SUMMARY AND CRITICAL APPRECIATION OF “THE FLEA” BY JOHN DONNE
John Donne with his lyrical quality of writing love poetry has skillfully revolted and rejected the Petrarchan approach towards love and once again like the other poems he has written made the idea clear that spiritual love is actually the name of physical union. He has also rejected the false concepts of chastity.
In the first stanza, we see that the lover is a bit jealous of the flea. He addresses his beloved who has imaginary presence in the poem and narrates to her that they have been one and same spiritually in the body of the flea because they have been bitten by the flea. The flea bites the poet first and then his beloved. In this way, their blood has been mixed by the bite of the flea. However, according to the poet, this biting is not a sin. In the same way, their approach towards love-making can never be a sin.
In the second stanza, the poet depicts the body of the flea as the temple of love. They have become united by their bloods in the body of the flea. They have also become united through marriage in a church. That’s why, the body of the flea is their marriage-bed. That’s why, when his beloved tries to kill the flea, he advises her not to do so because he thinks that the killing of the flea is equal to the murders of three lives i.e. His own life, his beloved’s life and the life of the flea.
O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are,
This flea is you and I, and this
He thinks that although their parents are against their collaboration and mingling, they have been united by the bite of the flea in the living walls of the flea. How beautifully and skillfully he writes!
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 thee.
In the third stanza, we see that his beloved has murdered the flea. The poet becomes sad and in his dejection, he tells his beloved that the flea had made no mistake except sucking their blood. He then claims that his beloved will not lose his honour and chastity if she likes to be with her on a bed to make love with him. The beloved also admits that a drop of water sucked by the flea has not made any effect on her body. It has caused no weakness in her body. She has lost nothing in her contact with the flea. In the same way, it will make no difference if she is ready to share some time with her lover on bed. She will lose nothing in doing so.
To sum up, like a great and sensible lawyer, once again Donne has advocated his point of view with strong arguments and the use of a conceit. He uses the conceit of a flea and even goes to the extent of saying that the flea is the marriage-temple and bed. It all shows that he is skillful in using conceits and advocating his ideas. Having no concern with conventional Petrarchan approach towards love, he fully ignores all the social norms and supports the physical union of lovers’ bodies to get spiritual love. He, once again uses metaphysical elements in the poem under discussion and makes it a master-piece in English literature. (Words: 597)