Walks like a woman, talks like a man

I did a thorough reading of Aphra Behn’s fiction some years back (which is why I may not repeat the process in this particular course), but I had never read any of her poetry before coming across To the fair Clarinda, who made Love to me, imagin’d more than Woman. If this wickedly ambiguous effort is representative of Behn’s work, I need to read more of it.

      Fair lovely Maid, of if that Title be
      Too weak, too Feminine for Nobler thee,
      Permit a Name that more Approaches Truth:
      And let me call thee, Lovely Charming Youth.
      This last will justifie my soft complaint;
      While that may serve to lessen my constraint;
      And without Blushes I the Youth persue,
      When so much beauteous Woman is in view.
      Against thy Charms we struggle but in vain
      With thy deluding Form thou giv’st us pain,
      While the bright Nymph betrays us to the Swain.
      In pity to our Sex sure thou wer’t sent,
      That we might Love, and yet be Innocent:
      For sure no Crime with thee we can commit;
      Or if we shou’d—thy Form excuses it.
      For who, that gathers fairest Flowers believes
      A Snake lies hid beneath the Fragrant leaves.

      Thou beauteous Wonder of a different kind,
      Soft Cloris with the dear Alexis join’d;
      When e’er the Manly part of thee, wou’d plead
      Thou tempts us with the Image of the Maid,
      While we the noblest Passions do extend
      The Love to Hermes, Aphrodite the Friend.

6 Responses to “Walks like a woman, talks like a man”

  1. That poem rocks. “That we might love, and yet be innocent: For sure, no crime with thee we can commit.” A rallying cry for gay and bi people.

    Heh — day before yesterday was Celebrate Bisexuality Day. I wonder if my bi friend who’s recently started dating someone celebrated it……

  2. “Or if we should – thy form excuses it…”

    It’s wonderful, isn’t it? – and you cannot pin it down. To me it harks forward to the Weimar Republic notion that you fell in love with a *person*…and that their sex (or gender) didn’t matter. I only know scraps about Aphra Behn’s life so I don’t know how close to the bone that poem cuts – but I’m looking forward to finding out. And blathering on about it endlessly, of course.

    (Thank you for stopping by!)

  3. If you want to call that “falling in love”. 😛


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