The Disappointment

Aphra Behn

Edited by Jack Lynch

This poem was written in 1680. The text comes from Behn’s Poems upon Several Occasions: With a Voyage to the Island of Love (1684), the first time it was published under Behn’s name. I’ve corrected obvious typographical errors, but have otherwise left the accidentals unchanged. The notes are my own.


One day the Amorous° Lysander, feeling sexual desire
By an impatient Passion sway’d,° affected
Surpriz’d fair Cloris, that lov’d Maid,
Who could defend her self no longer.
All things did with his Love conspire;° cooperate
The gilded° Planet of the Day,° golden — the sun
In his gay° Chariot drawn by Fire, brilliant
Was now descending to the Sea,
And left no Light to guide the World,
But° what from Cloris Brighter Eyes was hurld. except


In a lone Thicket made for Love,
Silent as yielding Maids Consent,
She with a Charming Languishment,° listlessness
Permits his Force, yet gently strove;
Her Hands his Bosom softly meet,
But not to put him back design’d,° intended
Rather to draw ’em on inclin’d:
Whilst he lay trembling at her Feet,
Resistance ’tis in vain to show;
She wants° the pow’r to say — Ah! What d’ye do? lacks


Her Bright Eyes sweet, and yet severe,
Where Love and Shame confus’dly strive,° compete
Fresh Vigor to Lysander give;
And breathing faintly in his Ear,
She cry’d — Cease, Cease — your vain° Desire, futile
Or I’ll call outWhat would you do?
My Dearer Honour ev’n to You
I cannot, must not giveRetire,° go back
Or take this Life, whose chiefest part
I gave you with the Conquest of my Heart.


But he as much unus’d to Fear,
As he was capable of Love,
The blessed minutes to improve,
Kisses her Mouth, her Neck, her Hair;
Each Touch her new Desire Alarms,
His burning trembling Hand he prest
Upon her swelling Snowy Brest,
While she lay panting in his Arms.
All her Unguarded Beauties lie
The Spoils° and Trophies of the Enemy. treasures taken in war


And now without Respect or Fear,
He seeks the Object of his Vows,
(His Love no Modesty allows)
By swift degrees advancing — where
His daring Hand that Altar seiz’d,
Where Gods of Love do sacrifice:
That Awful° Throne, that Paradice awe-inspiring
Where Rage is calm’d, and Anger pleas’d;
That Fountain where Delight still flows,
And gives the Universal World Repose.


Her Balmy° Lips incountring his, delicious
Their Bodies, as their Souls, are joyn’d;
Where both in Transports° Unconfin’d raptures
Extend themselves upon the Moss.
Cloris half dead and breathless lay;
Her soft Eyes cast a Humid Light,
Such as divides the Day and Night;
Or falling Stars, whose Fires decay:
And now no signs of Life she shows,
But what in short-breath’d Sighs returns & goes.


He saw how at her Length she lay;
He saw her rising Bosom bare;
Her loose thin Robes, through which appear
A Shape design’d for Love and Play;
Abandon’d by her Pride and Shame.
She does her softest Joys dispence,° give out
Off’ring her Virgin-Innocence
A Victim to Loves Sacred Flame;
While the o’er-Ravish’d Shepherd lies
Unable to perform the Sacrifice.


Ready to taste a thousand Joys,
The too transported° hapless° Swain° ecstatic — unlucky — country man
Found the vast Pleasure turn’d to Pain;
Pleasure which too much Love destroys:
The willing Garments by he laid,° set aside
And Heaven all open’d to his view,
Mad to possess, himself he threw
On the Defenceless Lovely Maid.
But Oh what envying God conspires
To snatch his Power, yet leave him the Desire!


Nature’s Support, (without whose Aid
She can no Humane Being give)
It self now wants° the Art° to live; lacks — ability
Faintness its slack’ned Nerves invade:
In vain th’ inraged Youth essay’d° tried
To call its fleeting° Vigor back, escaping
No motion ’twill from Motion take;
Excess of Love his Love betray’d:
In vain he Toils, in vain Commands;
The Insensible fell weeping in his Hand.


In this so Amorous Cruel Strife,
Where Love and Fate were too severe,
The poor Lysander in despair
Renounc’d his Reason with his Life:
Now all the brisk and active Fire
That should the Nobler Part inflame,
Serv’d to increase his Rage and Shame,
And left no Spark for New Desire:
Not all her Naked Charms cou’d move
Or calm that Rage that had debauch’d his Love.


Cloris returning from the Trance
Which Love and soft Desire had bred,
Her timerous Hand she gently laid
(Or° guided by Design or Chance) whether
Upon that Fabulous Priapas phallic god
That Potent God, as Poets feign;° make up
But never did young Shepherdess,
Gath’ring of Fern upon the Plain,
More nimbly draw her Fingers back,
Finding beneath the verdant Leaves a Snake:


Than Cloris her fair Hand withdrew,
Finding that God of her Desires
Disarm’d of all his Awful° Fires, awe-inspiring
And Cold as Flow’rs bath’d in the Morning-Dew.
Who can the Nymph’s Confusion guess?
The Blood forsook the hinder Place,
And strew’d° with Blushes all her Face, covered
Which both Disdain and Shame exprest:
And from Lysander’s Arms she fled,
Leaving him fainting on the Gloomy Bed.


Like Lightning through the Grove she hies,° goes
Or Daphne from the Delphick God,
No Print upon the grassey Road
She leaves, t’ instruct Pursuing Eyes.
The Wind that wanton’d° in her Hair, blew this way and that
And with her Ruffled Garments plaid,° played
Discover’d° in the Flying Maid revealed
All that the Gods e’er made, if Fair.
So Venus, when her Love was slain,
With Fear and Haste flew o’er the Fatal Plain.


The Nymph’s Resentments none but I
Can well Imagine or Condole:
But none can guess Lysander’s Soul,
But those who sway’d° his Destiny. influenced
His silent Griefs swell up to Storms,
And not one God his Fury spares;
He curs’d his Birth, his Fate, his Stars;
But more the Shepherdess’s Charms,
Whose soft bewitching Influence
Had Damn’d him to the Hell of Impotence.


Lysander and Cloris are typical names from ancient Greek stories of love and sex.
Daphne from the Delphick God
In classical mythology, Apollo (“the Delphick God”) pursued the beautiful Naiad Daphne against her will. Daphne, seeking to escape sexual assault, called on the river god, who saved her by transforming her into a laurel tree.