Poem introduction

A tender, if rather intricate, love poem by John Wilmot Earl of Rochester, 'The Mistress', where he declares in a rather original way, that the jealousy, doubt and fear that others may note in his relationship with the woman in question only serves to prove his passion and dedication, and they both emerge blessed in the end.

The Mistress

An age, in her embraces past,
Would seem a winter’s day;
Where life and light with envious haste,
Are torn and snatched away.

But oh, how slowly minutes roll,
When absent from her eyes,
That feed my love, which is my soul:
It languishes and dies.

For then no more a soul, but shade,
It mournfully does move
And haunts my breast, by absence made
The living tomb of love.

You wiser men, despise me not
Whose love-sick fancy raves,
On shades of souls, and heaven knows what:
Short ages live in graves.

Whene’er those wounding eyes, so full
Of sweetness, you did see,
Had you not been profoundly dull,
You had gone mad like me.

Nor censure us, you who perceive
My best beloved and me,
Sigh and lament, complain and grieve:
You think we disagree.

Alas! ’tis sacred Jealousy,
Love raised to an extreme;
The only proof 'twixt her and me,
We love, and do not dream.

Fantastic fancies fondly move
And in frail joys believe,
Taking false pleasure for true love;
But pain can ne’er deceive.

Kind jealous doubts, tormenting fears,
And anxious Cares, when past,
Prove our hearts’ treasure fixed and dear,
And make us blest at last.

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John Wilmot Earl of Rochester

John Wilmot Downloads read by Alan Brownjohn

1Upon Nothing


2A Satyr Against Mankind


3The Maim'd Debauchee


4The Mistress


5A Song of a young Lady, to her Ancient Lover


Books by John Wilmot Earl of Rochester