I love Rochester. So will you.

Sunday, 14 September, Year 6 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

john_wilmot He's the fellow leaning in from the left, John Wilmot 2nd Earl Rochester.

He was a major cultural exponent of the Charlist Restoration, reacting against the puritan nonsense previously in power under Cromwell and his murderous band of "reformists" and "improvers of the lot of mankind". Just by the time they were done fixing "global warming"i and enacting the XVIIth century version of "social justice", their heads fell off. Fancy that!

He died aged 33 (hey, just like Jesus!) from cockrot (hey, just like... nevermind), but before he did that he wrote a number of poems, among which A Satyr Against Reason and Mankind. Let's read it together.

    Were I (who to my cost already am one of those strange, prodigious creatures, man) a spirit free to choose, for my own share, what case of flesh and blood I pleased to wear, I'd be a dog, a monkey, or a bear, or anything but that vain animal, who is so proud of being rational.ii

    The senses are too grossiii, and he'll contrive - a sixth, to contradict the other five; and before certain instinct will prefer - Reason, which fifty times for one does err.iv Reason, an ignis fatuusv of the mind, which, leaving light of nature - sense - behind, pathless and dangerous wand'ring ways it takes through error's fenny bogs and thorny brakes.vi

    Whilst the misguided follower climbs with pain mountains of whimseys, heaped in his own brain, stumbling from thought to thought, falls headlong down into doubt's boundless sea where, like to drown, books bear him up awhile, and make him try to swim with bladdersvii of philosophy. In hopes still to o'ertake th' escaping light, the vapour dances in his dazzled sight till, spent, it leaves him to eternal night. Then old age and experience, hand in hand, lead him to death, and make him understand, after a search so painful and so long, that all his life he has been in the wrong. Huddled in dirt the reasoning engine lies, who was so proud, so witty, and so wise.

    Pride drew him in, as cheats their baubles catch, and made him venture to be made a wretch. His wisdom did his happiness destroy, aiming to know what world he should enjoy. And wit was his vain, frivolous pretense of pleasing others at his own expense. For wits are treated just like common whores: first they're enjoyed, and then kicked out of doors. The pleasure past, a threatening doubt remains that frights th' enjoyer with succeedingviii pains. Women and men of wit are dangerous tools, and ever fatal to admiring fools: pleasure allures, and when the fops escape 'tis not that they're beloved, but fortunate, and therefore what they fear, at heart they hate.ix

    But now, methinks, some formal bandx and beard takes me to task. Come on, sir; I'm prepared.

    “Then, by your favorxi, anything that's writ against this gibing, jingling knack called wit likes mexii abundantly; but you take care upon this point, not to be too severe. Perhaps my muse were fitter for this part, for I profess I can be very smart on wit, which I abhor with all my heart. I long to lash it in some sharp essay, but your grand indiscretion bids me stay and turns my tide of ink another way.xiii

    “What rage ferments in your degenerate mind to make you rail at reason and mankind? Blest, glorious man! to whom alone kind heaven an everlasting soul has freely given, whom his great Maker took such care to make that from himself he did the image take and this fair frame in shining reason dressed to dignify his nature above beast; Reason, by whose aspiring influence we take a flight beyond material sense, dive into mysteries, then soaring pierce the flaming limits of the universe, search heaven and hell, find out what's acted there, and give the world true grounds of hope and fear.”xiv

    Hold, mighty man, I cry, all this we know from the pathetic pen of Ingelo; from Patrick's Pilgrim, Sibbes' soliloquiesxv, and 'tis this very reason I despisexvi: this supernatural gift that makes a mite think he's an image of the infinite, comparing his short life, void of all rest, to the eternal and the ever blest; This busy, puzzling stirrer-up of doubt that frames deep mysteriesxvii, then finds 'em out, filling with frantic crowds of thinking fools - those reverend bedlams, colleges and schools. Borne on whose wings, each heavy sot can pierce the limits of the boundless universe; so charming ointments make an old witch fly and bear a crippled carcass through the skyxviii. 'Tis this exalted power, whose business lies in nonsense and impossibilities This made a whimsical philosopher before the spacious world, his tub preferxix, and we have modern cloistered coxcombs who retire to think 'cause they have nought to do.xx

    But thoughts are given for action's government - where action ceases, thought's impertinentxxi: our sphere of action is life's happinessxxii, and he that thinks beyond, thinks like an ass. Thus, whilst against false reasoning I inveigh, I ownxxiii right reason, which I would obey: that reason which distinguishes by sense and gives us rules of good and ill from thence, that bounds desires, with a reforming will to keep 'em more in vigour, not to kill. Your reason hinders, mine helps to enjoy, renewing appetites yours would destroy.xxiv My reason is my friend, yours is a cheat; hunger calls out, my reason bids me eat; Perversely, yours your appetite does mockxxv : this asks for food, that answers, “What's o'clock?” This plain distinction, sir, your doubt secures: 'tis not true reason I despise, but yours.

