John Donne (1572-1731)

The Flea

Marke but this flea, and marke in this,
How little that which thou deny'st me is;
It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea, our two bloods mingled bee;
Thou know'st that this cannot be said
A sinne, nor shame, nor losse of maidenhead,
    Yet this enjoyes before it wooe,
    And this, alas, is more than wee would doe.
Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where wee almost, yea more then maryed are,
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and mariage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, w'are met,
And cloystered in these living walls of Jet.
    Though use make you apt to kill mee,
    Let not to that, selfe murder added bee,
    And sacrilege, three sinnes in killing three.
Cruell and sodaine, hast thou since
Purpled thy naile, in blood if innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty bee,
Except in that drow which it suckt from thee?
Yet thou triumph'st, and saist that thou
Find'st not thy selfe, nor mee the weaker now;
    'Tis true, then learne how false, feares bee;
    Just so much honor, when thou yeeld'st to mee,
     Will wast, as this flea's death tooke life from thee.


1.  Mark:  notice.

3.  our two bloods mingled bee:  One theory of conception current in Donne's day was that it consisted of the mingling of the man and the woman's blood.

15. Jet:  black.


1)  What is the speaker's aim here?

2)  What action has the woman taken between stanzas one and two?  between stanzas two and three?

3)  In how many places can we find the speaker playing irreverently with serious religious ideas?  What might be the aim of this, considered as a tactic?

4)  How would you characterize the arguments the speaker deploys in pursuit of his aims?