Fleas are not an obvious topic for poetry. And yet it is the core of both the shortest poem in the English language and the dodgiest erotic poem ever written by a cleric of the Church of England.
First, the shortest poem:
Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes
That’s by the American poet Strickland Gillilan, from the early 20th century. More than 250 years earlier, the famous English poet and clergyman John Donne wrote an erotic poem based on the flea.
(A sidenote about John Donne: in his earlier years he wrote erotic poetry. Then he found religion, and began writing erotic religious poetry.)
The poem is a classic in the genre of “trying to get laid.” The logic is simple: a flea bit me, then it bit you, and so our bodily fluids have already blended. So what’s wrong with doing a bit more blending?
It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Pro tip: if this is your intention, maybe try not to bring fleas into the equation. The lady he is ineptly wooing kills the flea, thus destroying their insectile marriage bed and (presumably) the narrator’s hopes. Good for her.
There’s yet another famous poem about the flea, but I’m saving that one for a later post on infinite recursion.
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