“The Disappointment” by Aphra Behn, a poem first published in 1680, is arguably among the best known and enduring of her works. Considered scandalous in her lifetime, Behn (1640 – 1689), a playwright, poet, and novelist, is recognized as the first British woman to earn a living by her writing.
In this lengthy poem, the shepherd Lisander attempts to force himself on the maid Cloris. It’s implied that that two are in love, and that the encounter is not a random situation. Cloris, however, is unwilling, and Lisander is unable to perform — experiencing “the Hell of Impotence.” She is able to escape, and yet, since the perspective is on the female sexual experience, we’re left to wonder which of the pair is the most disappointed.
“Behn wrote quite freely about sex: her poem The Disappointment is very explicit and concerns male impotence, a highly transgressive theme for a woman, then and now,” writes Francis Booth in Killing the Angel: Early British Transgressive Women Writers. Read More→
This celebration of the indescribably brilliant and sublime poetry by ancient Greek poetess, Sappho (born around 620 BCE in Lesbos, Greece) was originally published in BookRiot. Contributed by Nancy Snyder; reprinted by permission. The poems by Sappho presented following the introduction were all translated from the Greek.
“Although only breath, words which I command are immortal,” wrote Sappho around 510 BC. And how glad we are that we have Sappho’s words all these centuries later.
Sappho’s lyric poetry, poetry meant to be accompanied by a lyre and sung, entices us to discover Eros and Aphrodite (the god and goddess of romantic love) and all the earthly delights that accompanies such natural pursuits. Read More→
“Mother and Poet” is a poem by esteemed British poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861). Written in a confessional manner, it’s a mother’s lament for having lost two sons serving in war. Though this poem isn’t autobiographical, Elizabeth had endured the sudden death of a beloved brother, and perhaps this allowed her to effectively convey the trauma of losing loved ones.
Suffused with grief and guilt, the mother narrating the poem exalts the bravery of her soldier sons doing battle in Italy. At the same time, it conveys the mother’s pain of the personal loss.
“Mother and Poet” was one of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s later poems, published in Last Poems (1862). If she wasn’t speaking of herself in this poem, to who might it have been referring? Read More→
“Sic Transit Gloria Mundi” was the first poem by Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) to be published. Without her prior knowledge or consent, it appeared in the February 20, 1852 issue of the Springfield Daily Republican newspaper.
Emily, then age 21, wasn’t pleased. Still a budding poet, she was not at all interested in publication. In her teens and twenties, she may have been reserved and a bit shy, but nothing to hint at how reclusive she would become in her later years. In fact, she and her sister Lavinia (Vinnie) enjoyed quite an active social life in their youth. Read More→
“The Cry of the Children” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, first published in 1843, is an example of the esteemed British poet’s foray into the area of social protest poetry.
With the 19th century’s industrial revolution in full force, the poem forcefully decries the all-too-common exploitation of children as laborers, placing blame on both the social structures and institutions that allowed the practice to spread. Read More→