The conceptual systems of romance and libertinism appear to offer opposing solutions to human frustration, and Rochester's poetry is typically read as endorsing one or the other perceptual mode. But such a neat division between idealized courtly love and unimpeded creaturely passion is untenable. I propose to demonstrate Rochester's awareness of the cohesion of romance sanguinity and libertine cynicism through a discussion of his use of the pastoral mode, which absorbs the ideals of both Greek romance and Epicurean libertinism. Unfortunately, these discourses of love and freedom encourage aggression and hypocrisy even as they promise to secure idyllic harmony, and the detached hedonism cultivated by Rochester's speakers thus conspicuously fails to transcend the disturbing maelstrom that is human desire. Far from escaping the salacious or sentimental aspects of experience, efforts to surmount erotic disappointment reveal that libertinism itself occupies the realm of romance: both offer the compensatory fictions without which human experience would be intolerable.


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pp. 441-459
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