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.