    Thus I think reason righted, but for man, I'll ne'er recant; defend him if you can. For all his pride and his philosophy, 'tis evident beasts are, in their own degree, as wise at least, and better far than he. Those creatures are the wisest who attain, by surest means, the ends at which they aim.xxvi If therefore Jowler finds and kills the hares better than Meresxxvii supplies committee chairs, though one's a statesman, th' other but a hound, Jowler, in justice, would be wiser found.xxviii

    You see how far man's wisdom here extends, look next if human nature makes amends: whose principles most generous are, and just, and to whose morals you would sooner trust. Be judge yourself, I'll bring it to the test: which is the basest creature, man or beast? Birds feed on birds, beasts on each other prey, but savage man alone does man betray. Pressed by necessity, they kill for food; man undoes man to do himself no good.xxix With teeth and claws by nature armed, they hunt nature's allowance, to supply their want. But man, with smiles, embraces, friendship, praise, inhumanly his fellow's life betrays; with voluntary pains works his distress, not through necessity, but wantonness.xxx

    For hunger or for love they fight and tear, whilst wretched man is still in arms for fear. For fear he arms, and is of arms afraid, from fear, to fear successively betrayed. Base fear, the source whence his best passions came: his boasted honor, and his dear-bought famexxxi; the lust of power to which he is such a slave and for the which alone he dares be brave; to which his various projects are designed, which makes him generous, affable, and kind; for which he takes such pains to be thought wise, and screwsxxxii his actions in a forced disguise leading a tedious life in misery under laborious, mean hypocrisy. Look to the bottom of his vast design wherein man's wisdom, power, and glory join: the good he acts, the ill he does endure, 'tis all from fear, to make himself secure. Merely for safety, after fame we thirst, for all men would be cowards if they durst.xxxiii

    And honesty's against all common sense: men must be knaves, 'tis in their own defence. Mankind's dishonest; if you think it fair among known cheats to play upon the square you'll be undone. Nor can weak truth your reputation save: the knaves will all agree to call you knave.xxxiv Wronged shall he live, insulted o'er, oppressed, who dares be less a villain than the rest.

    Thus sir, you see what human nature craves: most men are cowards, all men should be knaves. The difference lies, as far as I can see, not in the thing itself, but the degree, and all the subject matter of debate is only: who's a knave of the first rate?

    All this with indignation have I hurled at the pretending part of the proud world, who, swollen with selfish vanity, devise false freedoms, holy cheats, and formal lies over their fellow slaves to tyrannize. But if in Court so just a man there be (in Court, a just man, yet unknown to me) who does his needful flattery direct, not to oppress and ruin, but protect (since flattery, which way soever laid, is still a tax on that unhappy trade) if so upright a statesman you can find, whose passions bend to his unbiased mind, who does his arts and policies apply to raise his country, not his family, nor, whilst his pride owned avarice withstands, receives close bribes through friends' corrupted hands— is there a churchman who on God relies whose life, his faith and doctrine justifies? Not one blown up with vain prelatic pride, who, for reproof of sins, does man deride; whose envious heart makes preaching a pretense, with his obstreperous, saucy eloquence, to chide at kings, and rail at men of sense. None of that sensual tribe whose talents lie in avarice, pride, sloth, and gluttony; who hunt good livings, but abhor good lives; whose lust exalted to that height arrives they act adultery with their own wivesxxxv, and ere a score of years completed be, can from the lofty pulpit proudly see half a large parish their own progeny. Nor doting bishop, who would be adored for domineering at the council board, a greater fop in business at fourscore, fonder of serious toys, affected more, than the gay, glittering fool at twenty proves with all his noise, his tawdry clothes, and lovesxxxvi but a meek, humble man, of honest sense, who preaching peace, does practice continence; whose pious life's a proof he does believe mysterious truths, which no man can conceive. If upon earth there dwell such God-like men, I'll here recant my paradox to them, adore those shrines of virtue, homage pay, and, with the rabble world, their laws obey.

    If such there be, yet grant me this at least: man differs more from man, than man from beast.

So granted. Moving on.

