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In this article I will discuss my interpretation and short analysis of John Donne’s poem “The Flea”.
The poem goes as follows:
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;
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead,
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pampered swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than we would do.
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;
Though parents grudge, and you, w'are met,
And cloistered in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that, self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.
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?
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.
Another strange poem by the father of strangeness titled the flea. When I first read the title of the poem, I thought that it is going to be a natural disgusting poem about insects and things from nature no longer have I realized that it is a love poem.
What a poet, what a John Donne, and what a mind is this; I am always amazed by John Donne works and shocked as well. All of this is just about the relation between the title and the content.
The poem consists of three nine-line stanzas with a rhyme scheme AABBCCDDD unmasking a new strange thing here which is the three rhyming lines or let me call them triplet, and this reminds me of Shakespeare who is the master of the couplet; I see a sort of challenge here by Donne trying to tell us that Shakespeare is not the one who comes up with special things, I also can do this easily and more perfectly.
To further read and understand the poem, we have three characters the man, the woman , and the flea , and this is telling us that there is something about number three her of the poem the number of the stanzas, the number of the main characters, the number of the rhyming lines, and the number of the two rhyming lines ; I mean that in every stanza there are three double lines by AABBCC uncovering the idea of Trinity.
Here, we understand that the poet is always rejected by that woman, so he decides to use religion to trick her as it is something cannot be rejected when used as a tool. In the first stanza, when the poet says “ it sucked me ….sucks you”, I remember the traditional blood diagnoses when a couple wants to get married, so they can know if they fit each other or not, and probably they do. Another thing that attracted me the most is that Donne is like very confident of what he is saying to his beloved. What is Donne doing here? A flea and blood and we are married.
I can’t believe what he is doing, and he is very confident by saying “A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead” as if he is saying something believable. If I were that woman, I would have killed him about what he is saying. In the second stanza, he is begging here “ o three lives …..one flea spare” not to kill the spare; in other words, he is telling her “don’t throw our marriage ring.
The final stanza just blew my mind because he is very stupid in his way of thinking ; he was begging her not to kill the flea, and when she killed it he says” Just so much honor, when thou yield'st to me, Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee” not blaming her of this crime as he was describing killing the flea would be.
In a nutshell, this poem has so many metaphysical features like originality, paradox, and probably the most important feature which is the conceit. However, he uses the conceit in this poem where there is a far-fetched relationship between the love theme and the flea thing; this time, at least for me, Donne failed to convince me with this strange idea.