Jack’s Naughty Bits: The Earl of Rochester, “The Debauchee”

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Jack's Naughty Bits

One of the undiluted joys of my life has been to wake in the arms of my lover, slide myself beneath her, make luscious morning love, watch her get up, dress and leave for work, then roll back over and sleep till noon. There is no richer sleep than the antemeridian post-coital, knowing that, while you saw log after oneiric log, your one and only is nine-to-fiving on your behalf.

I was lucky to find myself in a position to savor this joy every now and then for much of my twenties. By a series of curious quirks of fate, I held jobs from the ages of ten to twenty (first as a busboy in my stepfather’s restaurant, then as a dishwasher in a Chinese Mafia front), but was more or less unemployed from twenty to thirty. For most of that period, I was either living the bohemian good life in Europe on money I had saved, or doing a Ph.D. and reading on my back all day. I had discovered the life of leisure, and I liked it.

Eventually adulthood caught up with me, and I was forced back to work. Now, like most people, I set a morning alarm, pack my lunch in Tupperware and come home after dark. My beloved sleeps beside me, then sends me off with a kiss. It’s a sad irony that precisely now that I’ve found someone with whom I can make the most of loving and being in love, I have the least time to do so. This morning, after one snooze too many, I tried to sneak over her sleeping torso to drag on my pants and run to the office. She lolled awake, not knowing the time, and pulled me close. There were doves outside the window and I couldn’t hear the clock . . .

This week’s poem is a celebration of sloth, of sex and of sleeping late. It’s by that naughty seventeenth-century rake himself, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, whom I featured in two columns last year. Though the early bird might catch the worm, the late bird, ah, the late bird . . .

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“The Debauchee” by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

I rise at eleven, I dine about two,
I get drunk before sev’n; and the next thing I do,

I send for my whore, when for fear of a clap,
I spend in her hand, and I spew in her lap;
Then we quarrel and scold, ’till I fall fast asleep,

When the bitch, growing bold, to my pocket does creep;
Then slyly she leaves me, and, to revenge the affront,
At once she bereaves me of money and cunt.

If by chance then I wake, hotheaded and drunk,

What a coil do I make for the loss of my punk?

I storm and I roar, and I fall in a rage,

And missing my whore, I bugger my page.

Then, crop-sick all morning, I rail at my men,

And in bed I lie yawning ’till eleven again.

© The Earl of Rochester