Satire appears to be one of the most significant tools used by the Restoration poets to depict the reality they lived in. For example, in the poem A Satyr Against Reason and Mankind by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, the poet uses a satirical language to criticize human rationality. During the period of Restoration, rational philosophy and obsession of the reason were especially popular. Wilmot, however, strives to oppose this trend and criticizes the power of reason. The poet makes the emphasis that the reason is not so perfect and is always dependent on human senses so that sensual cognition always prevails. Wilmot considers a man “vain animal who is so proud of being rational” (Wilmot “A Satyr against Reason and Mankind”). For Rochester, reason is dangerous and pathless so that it leaves the light of nature provided by senses. Satire helps recognize Wilmot’s libertine position and his critics of Restoration.
Wilmot criticizes corruption and the overall vanity of Charles’s II political course. As the poet mentions, “In Court, a just man, yet unknown to me” (Wilmot “A Satyr against Reason and Mankind”). Restoration does not bring any advancements but illustrates how coward, selfish, and vain the human nature is. Satire plays a significant role in Wilmot’s erotic poems. For example, in The Imperfect Enjoyment, the poet represents human nature through sexual scenes. Foreplay and intercourse can be considered an allusion to the basic elements of human interpersonal relationships. To Wilmot, they are something more than simply sexual arousal because they provide humans with a range of emotions from embarrassment to anger towards one another. Wilmot demonstrates that relationships are often accompanied with “vice, disease, and scandal … with what officious haste doest thou obey” (Wilmot “The Imperfect Enjoyment”). The poet explains that during the Restoration period, such human activities as sex, gambling, or drinking are considered immoral, therefore, sexual relationships still remain political and social issues.
Wilmot uses harsh satirical epithets in relation to human nature. In his poem What Wain Unnecessary Things are Men!, the poet considers humans unnecessary things that provide the world with “mean submissiveness” (Wilmot 3). Satire helps the poet criticize gender roles in society of the Restoration period as he is sure that women are devoted only to their sex and beauties to make men suffer and despair. Love is a beastly playhouse because women are rarely faithful to men. Wilmot compares love with religion since both are sinful, unfair, and confusing. In Epilogue to Love in the Dark, the poet insists that “charms are nonsense” (Wilmot 1). In the Restoration period, people are to wear a dull masque and be like machines. There is no sincere love and fairness in that society to Wilmot.
Satire appears to be the only possible way to describe the Restoration period in England. The poet makes the emphasis that while most people think the Restoration is the true Enlightenment, it is not so because it brings only vanity and corruption. People used to play the games and be “like bowls ill-biased” (Wilmot 19). Free speaking is impossible, and disgrace is the true sign of that times. Satire helps Wilmot depict society he lives in, and he insists people get rid of their nature and lose their beauty. Neither reason, nor new policy of Charles II can help restore the original fairness. Satire makes the poet desperate and disappointed in the humankind. Wilmot criticizes a popular meaning that Nature is to form the human delight because he is sure Nature can restore the human nature if men become aware of their inevitable connection and relationship with Nature.