But it is also about rape, another kind of potency test, and presents a woman's point of view cloaked in the customary language of male physical license and sexual access to females. The woman's perspective in this poem provides the double vision that plays the conventional against the experiential.
One evening Lysander comes across Cloris in the woods. They are in love, and he makes sexual advances. She resists and tells him to kill her if he must, but she will not give up her honor, even though she loves him.
He persists. She swoons. He undresses her. She lies defenseless and fully exposed to him, but he cannot maintain an erection. He tries self-stimulation without success. She recovers consciousness, discovers his limp penis with her hand, recoils in confusion, and runs away with supernatural speed. He rages at the gods and circumstance but mostly directs his anger at Cloris, blaming her for his impotence.
The traditional interpretation of this poem is that Cloris, having been aroused by Lysander's advances, flees from him in shame and that the lovers are both disappointed by Lysander's inability to consummate their relationship sexually. But that is only one line of meaning in the poem. Embedded in the text is another interpretation of these fourteen stanzas.
Cloris is definite: she says leave me alone or kill me. For her, defloration is a fate worse than death, and she will not endure dishonor even for one she loves. When Lysander continues to force her "without Respect," she lies "half dead" and shows "no signs of life" but breathing. Traditionally her passion and breathlessness have been read as sexual arousal, but they might just as easily be read as signs of her struggle to escape Lysander, which exhausts her.
As soon as her struggle ends, he is "unable to perform.
Cloris awakens, however, and takes the first opportunity she has to run away from him as fast as she can. Her decision to flee may clearly be seen as an attempt to escape. When she sees the state of things, she shows no sympathy. Lysander's anger is greater than mere disappointment--he rants at the gods and the universe for his impotence and accuses Cloris of witchcraft. The extent of his rage is more that of a thwarted assailant than an embarrassed lover. For the first thirteen stanzas of the poem, the story is told in the third person, with an omniscient speaker.
But in the last verse, in a startling change of voice to the first person, the speaker identifies herself with Cloris and closes the narrative in sympathy with the "Nymph's Resentments," which the speaker, as a woman, can "well Imagine" and "Condole.
The unconventionality of this poem is apparent when it is contrasted with the presentation of joyous amorous relations in some of Behn's other poems. Love Arm'd," which describes Cupid's power to enamour. Convention and ingenuity are further united in the poem "Song: The Invitation," where, witnessing Damon's pursuit of Sylvia, the speaker interposes herself to meet "the Arrows" of love and save Sylvia "from their harms" because Sylvia already has a lover and Damon would more appropriately be paired with the speaker.
In her poems Behn uses the dramatic qualities of voice which gave her such great stage success. Her verses are always spoken by a specific, identifiable individual, whose self-characterization becomes clear in the text.
The effect of this technique is to give the poems a sense of immediacy and energy that reveals Behn's personality through her works. She almost always speaks from the point of view of a female, and her attitudes convey a woman's confidence in dealing with men's amorous advances and betrayals. In the poem "A Ballad on M. JH to Amoret, asking why I was so sad," the speaker tells how she was betrayed by her lover, and she warns Amoret to be careful and be sure to get the better of the man. Here the relationship between women is primary, as they are allies on the same side of the war of love.
Men are frequently shown as enemies in the battle of the sexes, as Behn's poem "The Return" illustrates. In it she warns a tyrannous shepherd not to stray, since "Some hard-hearted Nymph may return you your own. It is written from the point of view of a woman who gave in to her lover. He used every means he could to get her; then, the more she wanted him, the less he wanted her. Although he made many vows, he betrayed her.
Since her pain is too great for tears, traditional consolation is inadequate; therefore, she will die. This poem is a variation on the standard pastoral "lover's complaint" of the male: conventionally the courtly beloved refuses to give in to her suitor, and he proclaims he will die of lovesickness. This poem uses the conventional pastoral mode, including the appeal to nature, to witness and participate in the lover's grief.
But although the woman's sorrow is conventional, the consequences of betrayal are far more profound for her than they would be for a male counterpart. She is, in the old-fashioned meaning of the word, "dis-maid," bereft of her maidenhood, and as one no longer virgin, banished from consideration by future suitors.
In her society there is nothing for her to look forward to, so she may as well die. Ode" Behn asserts that men are only interested in conquest and that once they get what they want from one woman, they go on to another. This point of view, as presented by a male speaker, is also a highlight of the poems interspersed throughout the prose text of Lycidus: Or The Lover in Fashion.
The popular "A Thousand Martyrs I have made" presents the philanderer's scorn for "the Fools that whine for Love" in the context of the narrator's lighthearted appraisal of his unreformed self. The speaker of the poem takes delight in his ability to play the game of love in appearances only, exempting himself from serious hurt. Because of his emotional detachment, ironically, he scores more conquests than those for whom love is serious.
One of Behn's strongest statements on the failure of a double standard in heterosexual love is "To Lysander, on some Verses he writ, and asking more for his Heart then 'twas worth. She tells him to take back his heart, since he wants too much from her for it. He does not want an equal or fair return her heart for his heart but much more from her than he is willing to give. He does not allow her even to be friendly with others, but, at the same time, he is cheating on her. She protests that he gives her rival easily what she only gets with pain, and his intimacy with another hurts her.
She calls for fairness in love--if he takes such liberties, she should be allowed them as well. If Lysander does not maintain honesty with her, she warns, he will find that she can play a trick too.
Her "P. She makes a strong antiwar statement in "Song: When Jemmy first began to Love," concluding with the question of what is to become of the woman left behind. In "To Mr.
Creech under the Name of Daphnis on his Excellent Translation of Lucretius ," she praises the translator for making accessible to unlearned women a work originally in Latin. As a member of the female class, which is denied education in the classics, she would like, she says, to express her admiration to him in an acceptable, manly fashion. Because she is a woman, however, her response to his translation is not mere admiration, but a fiery adoration, since women are thereby advanced to knowledge from ignorance.
Topics Books Top 10s. When he loses he seeks, when he finds he forgets, when he forgets he loves, when he loves he begins to forget. The first refers to the paschal event as something which happened in time over two thousand years ago. Sort of trying to queer our origin stories. There are pages from novels which some argue were in fact prose poem sequences. We learn something new about the English language each time we confront another syntax, another grammar, another musical way of organizing silences in a mouth. It is a rare trait and thankfully he also writes elegantly.
She tells her friend Carola, "Lady Morland at Tunbridge," that even though she is a rival for Behn's lover, when she saw her, she grew to admire and love her. Because of that, she warns, beware of taking my lover as your own--he is experienced and can slip the chains of love.
You deserve a virgin, she says, someone who has never loved before, who only has eyes for you and has a "soul as Great as you are Fair. First Selinda is warned by Cloris about Alexis, who was untrue to her. Selinda's response is to ally herself with the other woman and vow that Alexis will not conquer her as he did Cloris. The women praise each other's generosity and intelligence, agreeing to be good friends.