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Animals History Holidays

Got The “Love Bug?”

Wrapping up our Valentine’s Day posts, Mental Floss has a great article detailing the strange role the flea once played in romantic poetry:

The most famous of these poems is The Flea, by John Donne. The poet’s narrator, struggling with a woman who wishes to hold on to her virginity, compares its loss to a fleabite: small and insignificant. When a flea actually does bite them both, he notes that their blood has mingled inside it. He just wants to mingle other bodily fluids anyway, so sex should mean neither sin nor shame nor loss of virginity at this point. Other writers imagined themselves as fleas exploring their lovers’ bodies, or bemoaned the fact that they were not fleas able to explore the secrets of a woman’s body without detection.

Fleas were symbols of love outside of poems, too. Some Frenchmen would pluck fleas from their lovers’ flesh and keep the insects as pets—it was a way to have a small piece of their beloved with them always. The fleas lived in tiny gold cages worn around the neck and were fed a daily meal of the man’s blood.

Here’s hoping you don’t get bit by any literal “love bugs” this year.

Image via Scurzuzu [Flickr]

By Jill

Hi, I'm just a crazy writer who spends too much time online.

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