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Helen Gardner (ed.), John Donne: The Elegies and The Songs and Sonnets

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pg 53 The Flea

  • 1Marke but this flea, and marke in this,
  • 2How little that which thou deny'st me is;
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus3Mee it suck'd first, and now sucks thee,
  • Editor’s Note4And in this flea, our two bloods mingled bee;
  • Critical Apparatus5 Confesse it, this cannot: be said
  • Critical Apparatus6A sinne, or shame, or losse of maidenhead,
  • 7    Yet this enjoyes before it wooe,
  • 8And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two,
  • 9And this, alas, is more then wee would doe.
  • 10 Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
  • Critical Apparatus11Where wee almost, nay more then maryed are:
  • 12 This flea is you and I, and this
  • 13Our mariage bed, and mariage temple is;
  • Critical Apparatus14 Though parents grudge, and you, w'are met,
  • 15And cloysterd in these living walls of Jet.
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus16    Though use make thee apt to kill mee,
  • Critical Apparatus17Let not to this, selfe murder added bee,
  • 18And sacrilege, three sinnes in killing three.
  • 19 Cruell and sodaine, hast thou since
  • 20Purpled thy naile, in blood of innocence?
  • Critical Apparatus21  In what could this flea guilty bee,
  • 22Except in that drop which it suckt from thee?
  • 23  Yet thou triumph'st, and saist that thou
  • 24Find'st not thy selfe, nor mee the weaker now;
  • 25   'Tis true, then learne how false, feares bee;
  • 26Just so much honor, when thou yeeld'st to mee,
  • 27Will wast, as this flea's death tooke life from thee.

Notes Settings


Critical Apparatus
The Flea. JC omits. Title from 1633, Σ no title H 40, L 74, TC, A 25.
Critical Apparatus
3 Mee it suck'd H 40, L 74, TC, HK 2, Cy, P, A 25, B, S: It suck'd me 1633, C 57, H 49, Dob, O'F, S 96, Gr
Editor’s Note
l. 3. Mee it suck'd first. The inversion throws the stress where it is needed, on the two personal pronouns.
Editor’s Note
l. 4. our two bloods mingled bee. Cf. 'To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods (Winters Tale, I. ii. 109). In Aristotelian physiology coition was thought to be a 'mingling of bloods'; see De Generatione Animalium, and cf. 'The Progress of the Soul', stanza L.
Critical Apparatus
5 Confesse it, Σ: Confesse that A 25: Thou know'st that 1633, C 57, H 49, Gr: Confess it: thou know'st that Cy
Critical Apparatus
6 or … or Σ: nor … nor 1633, C 57, H 49, Gr
shame,] shame 1633
Critical Apparatus
11 nay Σ: yea 1633, C 57, H49, Gr
are:] are. 1633
Critical Apparatus
14. and you, w'are met] and you yet we are Dob, O'F, S 96, Cy, B: yett we are P
Critical Apparatus
16 thee Σ you 1633, C 57, H 49, Gr
Editor’s Note
l. 16. thee. The reversion to the familiar singular pronoun marks a change from the pleading and respectful tone of the opening of the second stanza, marked by the change to the plural form. 'Thee' also gives an effective internal rhyme.
Critical Apparatus
17 this Σ: thie L 74, TC: that 1633, C 57, H 49, Gr
Critical Apparatus
21 In what Σ: Wherein 1633, C 57, H 49, Gr
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