Debauchery

(c) Dillington House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

John Wilmot portrait by Peter Lely

After years of religious oppression under Cromwell and the puritans Britain was ready to release its pent up frustrations with gusto in the Glorious Revolution.  The restoration of Charles II to the monarchy in 1660 opened the doors to theater, dance, music and art.  Into this world stepped the famous libertine John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester.

Born April 1st 1647.  His father was a famous brave dashing cavalier and smuggled the young Charles out of England.  John had an up and down beginning to his career.  “Debauched” in Oxford, aged 13.  He tried to elope with a rich wife and was imprisoned in the Tower.  He volunteered to fight in the Navy and redeemed himself with heroism in battle.  His wit made him highly entertaining and favoured at court.  His pranks got him in trouble and rose to the level of treason and got him banned from court.

A famous rake in his day, the poem below gives a sense of his style.  He lived and wrote about overt sexuality.   He died aged only 33.  He is described as being drunk for 5 years in the company of what Andrew Marvell called “The Merry Gang”.  This was a gang of noble young blades who engaged in a feast of debauchery in the Court of King Charles.  It is thought that Wilmot died suffering from a variety of venereal diseases including Syphilis and Gonorrhea.

Because of his  lax moral character Wilmot was largely ignored in the Victorian era when poetry had a great flowering.  It was not until the 1920’s that he was re-admitted to polite society.

A Song Of A Young Lady To Her Ancient Lover ; by Lord John Wilmot

Ancient Person, for whom I
all the flattering youth defy,
long be it e’er 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 heart restore,
such kind show’rs in autumn fall,
and a second spring recall;
nor from thee will ever part,
Ancient Person of my heart.

Thy nobler parts, which but to name
in our sex would be counted shame,
by ages frozen grasp possest,
from their ice shall be released,
and, soothed by my reviving hand,
in former warmth and vigour 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.

Commission Number 1

Irish_Stamp_John_Barry

Born on this day in 1745 in Tacumshane, County Wexford, Ireland.  John Barry was the son of a poor tenant farmer.  He was raised on stories of the butchery of the Irish by the English under Cromwell.   Evicted by their English landlord they went to live in Rosslare with an uncle who owned a fishing skiff.  Barry carried a hatred of the British with him for the rest of his life.

Barry signed up as a cabin boy and worked his way up through the ranks and across the Atlantic to the American Colonies.  He was a successful merchant captain sailing between Philadelphia and the Caribbean.  He commanded many ships including the Barbados, the Patty and Polly, the Industry, the Page and the Black Prince.

He lost his brother Patrick “lost at sea on a French frigate the limey’s sunk.”  His hatred of the British deepened further.

In 1776, prior to the declaration of Independence, he was awarded a commission in the Continental Navy by John Hancock.  He went on to command the Delaware, the Lexington, the Raleigh and the Alliance.

So successful was Barry that the British offered him the huge sum of £100,000 and command of any Royal Navy Frigate if he would defect.  Captain Barry responded that not all the money in the British treasury or command of its entire fleet could tempt him to desert his adopted country

After the war, in 1797 Barry was issued Commission No.1 in the US Navy by George Washington and became thereafter “Commodore Barry” and “Father of the American Navy”.

In placing Barry at the head of the Navy I have special trust and confidence in [his] patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities” President George Washington

 

 

Happy Birthday Clifton Snider

Clifton

The best poetry is painful.  In many cases it carves open the poet, exposing their deepest insecurities to the world.  In certain cases it carves open society and exposes the rot at the core.  When poetry does this it becomes political.

When the Nationalists murdered Federico Garcia Lorca in the Spanish Civil War they said his pen was worth a regiment.  Brendan Kennelly in his Cromwell poems brutally illustrates that violence is perpetrated on all sides in conflict, and rejects the attempt by any one side to airbrush out it’s hand in the bloodletting.

Clifton Snider approached poetry through the lens of Jungian psychology.  In this regard I share an appreciation of his journey as it mirrors my own in some respects.  Snider is an academic who challenges conformity.

He took the US administration to task over the war in Iraq, setting up his own anti-war page. A Poet Against the War

He has been targeted by the Right in the USA for his criticism of the military led, profit oriented approach to US Foreign Policy.  His life has been placed in danger by the right.  When an ultra right wing mouthpiece denounces an academic they are aware that there is a legion of stupid white men out there, wrapped in the US flag and armed with assault rifles who are happy to pull the trigger on any clearly marked target.

An academic who specializes in psychological decoding of the works of Oscar Wilde : duck in a barrel.

But Snider is a fighter.  His poems are not shy retiring allusions or hidden allegories.  They are full frontal attacks, and he names the beast!  I doubt you will hear his poetry read on Prairie Chapel Ranch down there in Texas.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: by Clifton Snider

The woman with a scarf
at the food stand
asked for an ounce of flour:
she had three children
and a little water.

The American leader
squinted, eyes like oil pools.
He shot her point blank
in the temple.

His secretary of state
lopped off the arms & legs
of a soldier, pressed into service
by the sword of antiquity.

The minister of defense
ordered smart bombs to explode
the brains of a man in turban
old enough to remember
the American president
who provided his people arms
to fight their neighbor.