Chemistry

A literary analysis of two poems by Donne namely The Flea and The Sun Rising

Donne is acknowledged as a love poet, but this poem deals with love in an incongruous way given the fact that the speaker does not attach any importance to some preexisting relationship or chemistry with the woman he is attracted to. Instead he uses the flea’s activity as an excuse for conjugal relations (Brackett 179). He does not care to invest time in building a foundation before he approaches his love. All the romantic suspense in one’s exploration of the other person leading to bigger events is omitted and emphasis is laid on the speaker’s sexual desires. Donne’s take on love in this poem marked by complexity of thought and strange imagery leaves the readers amused and impressed even though it is playful and absurd. The speaker in the poem never considers the woman’s objections and simply reacts to them making her come across as a fool in denial. Then more dirt is splashed on the woman in the concluding lines of second stanza where he writes, Let not to this, selfe murder added bee / And sacrilege, three sinnes in killing three (17-18) and is seen equating killing the flea to sins like suicide, murder, and sacrilege. The approach to love, if there is any, is first quite imaginative given how the speaker uses a simple flea to lay out an entire framework. Then, this approach takes on a deep irrational hue. Finally, all passion is forgotten when Donne uses imagery of the flea’s blood and writes, Cruel and sodaine, hast thou since / Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence (19-20)….
The approach to love, if there is any, is first quite imaginative given how the speaker uses a simple flea to lay out an entire framework. Then, this approach takes on a deep irrational hue. Finally, all passion is forgotten when Donne uses imagery of the flea’s blood and writes, Cruel and sodaine, hast thou since / Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence (19-20). Here, he is seen handling resentment stemming from thwarted desires. It is style like this which makes one appreciate how Donne, as chief of the metaphysical poets, is mesmerizingly capable of handling love in all its aspects even when dissatisfied desires leave behind deep wounds of bitterness as in case of the poem under consideration. The speaker’s argument is laden with sexual innuendos. Even the movement within the poem mirrors the act of lovemaking considering the argument which is contemplative in first stanza, then picks momentum reaching climax in second stanza, and finally culminates with the sudden unexpected death of the flea. In contrast to other poems like The Sun Rising in which the poet appears hopelessly in love, this poem is more concerned with lustful desires yearning to be fulfilled. According to the argument in this poem, the act of sex is nothing more than mingling of fluids and a history of romance is not necessary. But when the word little (2) is used by the poet, it is not meant that he does not consider the act of lovemaking important. Rather, it is only a way of convincing his love that engaging in sex would not really be a gigantic sin (Brackett 179). In the Renaissance period, the concept of sex was really confined to mixing of the blood which according to the poet has already happened when he writes, And in this flea our two bloods mingled bee.

Back To Top