VCCS Litonline Introduction to Literature                                                                                                           Page 4  of  15
English 112 (English Composition II)

John Donne's "The Flea"

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deny'st me is;
It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea, our two bloods mingled be;
Thou knowest 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, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, we 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 sayest that thou
Find'st not thyself, nor me, the weaker now.
'Tis true, then learn how false fears be;
Just so much honor, when thou yieldst to me,
Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.

 

Click on the play button above to hear a reading of "The Flea."

 

William Holman Hunt The Awakening Conscience 1853

Oil on canvas 76.2 x 55.9 cm (30 x 22 in) Tate Gallery, London

 

Questions on "The Flea"

typehand.gif (8738 bytes)For your convenience, all the writing questions from this module have been placed into word processing files. Click on the link that matches the word processor you have to put the file onto your computer so you can save your answers and re-open the file on later pages of this module. For now, once you've read and listened to the poem, open the questions about it, again, in the format that matches your word processor, save it to your desktop, and type in your answers to the questions. Then minimize your word processor window and go forward to the Commentary. Compare your answers to this Commentary.

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