John Donne, Poetry

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  • Intro

    'The Flea' and 'A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning' are two of the most famous examples of metaphysical poetry, which use jarring but intimate rhythms, rich and often contradictory metaphors, and explorations of deeply emotional themes such as eroticism, shame, pain, death and joy.

     

    In 'The Flea', Donne uses the image of the flea, sucking first on his blood and then on his beloved's, to persuade her to sleep with him, arguing that as their blood is united in the flea, there should be no barriers to their physical union:

    'This flea is you and I, and this

    Our marriage bed and marriage temple is'

     

    In 'A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning', the relationship between two lovers who are shortly to be parted is compared to a pair of compasses: the legs of the compass may move apart, but they will always be joined together. The poems celebrate different kinds of love (one carnal, the other spiritual), but both display a wit and elegance that are characteristic of Donne's poetry.

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