Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
The Disappointment
By Aphra Behn (1640–1689)
 
(Poems, 2nd ed., c. 1697)

  ONE day the Amorous Lysander,
  By an impatient Passion sway’d,
  Surprised fair Cloris, that loved Maid,
  Who could defend herself no longer.
  All things did with his Love conspire;        5
  The gilded Planet of the Day,
  In his gay Chariot drawn by Fire,
  Was now descending to the Sea,
  And left no Light to guide the World,
But what from Cloris’s Brighter Eyes were hurled.        10
 
  In a lone Thicket made for Love,
  Silent as yielding Maids Consent,
  She with a Charming Languishment,
  Permits his Force, yet gently strove;
  Her Hands his Bosom softly meet,        15
  But not to put him back designed,
  Rather to draw him on inclined:
  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?        20
 
  Her Brighter Eyes, sweet, and yet severe,
  Where Love and Shame confus’dly strive,
  Fresh Vigor to Lysander’s Fire,
  And breathing faintly in his Ear,
  She cry’d—Cease, Cease—your vain Desire,        25
  Or I’ll call out—What would you do?
  My dearest Honor even to You?
  I cannot, must not give—Retire,
  Or take this Life, whose chiefest part
I gave you with the Conquest of my Heart.        30
 
  But she as much unused to Fear,
  As he was capable of Love,
  The blessed minute to improve,
  Kisses her Mouth, her Neck, her Hair;
  Each Touch her new Desire Alarms,        35
  His burning trembling Hand she prest
  Upon her swelling Snowy Breast,
  While she lay panting in his Arms,
  All her unguarded Beauties lie
The Spoils and Trophies of the Enemy.        40
 
  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,        45
  Where Gods of Love do Sacrifice:
  That Awful Throne, the Paradise
  Where Rage is calm’d, and Anger pleas’d;
  That Fountain where Delight still flows,
And gives the Universal World Repose.        50
 
  Her Balmy Lips encountering his,
  Their Bodies, as their Souls, are joined;
  Where both in Transports Unconfined
  Extend themselves upon the Moss.
  Cloris half dead and breathless lay;        55
  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-breathed sighs returns and goes.        60
 
  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;
  Abandoned by her Pride and Shame,        65
  She does her softest joys dispense,
  Offering her Virgin’s Innocence
  A Victim to Love’s Sacred Flame;
  Whilst the o’er-ravish’d Shepherd lies
Unable to perform the Sacrifice.        70
 
  Ready to taste a thousand Joys,
  The too transported hapless Swain
  Found the vast Pleasure turned to Pain;
  Pleasure which too much Love destroys:
  The willing Garments by he laid,        75
  And Heaven all opened to his view,
  Mad to possess, himself he threw
  On the Defenceless Lovely Maid.
  But Oh! what envying Gods conspire
To snatch his Power, yet leaves him the Desire.        80
 
  Nature’s Support (without whose Aid
  She can no Human Being give)
  Itself now wants the Art to live;
  Faintness its slackened Nerves invade:
  In vain th’ enraged Youth essayed        85
  To call its fleeting Vigor back,
  No motion ’twill from Motion take;
  Excess of Love his love betrayed:
  In vain he toils, in vain Commands;
The insensible fell weeping in his Hand.        90
 
  In this so Amorous Cruel Strife,
  Where Love and Fate were too severe,
  The poor Lysander in dispair
  Renounc’d his Reason with his Life:
  Now all the brisk and active fire        95
  That should the noblest parts 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.        100
 
  Cloris returning from the Trance
  Which Love and soft Desire had bred,
  Her timorous Hand she gently laid
  (Or guided by Design or Chance)
  Upon that Fabulous Priapas,        105
  That Potent God, as Poets feign;
  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.        110
 
  Than Cloris her fair Hand withdrew,
  Finding that God of her Desires
  Disarm’d of all his Awful Fires,
  And Cold as Flow’rs bathed in the Morning Dew.
  Who can the Nymph’s Confusion guess?        115
  The Blood forsook the hinder Place,
  And strew’d with Blushes all her Face,
  Which both Disdain and Shame exprest:
  And from Lysander’s Arms she fled,
Leaving him fainting on the Gloomy Bed.        120
 
  Like Lightning through the Grove he flies,
  Or Daphne from the Delphic God,
  No Print upon the grassy Road
  She leaves, t’instruct Pursuing Eyes.
  The Wind that wanton’d in her Hair,        125
  And with her Ruffled Garments played,
  Discover’d in the Flying Maid
  All that the God e’er made, if Fair.
  So Venus, when her Love was slain,
With Fear and Haste flew o’er the Fatal Plain.        130
 
  The Nymph’s resentment none but I
  Can well Imagine or Console:
  But none can guess Lysander’s Soul,
  But those who sway’d his Destiny.
  His silent Grief swelled up to Storms,        135
  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.        140
 
 
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