Thursday, April 06, 2006

Happy Poetry, seriously.

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? Well it is. And I like poetry. A lot. So I am sharing one of my favorite poems with you, right here and right now. And then I am a going to tell you why I like this poem. OK? OK. Here we go…

by John Donne

MARK but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know'st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead;
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two;
And this, alas ! is more than we would do.

O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
Though parents grudge, and you, we're met,
And cloister'd in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it suck'd from thee?
Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou
Find'st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
'Tis true; then learn how false fears be;
Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me,
Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.

OK, now. If you studied John Donne at all in school, you may remember him most for two key phrases, “No man in an island” and “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee”. That’s all well and good and he wrote a lot about religion but this poem…well…this comes from his more…libertine sort of days.

This is what is known as a seduction poem. Did you get that part? Because a lot of people see the “language” and think, “Eh, old stuff, I don’t care about this” but oh, that is such a mistake! This poem is totally about getting a chick to sleep with him. And truly, it is a better argument than any I have ever heard. What it boils down to is, “Hey baby, we’re lying here in bed and you won’t give it up” but then…OW! They are both bitten by a flea (OK, well, if you are in bed with a dude in this day and age and you get bitten by a flea, I suggest you just get out, but that’s not the point here) and he tells her that since their blood is mingled within the flea, there is no sin in going ahead and mingling it a little more, eh? What I really love about this is her response…she kills the flea. And like the typical male that he is (sorry guys) he keeps trying. I have never believed that she was convinced. But damn the man puts up a good argument.

Best poem ever! Well, one of my top ten anyway.


Jodi said...

Okay, I'll go back and read it. I was turned off by the "old" language and just figured I wouldn't understand it!

At the Ray Bradbury lecture last night, he told the audience we should read one poem every night before bed and then at the end of the year, you've read 365 poems! Not a bad idea.

Jodi said...
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ChrisU said...

Excellent! Haven't read that in a long time! And although I couldn't find one about a flea (I'll ignore all that sappy subtext), here's a poem from another great:

The Wasp
The wasp and all his numerous family
I look upon as a major calamity.
He throws open his nest with prodigality,
But I distrust his waspitality.

by Ogden Nash