———
  1. If you think the proposition that the Maw of Hell is about to open and swallow the world whole is in any sense novel or remarkable, you're exactly what's meant by fool. []
  2. Clear enough, and a point of view shared by the Easterners. []
  3. Imprecise. []
  4. This point is often glossed over too lightly. How often did you miss, naked with some beauty, trying to stick your bit in her ? Getting the belly button say instead ? And yet, how many times did you err, discovering later on the beauty's not what it seemed at first ? How often did you miss the cunt and how often did you select the wrong girl to not miss the cunt of ? He is on to something here. []
  5. False lights, wil-o-wisp, also known as bog lights. We have no idea what these actually were, whether premodern conceit or actual natural phenomenon, and on account of bogs and marshes being drained everywhere, we'll probably never know. At any rate the volume of reported sightings has gone down something fierce - and yet nobody seems to be protesting THIS extinction. A well. []
  6. The old - and at the time only - meaning of this term was "a place overgrown", thick vegetation. That later it came to mean "a hindrance to movement through friction and the apparatus that implements it" is not even all that surprising, is it. []
  7. He means floats. []
  8. Succeeding, as in, to follow, the past subjunctive of succeeded. Things that will occur in the future as definitely as if they were already in the past. []
  9. By the way : what is a blogger, or for that matter the meanwhile expired journalist, if not this wit ? Apparently, it doesn't end well. []
  10. As in, a member of some sort of mainstream club, such as for instance a church or other. The pangloss-on-duty, as it were. []
  11. In your view, ie, the view of the imagined OP. []
  12. He means to use the verb to like as if it were the verb to please. []
  13. Isn't this superb ? I'm going to use it, I feel described. []
  14. The socialist ever the utopian. He's an expert on the mores and fashions down below dontcha know.

    In any case, this factitious definition of mankind as "his reason" always poorly hides the speaker's true intent : to normalize his very own, personal brand of "reason" to the detriment of Reason per se. And so, never trust it, not because of the false dichotomy the preacher's always ready to foist (oh no, if you're not for Calvinism you're for EVIL!11) but because Reason is not reducible to some fuckwit's reasons. Godel, again. And again, and again, and again, and again. []

  15. Probably Nathaniel Ingelo, Simon Patrick and Richard Sibbes - a bunch of meanwhile forgotten self-help authors. They've been of late replaced with Marx, Carnagey, Ziggler, Engels, The Incredible Hulk et al, to roughly the same effect. []
  16. As an intransitive verb, not "I despise it" but just despise as a thing. []
  17. The extremely astute observation that the fake sort of scholarship resulting in establishments is always and everywhere a matter of framing, of carefully begging the questions to create the semblance of domination over the unknown space of possibility is indubitably the mark of genius. Which is why this rake is a genius and the very respectable clerics, meanwhile forgotten, he saw himself arguing with are not. []
  18. Dulap! []
  19. Diogenes, whom I daresay the writer has never properly read nor well understood. It happens. []
  20. You see the indignity coxcombs had to put up with afore social media were invented ? They had to retreat in their caves and "think" solitarily. Oh how the technology progresses us. []
  21. Impertinent means, of course, the opposite of pertinent and the whole construction is superb, and the second quotable bit in here. []
  22. This is nonsense, happiness is no more "our" sphere of action than the price of gas is the gas counter's sphere of action. It's true that the price of gas flows in large part from the workings of numerous such counters, but it's a metavariable to them, ever intangible. It's about as silly to say your happiness is your domain as to pretend whoever ends up elected is your responsibility, and at your vote's discretion. Good luck with that nonsense, if you can believe it you can believe anything and will probably die choking on an unicorn fishbone - at least in your own mind. []
  23. It's not a possesive, it's "to admit", like in "I own you are entitled to my daughter's bed". []
  24. So, don't tell me not to fuck and why not to fuck. Tell me instead how to fuck more, and what lube is best. A very antisocial if proper view of reason, and indeed the right way to do those sex ed classes. Or any other classes, for that matter.

    Imagine a world in which a guy is brought to the gallows not for having killed another, but for having done a very poor job of it. []

  25. Remember Pacino ? "Worship that ? Never!" []
  26. Yes, if only my aims were alligned with a donkey's how happily I'd be a donkey right then and there. []
  27. Thomas Meres, MP for Lincoln. Remembered here because he was Commissioner of the Admiralty at the time. []
  28. I wholeheartedly subscribe to this theory. I would rather sit in the company of a whore that's an excellent whore than in the company of a mediocre pope. []
  29. This is not a very good argument, wolves kill for sport and all felides too, just like we do. It's a weak line, all this, killing needs no excuse and no justification after the fact, much like there's no use crying over spilled milk otherwise or otherplaces. If you're going to do any thinking about killing, do it afore not after. []
  30. There's a fish that fishes fish with a glowing lure in the deep abyss of the ocean where Sun never shines. []
  31. Interesting point, but I do not credit it. Sure, some men are brave out of fear. They're usually known as and used as women. []
  32. Ha! []
  33. If they dare. Not so, but what does he know. []
  34. No, really. []
  35. Ha! Now how would that go ? []
  36. Ie, a man who at 80 derps on iPad games or something. []
Category: Cuvinte Sfiinte
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16 Responses

  1. Ha! Now how would that go ?

    Many ways. Candles, lingerie, masks, cuffs, toys, and heck, even a Russian accent.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    2
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 14 September 2014

    What's so adulterous about Russian accents. You know they're mostly orthodox over there.

