|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.
- Flea – Small blood sucking vermin that we believed to carry sickness with them.
- How little that which thou deniest me is – This is referring to the idea that sex is such a trivial thing
- Blood – one of the four humors. Echos with the characteristics of courageous,
hopeful, amorous nature. All of which we see in the speaker as he addresses his love.
- Pamper’d swells – indication of pregnancy, the flea has become filled with their life
and their life has mixed inside it with no sex. It is a nod to the virgin birth of Christ.
- One blood made of two – again indicating a pregnancy but also having a trinity image
This is again an image that is repeated in the line O stay, three lives in one flea spare.
- Our marriage bed, and marriage temple – The flea has been transformed into the marriage bed
which is an allusion to the wedding night, the first time that a man and wife should be together
in the eyes of the church. And the marriage temple reads as related to this idea
that the human body is the temple of the soul. There is also even more when it is tied with the
second half of the line, because then it become almost an image of the woman’s reproductive selves.
- Though parents grudge, and you, we’re met,/ and cloister’d in these living walls of jet
With these two lines, Donne is creating an image of something almost a prison out of
their relationship. Cloister’d is related to the idea of separating something from the outside
world. Jet is a minor gem made from wood under immense pressure in the earth, it becomes
a dark brown or black (the color of the flea).
- Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence – Purple is the color of royalty and the idea of coloring
the nails in innocence blood does seem to hold ideas of original sin or the Cain and Abel story.
Blood on a person’s hands.
- The last four lines of the poem really get to the heart of what Done has been getting after.
That there is nothing evil about the act of sex, that it is part of the most natural part of life.
The narrator is saying that he and the woman he is speaking to might as well have sex.
Because they have already been made one inside of the flea. Their blood has mixed in the
tiny insect and will continue its life. Therefore they should join together and become one.