ONE Day the Amarous Lisander, By an impatient Passion sway'd
From the very first lines of the poem, we see that Lisander is “swayed,” meaning influenced by an outside force that makes him “impatient.” As much as Lisander tries to be active in seducing Cloris, he is reduced to a passive state because his emotions get the better of him.
In alone 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
Cloris is described in contradictory ways. On the one hand, she is “silent” and “yielding” as maids (or young girls) are supposed to be, according to society. On the other hand, she “permits” Lisander’s caresses and even reaches out to touch him herself and bring him closer.
Abandon'd by her Pride and Shame, She do's her softest Sweets dispence, Offring her Virgin-Innocence A Victim to Loves Sacred Flame
A personified Pride and Shame leave Cloris alone so she can enjoy what she wants. She also chooses to dispense with her body as she chooses, offering her virginity to Lisander the way a victim in a ritual is burned in a flame.
My dearer Honour, ev'n to you, I cannot — must not give — retire,
“Honour” here—since Cloris is a woman—refers to her virginity. Purity is what society considers to be of value. The dashes in this line force the reader to pause, replicating the effect of pauses in speech.
Whilst th' or'e ravish'd Shepherd lies, Unable to perform the Sacrifice.
The climax of the poem occurs in stanza 7 when Lisander is unwilling to consummate sex with Cloris, described as a sacrifice. He is overly “ravish’d” in the sense of being overwhelmed with desire.
In vain he Toils, in vain Commands, Th' Insensible fell weeping in his Hands.
These lines show the clever ways the Behn uses figurative language to describe sexual acts. Here Lisander is trying to become erect by masturbating, but his penis is described as “Insensible” (in the sense of not feeling anything) and as crying.
The Disappointment Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Disappointment is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.