A Satyr on Charles II

By John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

Edited and annotated by Jack Lynch

A letter of 20 January 1674 explains a story behind this poem: “My Lord Rochester fled from Court some time since for delivering (by mistake) into the King’s hands a terrible lampoon of his own making against the King, instead of another the King asked him for.”

In th’ isle of Britain, long since famous grown

For breeding the best cunts in Christendom,
There reigns, and oh! long may he reign and thrive,
The easiest King and best-bred man alive.
Him no ambition moves to get renown [5]
moves = inspires
Like the French fool, that wanders up and down
Starving his people, hazarding his crown.
hazarding = risking
Peace is his aim, his gentleness is such,
And love he loves, for he loves fucking much.

    Nor are his high desires above his strength: [10]

His scepter and his prick are of a length;
And she may sway the one who plays with th’ other,
sway = influence
And make him little wiser than his brother.
Poor Prince! thy prick, like thy buffoons at Court,
Will govern thee because it makes thee sport. [15]
govern = control
’Tis sure the sauciest prick that e’er did swive,
swive = fuck
The proudest, peremptoriest prick alive.
peremptoriest = most dictatorial
Though safety, law, religion, life lay on ’t,
though = even if; lay = depended
’Twould break through all to make its way to cunt.
Restless he rolls about from whore to whore, [20]
A merry monarch, scandalous and poor.

    To Carwell, the most dear of all his dears,

The best relief of his declining years,
Oft he bewails his fortune, and her fate:
bewails = complains about
To love so well, and be beloved so late. [25]
For though in her he settles well his tarse,
tarse = dick
Yet his dull, graceless bollocks hang an arse.
bollocks = balls
This you’d believe, had I but time to tell ye
The pains it costs to poor, laborious Nelly,
pains = effort
Whilst she employs hands, fingers, mouth, and thighs, [30]
Ere she can raise the member she enjoys.
    All monarchs I hate, and the thrones they sit on,
    From the hector of France to the cully of Britain.

hector = bully; cully = cuckold


The French fool
Louis XIV.
Peace is his aim
Charles II had just negotiated a peace after the Third Dutch War.
Of a length
Of the same length.
Charles II’s brother was James, the Duke of York, later King James II.
Louise de Keroualle, the Duchess of Portsmouth. She was one of Charles’s favorite mistresses.
Hang an arse
“A vulgar phrase, signifying to be tardy, sluggish, or dilatory" (Johnson). Arse is still the common British spelling for ass in the sense of “buttocks"; it’s vulgar, and not a euphemism as it is in America.
Nell Gwyn, Charles’s most famous mistress.