Poem introduction

John Donne’s ‘The Flea’ is probably the greatest argument for pre-marital sex on the basis of the fait accompli of body fluids mingled in a parasite, to be found anywhere in literature. It is also very funny.

The Flea

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
Me it sucked first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, or shame, or 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 mariage bed and mariage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, we are met,
And cloisterd 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.