The Disappointment

The Disappointment "Imperfect Enjoyment" poems

The Disappointment” is considered one of the “imperfect enjoyment” poems that became popular around the Restoration era in England (1660–1666). Poets known as ‘libertines’ wrote explicitly about sex in this period in a way that was considered obscene. They took inspiration from risqué classical works, like the Roman poet Ovid’s Amores. The most famous example of an “imperfect enjoyment” poem is John Wilmot, Early of Rochester’s poem of that title. He describes, like Behn (who was a friend of his), a case of male impotence. Trying to have intercourse with his lover, the speaker admits failure: “Eager desires confound my first intent, / Succeeding shame does more success prevent, / And rage at last confirms me impotent.” Some scholars interpret these poems as symbolically dealing with the crisis of political authority in the Restoration era, in which male inability to perform sexually allegorically represents political rulers who are incapable of demonstrating the necessary authority. In “The Imperfect Enjoyment,” over-excitement is blamed for impotence. Behn plays with this theme by taking the woman’s perspective and implicitly making fun of these excuses. Though we see Lisander blaming Cloris for his impotence, as in similar poems in this genre, here Behn gives us insight into Cloris's thoughts and emotions.