Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 50
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The poem ends with a cursory mention of a sexual liaison with a woman that implies the
poetic persona, in contrast to his desire for a permanent relationship with a man, perfunctorily
returns to heterosexual love out of an obligation to a (presumably) committed or permanent
relationship. The narrator sets up his monologue as a statement about male friendship with
homosexual implications, but shifts his argument in the concluding line of the poem. He writes:
Cupid and Bacchus, my Saints are,
May drink, and Love, still reign,
With Wine, I wash away my cares,
And then to Cunt again. ("Drinking" 1. 21-24, my emphasis)
Not only does the narrator's argument shift, but the tone of the poem shifts in the final line. We
see the poem transform from an idyllic treatment of homosexual romantic love-that includes
both the physical and emotional components-to a reluctant return to heterosexual love-a
relationship in which the emotional, romantic attachment typical in a relationship is absent-or
what Harold Weber calls "a brutalization and debasement of the erotic" (Weber 102-103). This
attitude towards heterosexual relations adheres to the traits of libertines in that the narrator deems
relationships with men as superior to relationships with women. The narrator's statement, "And
then to cunt again" (Drinking 1. 24) implies a physical relationship, albeit a long-term, committed
relationship that is possibly a marriage, for sexual release instead of a relationship that is both
emotional and physical. Unlike the picture of the two male lovers on the drinking cup ("Then
add Two lovely Boys; /Their Limbs in Amorous folds intwine" ["Drinking" 1. 23-24), the poetic
persona relegates the sexual interaction with the woman to a physical act. He does not afford the
almost absent woman of the poem agency, identity, or emotion, but speaks of her as a mere
reproductive organ. Instead of looking forward to "future joys" with this woman, the poetic
persona reluctantly goes to her "again" with a "mechanical attitude" towards copulating with her
(1. 20, 24, Patterson 11). If the narrator is an authentic libertine and thus engaging in anonymous
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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/m1/56/?q=rochester: accessed February 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .