The Flea

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Some who read my blog may be surprised to know that I enjoy poetry. My favorite poet of all time is John Donne. Donne had an interesting (to me) life, and although some of his work was spiritual in nature, some of his poetry was considered downright risque for the time he wrote.

He also wrote a poem based on the same rhyme, metre and theme as another favorite poet of mine, Charles Marlowe, sometimes thought by some to have been Shakespeare. I know that I could never ever match the poetry of either Marlowe or Donne, but I did write my own poem based upon Donne’s writing of “The Bait,” inspired by Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd To His Love.”

More on that another time. For now, I’ve just finished reading and re-reading Donne’s The Flea:

MARK but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is ;
It suck’d 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 pamper’d swells with one blood made of two ;
And this, alas ! is more than we would do.

O 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’re met,
And cloister’d 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 suck’d from thee?
Yet thou triumph’st, and say’st that thou
Find’st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
‘Tis true ; then learn how false fears be ;
Just so much honour, when thou yield’st to me,
Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.

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