Aphra Behn, ‘To the Fair Clarinda’

I remember, ages ago, I said I’d post more lesbian poetry so I’m going to try and make it a Friday thing.

Let’s start with the seventeenth century.

To the Fair Clarinda

Who made love to me, Imagin’d more than woman.

Fair lovely Maid, or if that Title be
Too weak, too Feminine for Nobler thee,
Permit a Name that more Approaches Truth:
And let me call thee, Lovely Charming Youth.
This last will justifie my soft complaint,
While that may serve to lessen my constraint;
And without Blushes I the Youth persue,
When so much beauteous Woman is in view.
Against thy Charms we struggle but in vain
With thy deluding Form thou giv’st us pain,
While the bright Nymph betrays us to the Swain.
In pity to our Sex sure thou wer’t sent,
That we might Love, and yet be Innocent:
For sure no Crime with thee we can commit;
Or if we shou’d – thy Form excuses it.
For who, that gathers fairest Flowers believes
A Snake lies hid beneath the Fragrant Leaves.

Though beauteous Wonder of a different kind,
Soft Cloris with the dear Alexis join’d;
When e’er the Manly part of thee, wou’d plead
Though tempts us with the Image of the Maid,
While we the noblest Passions do extend
The Love to Hermes, Aphrodite the Friend.

Aphra Behn (1640 – 1689)

 

We don’t know that much about Aphra’s Behn’s life (beyond the fact that it was pretty riotous and seemed to involve a lot of love affairs and a certain amount of spying), but we do know that she was one of the first professional women writers. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf wrote that “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.”  She is buried in Westminster Abbey.

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2 thoughts on “Aphra Behn, ‘To the Fair Clarinda’

  1. “That we might Love, and yet be Innocent:
    For sure no Crime with thee we can commit;
    Or if we shou’d – thy Form excuses it.”
    Heh. Why do I get the impression that Aphra is winking at those of us in the know here? She’s being awful coy!

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