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"The Flea", a witty poem of seduction and conceit, taken from John Donne's "Songs and Sonets" is the poem that I have chosen to compare to "Song", another poem of John Donne's where he is passionately pleading with his wife not to be disheartened about h

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Introduction

Sarah~Jane Beck Mrs Anderton John Donne: "The Flea" and "Song" "The Flea", a witty poem of seduction and conceit, taken from John Donne's "Songs and Sonets" is the poem that I have chosen to compare to "Song", another poem of John Donne's where he is passionately pleading with his wife not to be disheartened about his departure abroad. Both poems which belong to " Songs and Sonets", written around the time of the 16th century, show that their title suggests they are both short poems, following the traditional form of a sonnet, consisting of fourteen lines. However, they are not "songs" in the conventional sense we think of and none of them are written as a sonnet. In fact, Donne's poems were intended for circulation around his local pub, "Lincoln's Inn", where he could impress his male friends with his bawdy poetic nature. " The Flea", emphatically rejects the Petrarchan tradition of love poetry, where the woman is seen as a goddess, an object of desire worth worshipping by a man. Instead, Donne wrote poems that saw the earthy reality of sexual relations between a man and woman. The poem, whose historical convention probably started with Ovid, shows that it was common in Elizabethan times to envy a flea for its access to the female body. Donne throughout the poem makes references to the flea, presenting a conceit produced of wit, integrity and persuasion. ...read more.

Middle

Donne also uses the image of the flea for deliberate exaggeration, ludicrously stating that to kill the flea would be a "sin", a murder. Religious imagery becomes apparent in this stanza, references to "sacrilege" are made, with echoes of another triple identification: the three persons of the Holy Trinity. Donne here shows his despair as he makes connotations of "self murder" and "three sinnes in killing three." It is certain that his bold use of religious imagery based on the imagery of the flea is shocking and emphasises his confidence and wit to make such claims, adding effectiveness to his argument. Donne shows he is not afraid to combine the sacred with the profane, as an imagery based on the Elizabethan pun "to die" becomes apparent. The pun, meaning to experience an orgasm is ironic, this of course is what he is longing for, but shows the imagery of the flea being killed. This obscene pun is just the start of bawdy connotations we read of in the end of stanza one: " And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two" Apart from the obvious double entendre of the word "swells" and the erotic overtones in this sentence, the imagery of religion is compared to the obscene. The language throughout this poem is colloquial; the lexis is predominantly the lexis of everyday life, deliberately earthy and direct. ...read more.

Conclusion

Here he shows compassion, he can understand why his wife is upset, he knows it is natural, but he cannot bear seeing her in such distress. " When thou sigh'st, thou sigh'st not wind, but sigh'st my soul away I think that this shows true love, he does not want to see her in her current state and so he figures out that if he says it will make him even more subdued, she will eventually come round for both his and hers sake. The final verse again shows Donne's love for his wife. He shows reassurance, showing that even though they may be apart for a little while, they will always have each other in each other's hearts, and that they will never really be parted. His final argument of persuasion is that they don't really need the physical presence, as long as there is the matter of trust then he will return to her once more. Overall, by the structure and language used in "Song", the poem is very consoling and reassuring. Compared to "The Flea," it is very different as the respect for the women the two poems are written for differ enormously. Indeed both poems are extremely clever and logical, with well thought out ideas for argument and persuasion, and are full of wit and clever analogies. However, "Song" shows a different side to John Donne's character than "The Flea" presents, he appears more softer and respectful, consoling and loving than when he appears bawdy and obscene, shallow and disrespectful. ...read more.

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