An untitled poem by the Earl of Rochester.

First published in 1693 in Examen Poeticum, its composition date is unknown.

Insulting Beauty, you misspend
         Those frowns upon your slave:
Your scorn against such rebels bend
Who dare with confidence pretend
That other eyes their hearts defend
         From all the charms you have.

Your conquering eyes so partial are,
         Or mankind is so dull,
That while I languish in despair,
Many proud, senseless hearts declare
They find you not so killing fair
         To wish you merciful.

They an inglorious freedom boast;
         I triumph in my chain.
Nor am I unrevenged, though lost
Nor you unpunished, though unjust,
When I alone, who love you most,
         Am killed with your disdain.

Source: The Works of The Earl of Rochester; edited by David M. Vieth.

One of my favourites of Wilmot's works, this speaks of the injustice of unrequited love and of people's tendency to scorn and feel contempt for those who love them selflessly.

Do we not love those most, who are unattainable?

It is also an example of Wilmot's less bawdy verses of which there were quite a few. Indeed (though it might not be surprising) most of his surviving works were on the topic of love, requited or otherwise and many were of a tragic vein.

It should not be surprising perhaps that though his reputation was of a libertine, his documentary record suggests otherwise. His published work is largely chaste or perhaps euphemistic or suggestive, it is his private work included in letters and recited at parties that built his reputation and it is this reputation that is talked of by diarists (including Pepys) but which only exists today in the form of the odd surviving letter he sent to someone who thought it worth preserving.

CST Approved

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