The era of Restoration introduced significant changes to the realm of poetry, rom structural alterations to new topics and ideas for discussion. Aphra Behn’s “The Disappointment” and John Wilmot Earl of Rochester’s “The Imperfect Enjoyment” reflect these changes, addressing a rather delicate subject and introducing new sociocultural issues under the guise of a lighthearted and slightly tongue-in-cheek poem. Although the poems in question seem to adders a similar issue of sexual dysfunction, they feature quite different perspectives on the sociocultural perception of women and men, as well as a unique approach to rhythm and rhyme.
Structural differences spring immediately to the reader’s attention when comparing the two poems. The use of anapestic tetrameter in Rochester’s poem leads to building a rather heavy structure, which clashes with Behn’s much more lightweight approach to building the poem’s metric: “Within my mouth, and to my thoughts conveyed” (Rochester, 1680, line 8). Indeed, Behn’s use of the iambic framework leads to creating a more easily digestible structure: “Her bright Eyes sweat, and yet Severe” (Behn, 1680, line 21). However, what makes the poems especially different is the approach to sex-based stereotypes. Namely, Rochester addresses the topic from the male perspective, viewing a woman as a passive participant of relationships: “Naked she lay, clasped in my longing arms” (Rochester, 1680, line 1). However, in Behn’s poem, the female protagonist becomes n equally active participant: “Her balmy Lips encountring his” (Behn, 1680, line 61). At the same time, the theme of sexual dysfunction is represented quite sympathetically in both poems.
Though both poems address a similar topic, their approach to portraying their male and female protagonists are quite different. The specified choices are supported by the selection of the meter and stylistic aspects of the poems. Overall, while belonging to a similar era and handling similar topics, Behn’s “The Disappointment” and Rochester’s “The Imperfect Enjoyment” utilize different strategies to achieve their goals.
Behn, A. (1680). The disappointment. Poetry Foundation. Web.
Rochester, Earl of, J. W. (1680). The imperfect enjoyment. Poetry Foundation. Web.