Donne’s Poetry

by: John Donne

“The Flea”

Summary “The Flea”

This poem is the cleverest of a long line of sixteenth-century love poems using the flea as an erotic image, a genre derived from an older poem of Ovid. Donne’s poise of hinting at the erotic without ever explicitly referring to sex, while at the same time leaving no doubt as to exactly what he means, is as much a source of the poem’s humor as the silly image of the flea is; the idea that being bitten by a flea would represent “sin, or shame, or loss of maidenhead” gets the point across with a neat conciseness and clarity that Donne’s later religious lyrics never attained.

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