A modern-day response to John Donne's 'The Flea'

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,

How little that which thou deniest me is;

It sucked 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 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 marriage temple is;

Though parents grudge, and you, w'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 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.

- John Donne


You say that our two bloods mingled be as the flea pricked us both. Yet, it was the flea’s choice to suck my blood, as I did not ask it to. Sex must be consented from both parties as we are individuals who own our bodies; we do not own each other. This flea is a criminal as he has taken my goods without my knowledge or my permission. Thus, he must be killed for his devious action. Do you wish to be dead as well? This is an insect we are talking of, not a human being. You say that losing my virginity before marriage is as small an issue as a blood-sucking flea, and that both are not sins. But sir, you are wrong, as I am much bigger than a flea. I have morals, beliefs, values and I believe in God. What does a flea have other than many legs and a puny brain? Our blood has merely intertwined, not our bodies or our minds. You may be blood type B and I may be blood type A. Hence, our red fluids cannot be linked. You claim that the flea is us and contains our “marriage temple”. Yet, this temple shall not last. Where do you suppose this blood ends up? Does it stay in his belly forever? I think not as it is eventually excreted in which the blood is dried and blackened. If this blood represents us, then our relationship too shall perish. Like the flea’s enjoyment, we will have temporary satisfaction in bed, but will separate in the long-term. You say that I have committed the three sins of murder, suicide, and sacrilege. But, this was all in self-defense as the pest attacked me first. You say that because I killed the flea and have not lost strength, that I will stay powerful after sleeping with you. Yet, how can enjoyable sex be compared with an insect’s killing? I am the killer of the flea, as you say. Since I have killed the flea that contains our marriage bed, we will be without one another. Likewise, when we share a bed in real life, we will lose each other.

- L.R.

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