Saturday, November 10, 2018

Wilmot's "Song of a Young Girl to Her Ancient Lover"

The Poetry Foundation wrote that John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647–1680), "was the cynosure of the libertine wits of Restoration England." And that Wilmot "[...] was ranked as a poet second only to John Dryden, a judgment accorded as much to his genius as to his scandalous lewdness." 

Anthony Madrid shared in his post, "Porn Poetry" on The Paris Review, that the students in his poetry section were "squirming" after an undergraduate read aloud Wilmot's "Song of a Young Girl to Her Ancient Lover".

Song of a Young Girl to Her Ancient Lover

Ancient person, for whom I
All the flattering youth defy,
Long be it ere thou grow old,
Aching, shaking, crazy, cold;
But still continue as thou art,
Ancient person of my heart.

On thy withered lips and dry,
Which like barren furrows lie,
Brooding kisses I will pour,
Shall thy youthful heat restore
(Such kind showers in autumn fall,
And a second spring recall);
Nor from thee will ever part,
Ancient person of my heart.

Thy nobler part, which but to name
In our sex would be counted shame,
By age’s frozen grasp possessed,
From his ice shall be released,
And, soothed by my reviving hand,
In former warmth and vigor stand.
All a lover’s wish can reach
For thy joy my love shall teach,
And for thy pleasure shall improve
All that art can add to love.
Yet still I love thee without art,
Ancient person of my heart.

A LIT24 student aptly analyzed the poem on eNotes by posting that the: "[...] bawdy verses satirizes the desires of an old impotent man to be reinvigorated and aroused by the warm caresses of an imaginary young lover." 

Wilmot "[...] presents the desires of am old man to be fondled by the young woman as the desires of that young woman herself."

"The young woman is presented as being very submissive and willing to sacrifice all her joys and pleasures of being wooed by a young and virile lover for the sake of stroking her 'ancient' lover and kissing him to revive his dying sexual drive"

"The young woman assures her old and impotent lover that she will use all the sexual techniques ['art'] at her command to give him the maximum sexual satisfaction and thereby prove that she loves him all the more."