Sir John Donne, born January 21, 1972, was one of the first and most reputable metaphysical poets of all time. His crude, sensual and clever style—demonstrated in many of his earlier work—has also made him one of the most controversial. Along with his eccentric wit is a definite sense of cynicism—generally centered around the fickleness of woman. Later in his life, Donne’s focus drastically shifted to religion as he began writing poetry with respect to secular values and eventually conducting sermons as a Preachers and a Knight. Throughout his anthology Donne’s works remained highly intellectually and clever, although did not always follow a specific meter or rhyme-scheme; and so are consider prosaic by many, gaining him a reputation as a great writer in addition to poet.
Donne suffered a tumultuous childhood, beginning with the sudden death of his father only 5 days after his fourth birthday. The death of his mother and two sisters followed only a year later, leaving him, along with his brother and remaining sister, displaced at a very young age. Probably due in part to his difficult family life, Donne left home at age eleven to study at what is now Oxford college. He studied there for three years before enrolling in a graduate program at Cambridge University for an additional three years. Compounding on his earlier defeats, Donne was unable to attain a degree from either school due to his conflicting religious association. In consolation, Donne received a law degree in 1593 from Lincoln’s Inn but was unable to enjoy it in the midst of the brutal torture and hanging of his brother Henry that same year by the Anglican Church. Now questioning his faith and religion in general, distraught and confused, Donne spent the next few years engaging in superfluous spending, womanizing and past times.
Though it is not known precisely when it was composed, “The Flea” is generally regarded as one of Donne’s earliest works and is reminiscent of his life as a young man. In the poem, Donne uses a flea in a conceit to seduce a particularly reluctant woman who tries to remain true to her religious convictions. Using his masterful wit and