Although more popularly known as the author of “Hudibras,” his epic mock romance poem derived from “Don Quixote,” Samuel Butler (1613-1680) could let current events inspire him. In 1672, after London authorities publicly burned a hogshead of marital aids smuggled in from France, Butler wrote “Dildoides,” a 172-line poem about the “Twelve dildoes meant for the support / Of aged lechers of the Court / Were lately burnt by impious hand / Of trading rascals of the land.” After describing their beauties ?
“Some were composed of shining horns,
More precious than the unicorn’s.
Some were of wax, where ev’ry vein,
And smallest fibre were made plain”
? Butler described how the mob met to consider their fate. One man argued for their preservation, suggesting ?
“Methinks unjustly we complain,
If ladies rather chuse to handle
Our wax in dildo than in candle.”
After all, he argued,
“For, neighbours, is’t not all one, whether
In dildoes or shoes they wear our leather?”
Another man took an opportunity to take a poke at France and pointed out:
“For soldiers, maim’d by chance of war,
We artificial limbs prepare;
Why then should we bear so much spite
To lechers maim’d in am’rous fight?”
That what the French send for relief,
We thus condemn as witch or thief?
By dildoe, Monsieur there intends
For his French pox to make amends;”
But then someone pointed out that, against dildoes, man (ahem) can’t measure up:
“Curst be the wretch, who found these arts
Of losing us to women’s hearts;
For will they not henceforth refuse one
When they have all that they had use on?”
Alas, the council was convinced, and
“Priapus thus, in box opprest,
Burnt like a phoenix in her nest;
But with this fatal difference dies,
No dildoes from the ashes rise.”
“Dildoides” was a popular poem, and its presence provided the solution to a mystery behind the popularity of a two-volume set of collected pieces called the “Works of the Earls of Rochester and Roscommon,” published 40 years after “Dildoides” appeared.
The Works had presented a puzzle to antiquarians, who wondered why it went through more than 20 editions throughout the 18th century. Then someone took the trouble to page through them, and found, in the back, that an enterprising printer had tucked in several poems on a subject vastly different from the rest of the “Works.”
In addition to “Dildoides,” was found “The Discovery,” in which a man hiding in a lady’s bedroom watches her pull out her “Tool,/ Much like to that with which Men Women rule” and “Apply’d where I’m asham’d to tell,/ And acted what I could have done as well.”
The third poem, “A Panegyrick Upon Cundums,” praised prophylactics for their their contraceptive powers (“Unknown big Belly, and squawling Brat”) but because it prevented the various swellings associated with venereal disease (“nor dreads the Ills/ Of Shankers or Cordee, or Bubos dire!”). Apparently, removing the fear of huge pustules erupting on your skin was considered a big turn-on back then.