cunt it found or made —
Now languid lies in this unhappy hour,
Shrunk up and sapless like a withered flower.
Thou treacherous, base deserter of my flame,
False to my passion, fatal to my fame,
Through what mistaken magic dost thou prove
So true to lewdness, so untrue to love?
What oyster-cinder-beggar-common whore
Didst thou e’er fail in all thy life before?
When vice, disease, and scandal led the way,
With what officious haste dost thou obey!
Like a rude, roaring hector in the streets
Who scuffles, cuffs and justles all he meets,
But if his king or country claims his aid,
The rakehell villain shrinks and hides his head;
Ev’n so thy brutal valor is displayed,
Breaks every stew, does each small whore invade,
But when great Love the onset does command,
Base recreant to thy prince, thou dar’st not stand.
Worst part of me, and henceforth hated most,
Through all the town a common fucking post,
On whom each whore relieves her tingling cunt
As hogs on gates do rub themselves and grunt,
Mayst thou to ravenous chancres be a prey,
Or in consuming weepings waste away;
May strangury and stone thy days attend;
May’st thou ne’er piss, who didst refuse to spend
When all my joys did on false thee depend.
And may ten thousand abler pricks agree
To do the wronged Corinna right for thee.