I’ve recently been on quite a 17th century poetry spree. My heart may belong wholly to the 18th century and all the individuals who made a part of it but until quite recently,I read the works of…..oh,how I hate to admit this,Victorian poets. This was remedied by a recent perusal of some famously licentious poems by the ‘Libertine poets’. This band of people who eschewed the moral restrictions society laid down proceeded to inspire artists and those with a penchant for writing by making their own views on morals all too clear. Their actions may seem like nothing unusual to us nowadays but it was all shockingly scandalous back then.
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester
In my opinion,the essence of this defiance was captured in the writings of John Wilmot,2nd Earl of Rochester. Here are parts from his poem, ‘Against Constancy’ : ‘Tell me no more of constancy,that frivolous pretense/Strew my bed/I’ll change a mistress till I’m dead’. This poem’s filled with such disdain for any sort of constancy even to a mistress because even that would command the ILLUSION of minor respectability. To be quite honest,smutty poetry is what it is-smutty. I always like to think that some 17th century poets used it partially as a front for expressing opinions on society and some just because that’s what they felt. Of course,with libertinism comes a degree of vanity and I DO NOT say that with any hint of prudishness. That may be left to the latter half of the 19th century. This vanity is what makes us (certainly me) adore these poets,composers,authors,artists and so forth. There are few things as attractive as someone who knows their own self worth!