Jack’s Naughty Bits: Earl of Rochester, “Upon Leaving His Mistress” and “A Ramble in St. James’s Park”

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Jack's Naughty Bits

It’s an oft-noted double standard: when men have a lot of lovers, they’re called studs, when women do, they’re called sluts. I’ve had any number of conversations with male friends about their frustrations with their girlfriends’ active pasts. At such times, the fabulous Rodney Dangerfield joke always comes to mind (it goes something like this):


“So does your wife give good head?”
“Yeah, fantastic head.”
“You mean she gives halfway decent head?”
“Yeah, she’s absolutely amazing.”

“You mean she kinda knows what she’s doing in that department?”
“Yeah, she’s simply marvelous.”
So how do you think she got so good . . . ?

    While it’s pretty clear that there’s a logical rift in men wanting women to be virginal and then lamenting when they don’t put out, the more subtle contradiction that Dangerfield is on to, of course, is that practice makes more perfect, and more tends to make for merrier. This is an important reminder for those men who would criticize some women for being promiscuous and others for having bum bedroom technique. I, personally, would have all my lovers be old pros. I want them to have enough sexual acumen that they realize sex isn’t just skill; I want them in permanent communion with their skin and response; I want them to have the laid back confidence that old jazz musicians have, and I want to be able to improvise, to roll with each other’s changes, to work in each other’s beat, jive with their melody, stay in key. Sex is a kind of extemporized duet, and I want a jam session.

The poems below, from the prodigally profligate John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, are having none of it. Wilmot, who swived any number of women, men, girls and boys in late seventeenth century England, spilled a lot of poetic ink berating his mistresses for their dalliances. These two poems display the double standard at its most pointed, and are ample evidence that, history over, men have felt little compunction to practice the sexual mores they preach.


From The Complete Poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

“Upon Leaving His Mistress”

‘Tis not that I am weary grown
Of being yours, and yours alone;
But with what face can I incline
To damn you to be only mine?
You, whom some kinder power did fashion,
By merit and by inclination,
The joy at least of one whole nation.

Let meaner spirits of your sex
With humbler aims their thoughts perplex,
And boast if by their arts they can
Contrive to make one happy man;
Whilst, moved by an impartial sense,
Favors like nature you dispense
With universal influence.

See, the kind seed-receiving earth
To every grain affords a birth.
On her no showers unwelcome fall;
Her willing womb retains ’em all.
And shall my Celia be confined?
No! Live up to thy mighty mind,
And be the mistress of mankind.

From “A Ramble in St. James’s Park”

So proud a bitch does lead about
Of humble curse the amorous rout,
Who most obsequiously do hunt
The savory scent of salt-swol’n cunt.
Some power more patient now relate
The sense of this surprising fate.
Gods! That a thing admired by me
Should fall to so much infamy.
Had she picked out, to rub her arse on,
Some stiff-pricked clown or well-hung parson,
Each job of whose spermatic sluice
Had filled her cunt with wholesome juice,
I the proceeding should have praised
In hope sh’ had quenched a fire I raised.
Such natural freedoms are but just;
There’s something generous in mere lust.
But to turn damned abandoned jade
When neither head nor tail persuade;
To be a whore in understanding,
A passive pot for fools to spend in!
The devil played booty, sure, with thee
To bring a blot on infamy.
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 privilege above
The nice allowances of love?
Did I ever refuse to bear
The meanest part your lust could spare?

When your lewd cunt came spewing home
Drenched with the seed of half the town,
My dram of sperm was supped up after
For the digestive surfeit water.
Full gorgèd at another time
With a vast meal of nasty slime
Which your devouring cunt had drawn
From porters’ backs and footmen’s brawn,
I was content to serve you up
My ballock-full for your grace cup,
Nor ever thought it an abuse
While you had pleasure for excuse —
You that could make my heart away
For noise and color, and betray
The secrets of my tender hours
To such knight-errant paramours,
When, leaning on your faithless breast,
Wrapped in security and rest,
Soft kindness all my powers did move,
And reason lay dissolved in love!

last week next week

Jack Murnighan‘s stories appeared in the Best American Erotica editions of 1999, 2000 and 2001. His weekly column for Nerve, Jack’s Naughty Bits, was collected and released as two books. He was the editor-in-chief of Nerve from 1999 to 2001, before retiring to write full time and take seriously the quest for love.

Introduction ©2000 Jack Murnighan and, Inc.