Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 38
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regarding reason: "This is not an attack on human reason in its totality, nor is it an attempt to
base life on a voluntaristic or instinctual basis: Rochester is himself too rationalistic to deny
reason completely" (578)-hence, the narrator's defiance of what one typically regards as reason
and his acceptance of right reason. In lines 25-30 of the poem, the poetic persona assumes a tone
of reluctance and disappointment at the idea of following reason. He says:
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 reas'ning Engine lyes,
Who was so proud, so witty, so wise. (Satyr 1. 25-30)
Since "Old Age and experience" come "hand in hand," the older men must submit themselves to
"the reas'ning Engine" and can no longer live as libertines following their natural instincts (1. 25,
29). However, according to the narrator, the fate of older men is not as simple as switching
one's allegiance from libertinism to reason.
At old age these libertines, or "young debauchees," must renounce their former libertine
behavior and replace it with behavior that models reason and implicitly obeys institutional
authority. Once these young men reach old age, the narrator argues, they realize their libertine
approach "all [their] Life has been in the wrong" (1. 28). Instead of directly stating that living
according to the dictates of reason offers one nothing but monotony and dependence on authority
figures, the poetic persona expresses opposition to following instincts. The life of freedom from
authority and rules established by virtually all forms of authority does not guarantee or bring
about happiness, but destroys happiness (1. 33). By following their own "wisdom" instead of the
wisdom set forth by reason, older individuals realize their "pride," "wit," "wisdom" and
"equat[ing] [of] instinctual gratification with happiness" led to their relegating status of
"Wretch" (Satyr 1. 30-32, Chernaik 67). That is, adhering to the libertine lifestyle results in
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Smith, Victoria. Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell, dissertation, May 2008; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc6051/m1/44/?q=rochester: accessed May 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .