Friday, June 07, 2019


Three Libertines Converse

Thomas Shadwell (1642-1692), The Libertine, I.i.1-38:
Thus far without a bound we have enjoyed
Our prosp'rous pleasures, which dull fools call sins;
Laughed at old feeble judges and weak laws;
And at the fond, fantastic thing called conscience,
Which serves for nothing but to make men cowards;        5
An idle fear of future misery,
And is yet worse than all that we can fear.

Conscience made up of dark and horrid thoughts,
Raised from the fumes of a distempered spleen.

A senseless fear, would make us contradict        10
The only certain guide, infallible nature;
And, at the call of melancholy fools,
Who style all actions which they like not, sins,
To silence all our natural appetites.

Yet those conscientious fools that would persuade us         15
To I know not what, which they call piety,
Have in reserve private, delicious sins,
Great as the happy libertine enjoys,
With which, in corners, wantonly they roll.

Don John, thou art our oracle; thou hast        20
Dispelled the fumes which once clouded our brains.

By thee, we have got loose from education,
And the dull slavery of pupillage,
Recovered all the liberty of nature;
Our own strong reason now can go alone,        25
Without the feeble props of splenetic fools,
Who contradict our common mother, nature.

Nature gave us our senses, which we please,
Nor does our reason war against our sense.
By nature's order, sense should guide our reason,        30
Since to the mind all objects sense conveys.
But fools for shadows lose substantial pleasures,
For idle tales abandon true delight,
And solid joys of days for empty dreams at night.
Away, thou foolish thing, thou cholic of the mind,        35
Thou worm by ill-digesting stomachs bred.
In spite of thee, we'll surfeit in delights,
And never think ought can be ill that's pleasant.

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