The Disappointment

The Disappointment Literary Elements

Speaker or Narrator, and Point of View

The speaker is unnamed but it is implied that she is a woman because she identifies with Cloris's disappointment. The point of view is third-person omniscient.

Form and Meter

Stanzas of ten lines written in iambic tetrameter except for the last line of each stanza which is iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme is ABBACDDCEE

Metaphors and Similes

Cloris's eyes are compared to the sun. After the sun sets, the only light left is “what from Cloris's brighter eyes was hurl’d" (metaphor)

The whiteness of Cloris's chest is described with the metaphor of a “melting Snowy Breast" (metaphor)

Cloris's vagina is compared to an "awful Throne," meaning awe-inspiring (metaphor)

Cloris's vagina is described as a "Living Fountain" that draws semen from her lover's penis (metaphor)

Cloris's vagina is described as "Paradise" (metaphor)

When Cloris has fainted, her eyes are described as “like humid Light” between daytime and nighttime. They are also described with the similie of “falling Stars" (similie)

Lisander’s limp penis is as “cold as Flow’rs bath’d in the Morning-dew” (similie)

Lisander's penis is described as "a snake in the leaves," which Cloris runs away from the same way she would move her hand away from a snake hiding in the ferns (metaphor)

When Cloris runs away from Lisander at the end of the poem she moves “Like lightning” (similie)

Alliteration and Assonance

The phrase "short-breathed sighs" is alliterative. Assonance can be found in the words "joyn'd" and "confin'd," in stanza 6.


When Lisander is described “as much unus'd to Fear,/ As he was capable of Love,” this is an example of situational irony. We expect him to be a brave and a capable lover, but by the end of the poem it is clear that he is neither.

The use of heroic language in the poem is an example of verbal irony. Describing Lisander as a warrior who is taking Cloris's body as one would the spoils of war is a sarcastic way of showing how little he resembles the epic heroes of old. Similarly, the poems description of “envious Gods” conspiring against Lisander’s ability to get an erection uses the high language of the classical epic to describe something everyday and embarrassing.


Restoration poetry; pastoral; libertine verse


A pastoral setting; the countryside


Ironic, humorous

Protagonist and Antagonist

Lisander is the protagonist who tries to seduct Cloris (the antagonist), but he is overwhelmed by his own desire and betrayed by his own genital organs (a second antagonist). In another way of reading the poem, it is Cloris against Lisander and his non-erect penis.

Major Conflict

Lisander wants to have sex with Cloris and suprises her in a thicket. However, he is unable to preform sexually. The major conflict is between him and his penis.


The poem climaxes in stanza 7 when Lisander is "unable to perform."


When Lisander is described as lying “trembling at [Cloris's] feet, this foreshadows how being overcome by desire will compromise his desire to perform.



Lisander’s penis is described as “that Fabulous Priapus.” This is an allusion to the Greek god of fertility and male genitalia.

Lisander's penis is described as a "snake in the leaves." This is related to the serpent which tempts Adam and Eve with the Forbidden Fruit in Genesis

When Cloris runs from Lisander like “Daphne from the Delphic God” this is a reference to the Greek God Apollo, whose sacred precinct was Delphi in Greece, and who famously tried to rape the mortal girl Daphne, a symbol for chastity.

Cloris is described as “Venus, when her Love was Slain.” This is an allusion to the Greek goddess Venus who mourned her mortal love Adonis when he was slain by a boar.

Metonymy and Synecdoche


Using a common personification from Ancient Greek poetry, the sun is described as riding a golden chariot.

The line “Where Love and Fate were too severe” personifies Love and Fate as forces working against Lisander’s desires.

Cloris is “Abandon'd by her Pride and Shame,” as if the two emotions were people.

Lisander's unerect penis is described as "the insensible" as if it is an unfeeling or unseeing person.


Cloris is hyperbolically described as “half dead and breathless” from the effects of pleasure.