My last poet that I studied for my PhD was Aphra Behn. She is probably the most well known of the three. Arguably she was the first English novelist, she wrote plays, novels, poems, certainly she was one of the first women to make a living through writing. She also had a colourful life, was potentially a spy, visited Surinam and was possibly imprisoned for debt. However, very little actual fact is known about her life and all these stories are contested. Behn knew most of the famous male writers of the Restoration, such as Dryden, and was in the Earl of Rochester’s “circle”. Her poetry is less well known and some critics disregard it, however, I was studying poetry so she was my third writer. I was less keen on Behn at the beginning as the style of the Restoration poets is very florid, but learnt to love it. The fact that her life was potentially so rich and yet so little is known about her, is also fascinating as well as the sheer breadth of her writing. She was extremely prolific and to be honest it would have been rude not to include her! Her poem for today is shorter, but indicative of the intense and allegorical style of much of her poetry.
Song. Love Arm’d
Love in Fantastique Triumph satt,
Whilst Bleeding Hearts a round him flow’d,
For whom Fresh paines he did Create,
And strange Tyranick power he show’d;
From thy Bright Eyes he took his fire,
Which round about, in sport he hurl’d;
But ’twas from mine, he took desire,
Enough to undo the Amorous World.
From me he took his sighs and tears,
From thee his Pride and Crueltie;
From me his Languishments and Feares,
And every Killing Dart from thee;
Thus thou and I, the God have arm’d,
And sett him up a Deity;
But my poor Heart alone is harm’d,
Whilst thine the Victor is, and free.
1684, Poems on Several Occasions