Poetry Analysis The poem, The Flea by John Donne is perhaps simply the seventeenth centurys version of a commonplace pickup line. However, in todays society it offers a comical and conceivably ingenious if not simply creative method of wooing a fine, honorable lady into your bed.
In overview, the poem is set with a young lady and her suitor. Conveniently, just as this gentleman is attempting to convince the object of his affection to sleep with him, a flea comes along and proceeds to bite him. The flea then bites his lady friend and the speaker finds the perfect guise for his argument. He tells the woman that they have already exchanged blood within the little flea, and that an exchange in the form of sex is no less honorable. At the point where Donne begins a new stanza, the speaker has moved beyond talking of the flea as their union and has begun to build an entire world within the flea.This world is one in which their physical love is realized, also with mention of marriage vows.
But by the end of this stanza, his ladylove has had enough of her suitors nonsense and somehow threatens to kill the flea. To this, the speaker reacts that killing the flea will carry three sins: murder, for killing his blood; suicide, for killing her own blood, a sacrilege, in going against the union that he deems was meant to be. But, alas, by the third stanza the woman has killed the flea and the gentleman begins to lament. As he complain about what the flea could possibly have done to deserve this, the woman counters by saying that she does not feel remorse for killing the flea, or for that much, their union. The speaker then changes his approach entirely and ends the poem by saying that having sex with him would be no less honorable than killing that flea.Donne uses a variety of methods in order to set the poem the way he wanted. The poem itself is a closed-form poem, with each stanza following the pattern AABBCCDDD. This offers a set style to the poem with being singsong, such as the form ABAB.
Also, the somewhat different style of the last three lines, being that they all rhyme and that they are shifted to the right, indicates lines in which the speaker seems to get most desperate (and whiny). In other words, his pleas to the lady appear in these last three lines of each stanza and they seem to summarize his arguments. Donne uses many metaphors throughout the poem, most having to do with the flea itself. One example of this use of metaphor concerning the flea is the line in which he says, “This flea is you and I..” This method of using metaphors is what the entire poem is about.Without comparing the flea to such things as their marriage bed, this suitor would have no line for his lady at all.
The metaphors add a comical aspect, for those who have a sense of humor, in that he is able to compare all of these complicated, universal concepts to a flea. In conjunction with Donnes use of metaphors, symbolism is equally important and equally abundant. The use of the flea as a symbol seems to be divided by the stanzas. In the first stanza, the flea is a symbol of the union between this man and woman.In the second stanza, the speaker expands the symbol to make the flea the entire world in which the union of their love physically exists.
Finally in the third stanza, after the woman has crushed the flea without another thought, the flea becomes a symbol of the triviality of her concerns that through losing her innocence, she will also lose her honor. Besides symbols, Donne spreads some imagery throughout the poem. A prime example of this would be the visual imagery incurred by the line, “And cloistered in these walls of living jet”. This line immediately brings to mind a small, dark, secretive place such as that within the flea.However, imagery is not widely used in this poem, which helps to keep it light, on a superficial level. Without sinking deep into the imagery, the reader is allowed to keep a perspective on what the poem is truly about, a come-on. Of course, in a poem such as this, connotations, specifically sexual connotations are abundant.
Lines such as “It sucked me first and now sucks thee” or “And pampered swells with one blood made of two” is drenched with sexual undertones. The purpose of this use of connotations, if nothing else, is to give the reader insight into the speakers intentions, and perhaps more accurately, just where his mind is while he is spouting his charm. Donnes use of connotations, among the other various methods of writing poetry helps to set the tone of a poem that is, indeed, little more than what some poor seventeenth century woman might here behind a stable, spouted by some quick-witted suitor.
Bibliography Donne, John. The Flea.