Metaphysical Conceit Essay

969 Words 4 Pages
Metaphysical Conceit

Metaphysical Conceita highly ingenious kind of conceit widely used by the metaphysical poets, who explored all areas of knowledge to find, in the startlingly esoteric or the shockingly commonplace, telling and unusual analogies for their ideas. Metaphysical conceits often exploit verbal logic to the point of the grotesque and sometimes achieve such extravagant turns on meaning that they become absurd
(e.g. Richard Crashaw's description of Mary Magdalene's eyes as "Two walking baths; two weeping motions,/Portable and compendious oceans").

These conceits work best when the reader is given a perception of a real but previously unsuspected similarity that is enlightening; then they may speak to our minds and
…show more content…
Afterwards the speaker tries to "clear the memory" of the flea and in so doing completely contradicts his former argument by arguing that the flea is totally innocent; then from the flea's innocence he passes to the "harmlessness" of his own designs on the woman. In essence he says she can keep her honour while losing her virtue. 3) Since the conceit is that sex is like a flea-bite; it is relevant to consider beliefs about fleas and those about sex current at the time: a) sex involves the actual mingling of the bloods of the two participants-but this must occur in body of female if procreation is to occur; Donne cleverly evades that aspect by presuming that it does not matter where it occurs; hence he says the flea bites are tantamount to sex already. b) luckily, copulation in fleas is barren
(despite their mingling of blood) because fleas reproduce in a different manner, so if their sex is parallel to that of fleas then there is no fear of pregnancy. Since fleas reproduce by being generated either 1) out of putrefaction in fluids or solids
(Aristotle), or 2) out of dust (pulvis=dust; flea=pulex) via the warming rays of the sun (Pliny), the copulation of fleas is not only barren, it is unnatural. It is clear that the speaker's desire is for sex for delectation rather than for
Open Document