Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature Rose of King Charles II Earl of Rochester

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Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century



Earl of Rochester


Upon  N O T H I N G.

Nothing! thou Elder Brother ev'n to Shade,
That hadst a Being ere the World was made,
And (well fixt) art alone, of Ending not afraid.

Ere Time and Place were, Time and Place were not,
When Primitive Nothing something streight begot,
Then all proceeded from the great united—What.

Something, the gen'ral Attribute of all,
Sever'd from thee, its sole Original,
Into thy boundless self must undistinguish'd fall.

Yet Something did thy mighty Pow'r command,
And from thy fruitful Emptiness's Hand,
Snatch'd Men, Beasts, Birds, Fire, Air and Land.

Matter, the wickedst Off-spring of thy Race,
By Form assisted, flew from thy Embrace,
And Rebel Light obscur'd thy reverend dusky Face.

With Form and Matter, Time and Place did join;
Body, thy foe, with thee did Leagues combine,
To spoil thy peaceful Realm, and ruin all thy Line.

But Turn-coat Time assists the Foe in vain,
And, brib'd by thee, assists thy short-liv'd Reign,
And to thy hungry Womb drives back thy Slaves again.

Tho' Mysteries are barr'd from Laick Eyes,
And the Divine alone, with Warrant, pries
Into thy Bosom, where the Truth in private lies:

Yet this of thee the Wise may freely say,
Thou from the Virtuous nothing tak'st away,
And to be part with thee the Wicked wisely pray.

Great Negative, how vainly would the Wise
Enquire, define, distinguish, teach, devise?
Didst thou not stand to point their dull Philosophies.

Is, or is not, the Two great Ends of Fate,
And, true or false, the Subject of Debate,
That perfect, or destroy, the vast Designs of Fate;

When they have rack'd the Politician's Breast,
Within thy Bosom most securely rest,
And, when reduc'd to thee, are least unsafe and best.

But, Nothing, why does Something still permit,
That Sacred Monarchs should at Council sit,
With Persons highly thought at best for nothing fit?

Whilst weighty Something modestly abstains,
From Princes Coffers, and from Statesmens Brains,
And Nothing there like stately Nothing reigns.

Nothing, who dwell'st with Fools in grave Disguise,
For whom they reverend Shapes, and Forms devise,
Lawn Sleeves, and Furs, and Gowns, when they
          like thee look wise.

French Truth, Dutch Prowess, British Policy,
Hibernian Learning, Scotch Civility,
Spaniards Dispatch, Danes Wit, are mainly seen in thee.

The Great Man's Gratitude to his best Friend,
Kings Promises, Whores Vows, towards thee they bend,
Flow swiftly into thee, and in thee ever end.

Rochester, John Wilmot, Earl of. The Works of John Earl of Rochester.
London: Jacob Tonson, 1714. 68-70.


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Page created by Anniina Jokinen on September 24, 2012.


Restoration & 18th-century:

Samuel Butler
John Dryden
Samuel Pepys
John Bunyan
Aphra Behn
John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea
Mary Astell
William Congreve
Matthew Prior
Daniel Defoe
John Gay
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Jonathan Swift
Joseph Addison
Sir Richard Steele
James Thomson
Alexander Pope
Dr. Samuel Johnson
Thomas Gray
William Collins
Christopher Smart
Oliver Goldsmith
George Crabbe
William Cowper
James Boswell
Essays and Articles
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