Donne’s The Flea is quite remarkable. It is a long winded and metaphysical request from Donne, to his potential suitor, to go to bed with him. Have a read of it below and see what you think:

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.
Well, what a poem! The first stanza sets the scene, a flea has bitten both Donne and his lady friend. A flea has bitten both him and her. Their blood intermingles in the flea, therefore, why should this young lady not compromise her virtue and give in to Donne’s desires? This is the essential thrust of the poem. The blood is mingling without any effort on the part of the flea, without any courtship or wooing. The reader is bemoaning why the same cannot be said of him and his prospective lover. It is, however, ironic to me that the writer touts the maidenhead of the woman he is trying to woo, while at the same time seeking to compromise it.
The second stanza speaks to the newly sacred nature of the flea. As it has mingled the blood of the writer and his suitor, it has now assumed the role of the beloved’s marital bed. To kill it would be a travesty in view of this. Though their parents disagree, though even she disagrees, Donne has decided that they are betrothed via Fr. Flea. The flea represents itself, the poet and his lover. To kill it would be to commit triple murder, which Donne reminds his suitor is forbidden by their faith.
Finally, the last stanza. The lover has killed the flea and the writer is piling onto her. He is saying that she has lost no honour by killing the flea, therefore she should not lose any honour by yielding to his wishes. The silliness of this is evident to us the modern reader. However, this last stanza is interesting in showing the force of his pursuit of this poor woman.
Overall, I think this is a funny poem which tackles the interesting subject of the lover’s pursuit. Donne has inadvertently shown man’s pursuit of woman in this incomplete, pre-marital, way is nonsensical. Charlotte and I discussed this and she concluded that Donne is satirising man’s pursuit of the physical. Donne is using this poem to express his acknowledgment and disdain of putting bodily satisfaction over spiritual fulfilment, and does so exquisitely.