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The conceits of john donne in his poem the flea

It's a kind of pick-up line using very clever and elaborate analogies.

Discuss the features of metaphysical poetry in "The Flea"?

The poem is divided into three parts. Part I is the action of the poem: It establishes the literal and sets up the figurative. In "The Flea" John Donne's speaker uses the metaphysical conceit of a flea's blood-sucking to convince a possible lover to join him in physical sexual union.

Part II is the conceit, or extended metaphor.

  1. Here he compares the two lovers to the pair of legs of compass. By murdering the "innocent" flea, the lady has "purpled her nail," a color assigned to the clothing of royalty.
  2. There is obviously some action taken by the poet's mistress between the second and third stanzas, as the next segment seems to be a judgment on those actions. By murdering the "innocent" flea, the lady has "purpled her nail," a color assigned to the clothing of royalty.
  3. The strength and durability of this new unit is dependent upon how well the elements of the two souls are balanced, as we see from these lines from The Good-Morrow.

This flea is you and I, and this Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is. Metaphysical poetry is all about the metaphysical above, about, or beyond the physical.

  1. The lady's significance is reduced to that of a black widow spider at this point, where the poet says she is apt to kill him after this consummation of a non-existent marriage. The poet asks his mistress to notice only this flea, to forget everything else as he delivers his argument.
  2. Her reasons may be that she is a noble and he is not, so the suggestion that they mix blood is highly insulting, or that the entire subject he is discussing is not modest enough for a maiden.
  3. If the flea is pregnant with their blood-child, then she the lady may as well be pregnant too. By murdering the "innocent" flea, the lady has "purpled her nail," a color assigned to the clothing of royalty.

It takes a literal subject, like a flea, and makes it ephemeral, spiritual, or sexual through elaborate analogy. This comparison is called a metaphysical conceit. The extended analogy is also characteristic of this poetry.

Metaphysical poets saw their world in terms of comparisons. Still, even when the similarities between what the flea does with what the couple could do and then the way the flea symbolizes their love can finally be granted, it still remains a strange, if not bizarre comparison. Its outrageousness is part of the effect of the playful pose the poet creates for the speaker. In later and more serious poems, Donne uses the conceit as a way of analyzing his love and his experience of it.

The speaker makes the analogy that the flea is a marriage bed and temple.

The flea is a holy representation of their physical love. His argument is very clever: So, the speaker's logic is thus: After all, she's already been contaminated.

Expert Answers

In Part III, the flea is squished by the nail of the female. This is another conceit that shows the flea's death is a kind of orgasm. The flea's death signals the end of the lovemaking process, which is also a quick rush of fluids, after which both lovers are left weak. The ending can be read two ways: Either the woman killed the flea in ecstasy or in denial of his advances.