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  4. A Song of a Young Lady to Her Ancient Lover by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
A Song of a Young Lady to Her Ancient Lover

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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 they pleasure shall improve
All that art can add to love.
Yet still I love thee without art,
Ancient person of my heart.

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A Song of a Young Lady to Her Ancient Lover

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  • John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester and Baron of Adderbury in England, Viscount Athlone in Ireland, infamous in his time for his life and works and admired for his deathbed performance, was the cynosure of the libertine wits of Restoration England. He was anathematized as evil incarnate and simultaneously adored for his seraphic presence, beauty, and wit, even from his first appearance at the court of Charles II. This mercurial figure left a body of literary work the exact dimensions of which have provided an almost intractable puzzle. Whatever answer is provided for this conundrum of scholarship, the extent of his corpus will be small in comparison to his reputation. The oeuvre, not intended for publication as ordinarily understood, is that of an aristocratic courtier. The works are meant to be seen, perhaps, as ephemera, as bright filaments of the central work of art, the author himself, rather than as...

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