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Raul Macías Mosqueira

5o Semestre

Critical Appreciation of The Flea by John Donne

In this poem by Donne, the poetic voice envies an insignificant flea, for its has bitten him first

and then his beloved, thus mixing his bodily fluids with hers inside its gut, all the while the poet

wishes to achieve the same by more human and romantic means, and so far his efforts have been


Mark but this flea, and mark in this,

How little that which thou deniest me is;

It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,

And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;

The freedom of the bug to wander through the body of his beloved uses the flea, an omnipresent

plague at the time, and its "knowledge" of the flesh as a metaphor for the sexual act. In the

second stanza, the poet wants to prevent his beloved from killing the flea, because inside it three

beings have come together, in the manner of a trinity which larger than the sum of the three:

Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,

Where we almost, nay more than married are.

This flea is you and I, and this

Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;

In the third stanza, the beloved clearly ignores the poet's pleas, as she proceeds to kill the bug:

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since

Purpled thy nail, in blood of innocence?

Wherein could this flea guilty be,

Except in that drop which it sucked from thee?

However, the death of the flea, although it involves certain "death" of the beloved and the poet,

does not represent a great loss; this is used as an argument to try to convince the beloved that the

sexual act that the poet proposes would not represent a considerable loss of honor.

Yet thou triumph’st, and say'st that thou

Find’st not thy self, nor me the weaker now;

’Tis true; then learn how false, fears be:

Just so much honor, when thou yield’st to me,

Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.

If the flea has died with the blood of both man and woman within itself and the beloved does not

think it much, why then would the beloved one not agree to the poet's pleas?

Although the poem is rife with the theme of death, 'make thee apt to kill me', 'self-murder' and

the very death of the flea at the hands (nails) of the beloved, it actually describes the orgasm by

Jacobin euphemisms , like the petit mort. Donne, in a display of conceits, carries his innuendos
from the celebration of a sacred union within the bug to an utter disregard for its death, in order

to convince his beloved to yield to his wooing.