(While Preparing His Pet Monkey to Present at Court)
Pass round the bloody bottle, man— It’s hellish work when Lords must plan Mere devilment for idle fools. Sweet Jesu’— how the monster mewls. Hold fast the mad brute’s wretched arm! I’ll gut you if she comes to harm; God damn you, Sackville, mind her teeth! Now wrap this silken sheet beneath Her privy parts— a pin, a pin! Go fetch the sack and pop her in... You ass! You fumble-fingered clown, She’s leapt, and who’s to get her down? Come friends, which peerless, noble peer Will venture up a chandelier To fetch my shiv’ring half-dressed ape? Not you? ’Twas I who let her ’scape? Then that’s a first— proud Prince of Pox, That John should let slip Goldilocks When once she hath removed her clothes, While Dorset smirks and Villiers crows. This piss-pot may not be denied, A bowl of wine shall curb her pride— See now, she comes —she loves to sup— And while she swills I snap her up, Just so! Fond limb around me curls, We’ll deck her neck in jewels and pearls, A jade’s brooch clasped to furry throat, And French lace on her petticoat. This turban slid upon her head— She’s fit for any sultan’s bed. The sleeping draught? ’Twas in the wine, And when she wakes her eyes will shine. A toast! Our merry monarch’s health, To cuckold husbands, Wit and Wealth! To all the joy that Youth affords, And Monkeys in the House of Lords!
Mandalay, Mustique March 24, 2005
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, (1647-80), encompassed in his short life the roles of King’s companion, abductor of women, heroic sea officer, roisterer, whoremaster, drunkard, practical joker, wit, rakehell, pornographer and Restoration poet. He died aged 33, probably of syphilis. He has been called ‘…one of the most remarkable and most gifted men of his remarkable and gifted century’. Rochester’s poetry is not for the faint-hearted, but the best of it rings down the centuries with a moral ambivalence and intellectual honesty sadly lacking in this politically correct age. For an anodyne taste of Rochester, try any of the following poems, all widely anthologised: ‘Upon Nothing’, ‘A Satire against Reason and Mankind’, ‘Rochester to the Post Boy’, ‘A Song of a Young Lady to an Ancient Lover’ or ‘The Maim’d Debauchee’. The claim that Rochester converted to Christianity during his last illness may or may not be true. What is certain is that seduction, both of reader and subject, is the cardinal virtue of his poetic works. As it was, one suspects, of his life.
Charles Sackville (6th Earl of Dorset) and George Villiers (2nd Duke of Buckingham) were Rochester’s bosom companions in debauchery and high living. Rochester really did attempt to persuade Charles II to make his pet monkey a Peer of the Realm— and came perilously close to succeeding!