Great Fleas Have Little Fleas upon Their Backs - English Children's Songs - England - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image

Notes

Original verse by Irish author Jonathan Swift. Reworded by English mathematician Augustus De Morgan (1806 – 1871). De Morgan called the verse "Siphonaptera". Flea is the common name for the order Siphonaptera.

Great Fleas Have Little Fleas upon Their Backs - English Children's Songs - England - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World 1

Comments

Here's the verse the poem comes from in Jonathan Swift's long satirical poem "On Poetry: a Rhapsody" (1733):

The vermin only teaze and pinch
Their foes superior by an inch.
So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite 'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.
Thus every poet, in his kind,
Is bit by him that comes behind.

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Thanks and Acknowledgements

Thanks to Monique Palomares for the illustrations!