The bedroom poems of the 18th century was a new piece of literature introduced to me. I like how these poems were so detailed and made you cringe from the sights that were being portrayed. Both Behn and Rochester were two extremely strong poets who use sexual encounters to display gender and power roles among both men and women in the 18th century. In this close reading I will use “The Disappointment” by Behn and “The Imperfect Enjoyment” by Rochester to analyze the ideal of power. “The Disappointment” by Behn shares a woman’s first sexual experience.
In this experience it clearly shows that Lysander overpowers Cloris with his physical strengths and seduction, which leaves Cloris with mix feelings about proceeding on with him. Her sense of wanting to stay a virgin intertwines with her love for Lysander and for the promise of pleasure. Starting from line 45, “His darling hand that altar seized. ” Lysander is already portrayed as forceful. In line 77 it says, “Himself he threw” and this line suggest that he is really seductive when trying to persuade Cloris to receive him.
This is again showed in line 34, “kissing her mouth, her neck, her hair” as a way to overwhelm her by giving her attention. This shows Lysander’s power over Cloris and makes it seem like she really has no other choice in the matter, but to submit to him. In addition, line 14 says, “Permits his force, yet gently strove” as a way to say that Cloris’s wants him, but then again she does not. She is reluctant about her feelings towards him. This reluctance comes from the idea of her chastity, remaining a virgin until marriage. We do see in this poem that Cloris really does love Lysander.
In line 29-30, “Or take this life, whose chiefest part | gave you with the conquest of my heart. ” The use of the word “conquest” shows Lysander power because you could say that conquest here is meant as force. Nevertheless, Cloris loses herself in the attentions of Lysander and fully yields to him. In line 55 she says, “Half dead and breathless lay” meaning she submitted to him. Cloris had the opportunity to stop him, but instead she lies still as if she is defeated, suggesting that her submission was not really her choice.
Unlike Behn’s poem, “The Imperfect Enjoyment” portrays a man and his inabilities to please a woman who he has feeling for. We can see this early off in the poem when he starts describing their sexual interactions, only to find out that he is not really pleasing her. Because of this, the woman seems to have the upper hand over him and would therefore be the one who has the power. In line 15, he says, “Melt into sperm, and spend at every pore, a touch from any part of her had done ‘t. ”
This line shows the man’s inabilities to stay erect. Line 21 she says, “When, with thousand kisses wandering o’er, my panting bosom, ‘is there then no more’. Here it says that the woman tries to kiss and touch the man in an attempt to help him become erect again, but it simply does not work and he becomes mad because he can’t please her. It O seems reasonable to say that since she can’t make him become erect again and since he can’t become erect on his own for her then that means that neither of them has power. We also know from this poem that his past experiences has been with whores who he really does not care about and now is confused when he’s with someone he actually likes. Line 59 says, “Breaks every stew, does each small whore invade.
This lines shows how mad the man is and who he blames for him not being able to stay erect. He blames the whores who he has been with. The word “invade” implies that the whores took something away from him each time he had sex with them, that would otherwise still be intact for the woman he loves. He seems to analyze himself sexually throughout the poem. Making it clear, that he is upset because he’s with a woman who he actually likes and realizes that his past has messed up his encounter with her. He is powerless and upset by his poor judgement and performance.
The ideal of power is portrayed in both poems. However it is more clearly shown in Behn’s poem by unambiguously placing the blame on the man and making it seem like she had no choice anyway. In Rochester poem, you can argue that the woman has the power over the man because he has low selfesteem due to not being able to stay erect. Or you can equally say that neither of them has power because she doesn’t have the power to make him erect and he doesn’t have power because he can’t become erect on his own. Power in Rochester’s poem can go either ways or no way at all.