The golden shower

Say, what is now th’ ambition of the great?
Is it to raise their country’s sinking state;
Her load of debt to ease by frugal care,
Her trade to guard, her harass’d poor to spare?
Is it, like honest Somers, to inspire
The love of laws, and freedom’s sacred fire?
Is it, like wise Gondolphin, to sustain,
The balanc’d world, and boundless power restrain?
Or is the mighty aim of all their toil,
Only to aid the wreck, and share the spoil?
On each relation, friend, dependant, pour,
With partial wantonness, the golden shower,
And, fenc’d by strong corruption, to despise
An injur’d nation’s unavailing cries?
[The Poetical Works of George, Lord Lyttelton, 1801 (pages 137–138)]

How prescient Lord Lyttelton was! Corruption! Wantonness! The golden shower!

This is one of those moments where, if you’re a politician, you may get a sense that urine big trouble:

However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit TRUMP’s personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP’s (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and Mrs OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSB control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to. [read the whole fucking report at Buzzfeed]

(The account is rumoured to be fanfic sent to a gullible pundit who forwarded it to the CIA, which would explain why it’s so tame compared to other things he has been accused of, including sexual assault and even child rape. But I won’t dive into that pissing contest just now. Anyway, the accusations that are truly concerning are not prurient.)

I hope that this is not the first time you’ve seen or heard the term golden showers. I mean, I don’t expect that all the readers have actually engaged in them – and no, guys, taking a piss while you’re having a shower does not count – but they’re the stuff of childhood lore and Thomas Pynchon novels.

And of much older literature too! OK, they’re not all talking about urination for sexual excitement. But there’s lots of gold! And showers! And famous and rich dudes! The very first golden shower was Zeus, or Jupiter, who seduced Danaë and came down as a shower of gold to impregnate her – or, as Robert Burton put it in his 1800 Anatomy of Melancholy, “Jupiter corrupted Danae with a golden shower.” And there are many, many references in literature to this golden shower. The best references. Huge.

But a good literary reference can hardly be left to drain away; once it soaks into the bed of popular culture, you whiff it again and again. Google Books gives us much more entertainment. Just for the sake of taking the piss, let’s read some excerpts with a jaundiced eye:

Every eye watched for the golden shower which was to fall upon the author, who certainly was not without his part in the general expectation. [The Poetical Works of Samuel Butler, 1803]

mourning is put here for repentance; it implies both sorrow, which is the cloud; and tears, which are the rain distilling in this golden shower, God comes down to us. [The analytical compendium, or, Outlines of sermons…, Thomas Hannam, 1803]

He had all the forms of excellence, intellectual and more, combined in his mind, with endless variation; and when he had scattered on the hero of the day the golden shower of wit and virtue, he had ready for him whom he wished to court on the morrow, new wit and virtue with another stamp. [The Critical and Miscellaneous Prose Works, John Dryden, 1800]

With hisses, groans, and knocks, and so on,
The would not let “High Notions” go on—
The orange-peels declared their rage;
The golden shower soon fill’d the stage:
At length the managers appear’d,
But ’twas some time ere he was heard.
[The Fudge Committee, Or Creditors Wanting More; a Hudibrastic Poem, Water Wag, 1819]

On the ground are seen men sprawling to catch the golden shower. . . . A priest is standing on the first step of his pulpit, one hand held out in a preaching attitude, while the other, holding a mitre, is extended to catch part of the golden shower [Hand-Book for Northern Europe, 1849]

there would be lee-way for a good many drops of the golden shower, before we should all go mad as he prognosticates. [The Genesee Farmer, volume 10, 1849]

I would speak with diffidence of Mr. Hancock. Common praise would not express his virtues. His character was compounded of mingled gravity and splendour. Accustomed to the luxuries of life, Fortune clothed him with her mantle of elegant refinement and poured her gifts upon him in a golden shower. [An Oration Delivered at Quincy, on the Fifth of July, 1824, George Washington Adams]

Heh. “Mingled gravity and splendour.” I bet.

None of that – and there is so much more I could pour forth from Google Books for you too – is directly about following urinate disposition, of course. The first reference that the Oxford English Dictionary and Green’s Dictionary of Slang both give for the sense we have in mind does come from a literary great, however: Tennessee Williams. In a 1943 letter, he wrote,

You should have told Margot the only thing I really enjoy is a ‘golden shower’ from a black cloud.

Further citations dating from the 1950s onward confirm this usage. Green tells us confidently that the term is a direct reference to the myth of Danaë, and, given that Tennessee Williams was well read (and not just in the yellow press), there’s no reason to doubt that. Which means, after all that coming and going, what comes around goes around.

So there we have it: just the sort of thing that can get the venereal, I mean venerable, OED to quote a sexual services ad:

2000 N.Y. Press 29 Mar. II. 70/5 (advt.) Ace butt, rod and nut sucker sex slave needs master to service and pleasure… Into golden showers.

And now it has moved out of the realm of literature (high and low) and into popular entertainment – which, in the US, is the continuation of politics, or vice-versa. The PEEOTUS has given a us a vivid illustration of the truth of “trickle-down economics” – and a chapter of Tinkle, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

We have covered piss here before on Strong Language; Fritinancy showed us two years ago that it’s fit for national advertisements for expensive things, and Mededitor shortly thereafter expatiated on taking the piss. But now we have a new shooting star to track. Two days after Meryl Streep pissed on Trump’s parade at the Golden Globes, we are gifted with #goldenshowers – and yet another hypothesis about the source of Donald’s off-orange coloration.

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