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The Flea: John Donne’s metaphysical poem - Summary

The Flea: John Donne’s metaphysical poem - Summary

The Flea: John Donne’s metaphysical poem - Summary

"The Flea" is a metaphysical poem written by the English poet John Donne. It was first published in 1633 as part of his collection of poems titled "Songs and Sonnets." The poem explores themes of love, sexuality, and persuasion through the use of a conceit, a complex and extended metaphor.

The poem consists of three stanzas, each containing nine lines. It is written in a regular rhyme scheme of AABBCCDDD, with the meter primarily iambic tetrameter.

In "The Flea," the speaker attempts to seduce his beloved by using a flea as a metaphor for their physical union. The poem begins with the speaker drawing attention to a flea that has bitten both him and his beloved. He argues that their blood has mingled in the flea and therefore they are already united in a small, insignificant creature. The flea, according to the speaker, serves as a symbol of their union and the merging of their bodies.

The speaker then addresses his beloved directly, urging her not to kill the flea. He suggests that if she kills the flea, it would be like committing three sins: murder (because the flea contains their blood), suicide (because she would be killing herself, metaphorically), and sacrilege (because the flea is seen as a holy temple of their love). By presenting these arguments, the speaker cleverly tries to dissuade his beloved from dismissing the flea as insignificant and to consider the implications of their relationship.

Throughout the poem, Donne employs various rhetorical devices, such as paradox, hyperbole, and puns, to present his argument. He plays with the concept of the flea being a "marriage bed" and humorously highlights the absurdity of the situation.

"The Flea" can be interpreted as a witty exploration of seduction, love, and the complex intertwining of physical and spiritual elements in a relationship. It showcases Donne's skillful use of metaphysical conceits, where seemingly unrelated objects or ideas are compared to create elaborate arguments and intellectual puzzles.


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