Wilmot, second earl of Rochester (1680) Known for his pornographic poetry, John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester, couched his bawdy presentations in humor. Although he was often drunk and intolerably rude, court regulars appreciated his great wit, which often involved taking others to task for their hypocrisy.
His poems included graphic descriptions of the sex act and often demeaned those involved. While in "The Imperfect Enjoyment" the speaker at one point compares the whores to pigs, he also elevates his present partner to a position of power.
The couple described by the speaker begins on even terms, both naked, he "filled with love, and she all over charms; / Both equally inspired with eager fire." As their love- making progresses, the narrator proves at first an equal partner. His mind sends a message to "The all-dissolving thunderbolt below," and his "fluttering soul . . . / Hangs hovering o'er her balmy brinks of bliss" as they rapidly complete the sex act, Wilmot imitating the momentum through his use of quick-moving alliteration. However, when the woman responds with "a thousand kisses," she also asks, " 'Is there then no more?'" His initial ejaculation has been " 'to love and rapture's due,'" but she wonders, " ' Must we not pay a debt to pleasure too?'" The narrator then describes his inability to comply:
Eager desires confound my first intent, Succeeding shame does more success prevent, And rage at last confirms me impotent.
He does not blame his partner but rather rages against his "dead cinder," a "dart of love, whose piercing point, oft tried," at that moment proves unresponsive. Rochester adds interest with much figurative language (figure of speech), although he also uses specific vulgar terms for various body parts.
As the poem continues, the reader understands that the speaker accounts for his failure as the expression of a desire for pleasure from his partner. He rants:
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?
He proceeds to explain the lewd manners for which he has become so famous, comparing the female reaction to his invitation to have sex to "hogs," which "do rub themselves on gates and grunt." The speaker confesses to having enjoyed sex with "ten thousand" virgins. His organ "Stiffly resolved, 'twould carelessly invade /
Woman or man, nor aught its fury stayed." Yet in this instance when true love, rather than mere desire, is involved, it betrays him: "But when great Love the onset does command, / Base recreant to thy prince, thou dar'st not stand." In a send-up of the serious pastoral love poetry of the previous era, Rochester concludes by including a classical name familiar to those who read such poetry, as his speaker curses his traitorous sex organ, calling on "ten thousand," which are more able, "To do the wronged Corinna right for thee."
Not appearing in print until long after his death, most of Rochester's poetry is now available and has promoted a respectable amount of critical inquiry.
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