Chapter: English Literature During The Restoration And The Eighteenth Century
Aphra Behn was a pioneering female author, accomplishing literary and social feats seldom achieved by women. This particular poem is, perhaps, not one of those feats. It is, however, awesome (and more than a little erotic).
It was published as a companion piece to yesterday's poem by Wilmot, and deals with similar subject matter. In this case, as you can imagine, the focus is on the woman's point of view. After a couple pages of foreplay and steamy make-out sessions, the woman in the poem makes some fairly universal gestures to the effect of, "Yeah, alright, if you wanna shove your thingy into my thingy, I'd be okay with that now." The poor dope trying to get his mack on, however, is dismayed to discover that he can't rise to the occasion. Now, it's dark, so the woman doesn't seem to notice at first. She reaches out to fondle what she assumes must be a shaft of Priapus proportions, only to find a snake "as cold as flowers bathed in the morning dew."
So she does what any woman in this situation would do: she recoils in anger and shame, then runs as fast as she possibly can in the opposite direction. The poor man, meanwhile, lies alone in the grass, mourning his masculinity.
As it turns out, poems about a man's sexual inadequacy became something of a sub-genre in the late-17th Century, which is sort of fascinating. Not completely fascinating, just sort of fascinating. I probably wouldn't read a book about it or anything.