  3. Well, Anna Karenina fell for Vronsky. Plus, Russian accents were just an example. The point being that exotic European accents are just that: exotic.

  4. God damn you to all buggery. You think you're so powerful you can blunder about massacring a good man's rhyme and rhythm? You can murder the meaning with your prolix prose?

    Books bear him up awhile, and make him try
    To swim with bladders of Philosophy;
    In hopes still to o'ertake the escaping light,
    The vapour dances, in his dazzled sight,
    Till, spent, it leaves him to eternal night.

    He means 'bladders', and he means a 'sprung' line.

    некультурный, невоспитанный

  5. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    5
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 14 September 2014

    @Pete Dushenski Except in Europe, of course :)

    Which reminds me of last night's film, Roberto Rossellini's Viaggio in Italia, where the leading man (same guy playing the trappist monk in All About Eve) fails to make "the proper gesture for drink" early in the morning, to the confounding of the housekeep. God help him had he made the wrong gesture for fucking, poor Strauss-Kahn comes to mind.

    @hoipster A, so you do love Rochester.

    Anyway, I didn't butcher neither his rhyme nor rhythm, he did that. Count it for yourself on an "orignal", he's inept and the result is nominally rather poor. All I did was - I took away the random line breaks (and seriously, all this line-and-verse poetry bullshit has got to go, it's like wearing glasses to be a scholar by now). I didn't change syllabic count nor replace any words.

    And specifically so as to avoid murdering anything with prose, I put all the prose in notes, so the text can flow without intercourse.

    Now why you hate me for all that ?

  6. I don't neither ... dammit, now you've got me killing language itself too. Start again.
    I neither love him nor hate you. A sneaking admiration for the writings of both, perhaps. No, I was mean to you for your (now continued) confusion of poetry and prose. Lord Rochester wasn't the eptest poet or philosopher, but your 'prosification' and many of your notes serve to mock you much more than him. Perhaps you should stick to your Hollywood reviews.

  7. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    7
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 14 September 2014

    What do you think a blog is in the first place if not a freehand exercise in mocking its author. People should be less afraid of this mockery business, it's unhealthy.

    But since we're
    here, do explain
    what that
    difference
    is. I would
    hope not
    pagination ?

  8. Watch out guys, we've got an e.e. cummings over here.

  9. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    9
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 14 September 2014

    There was a young poet named Dan, whose poetry never would scan. When told this was so he said, "Yes, I know,
    It's
    Because
    I
    Try
    To
    Put
    Every
    Possible
    Syllable
    Into
    That
    Last
    Line
    That
    I
    Can.

    "

  10. Did not know this about blogs, and I have, then, missed the submetaparatext of the above one.

    Heard that poetry is for lovers, drama for fighters, prose for scientists and fiction for children. Piffle aside, yes, form or layout often feature more in one than the other. But that is a small part of the art or skill of writing. There is no science to it. Linguisticsists may now mock me.

  11. There once was an X from Place B Who satisfied Predicate P. The X did Thing A In a specified way Resulting in Circumstance C.

  1. [...] If you’re an aspiring writer, whether your strength lay in prose like in the case of the late lord Rochester or in verse like in your own imagination, the odds are that you have, and if you have not it would [...]

  2. [...] a very poisonous tree - understanding takes time, and by the time it's all done life went by and, to quote, Huddled in dirt the reasoning engine lies, who was so proud, so witty, and so [...]

  3. [...] are both the same thing ; they are presented as separate things because - let's quote Rochester : Whilst the misguided follower climbs with pain mountains of whimseys, heaped in his own brain, [...]

  4. [...] as well as his treatment by others is strictly a relation of his fame score, which is the point of Rochester's Look to the bottom of his vast design wherein man's wisdom, power, and glory join: the good he [...]

  5. [...] The only reason is that you're insane and are hallucinating pills and swallowings. [↩]"All men'd be cowards if they durst", yes ? [↩]Modernism is always illusionary in nature ; if the whys and wherefores aren't [...]

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