O Love! that stronger art than wine,
Pleasing delusion, witchery divine,
Wont to be prized above all wealth,
Disease that has more joys than health;
Though we blaspheme thee in our pain,
And of thy tyranny complain,
We are all bettered by thy reign.
What reason never can bestow
We to this useful passion owe;
Love wakes the dull from sluggish ease,
And learns a clown the art to please,
Humbles the vain, kindles the cold,
Makes misers free, and cowards bold;
'Tis he reforms the sot from drink,
And teaches airy fops to think.
When full brute appetite is fed,
And choked the glutton lies and dead,
Thou new spirits dost dispense
And 'finest the gross delights of sense:
Virtue's unconquerable aid
That against Nature can persuade,
And makes a roving mind retire
Within the bounds of just desire;
Cheerer or age, youth's kind unrest,
And half the heaven of the blest!
Here, Aphra Behn extols the virtues of Love despite the many wounds it deals us all. She describes love as a delusion and witchery, but to both of those descriptions, adds pleasing and divine. Love is a "disease that has more joys than health" and in the end, we are "all bettered by thy reign." Love is a tyrant we submit to happily, a disease we are glad to have, and a delusion from which we never wish to wake. Behn goes on in the second stanza to describe in greater detail the ways in which love enhances our lives.
Love helps where reason fails us. When our logic fails, love is there. Love can perform miracles it seems. It "humbles the vain" and "kindles" (warms) the cold. It makes cowards bold and can reform a drunkard, or even teach an idiot (so nicely described here as "airy fop") to think. This disease, this divine witchery, has some serious power.
It's love that makes the world go 'round for Behn, and though this poem is over 300 years old, I think the sentiment is still relevant, and despite some old fashioned turns of phrase, fairly easy to understand.