Big Fleas

Butterfly With Smaller Fly on its Wing
Butterfly With Smaller Fly on its Wing

I was flicking through some pictures today, looking for something interesting to show you. I almost flipped straight past this pic – we have done white butterflies quite recently and I do try not to bore you with over-much repetition. By chance I twiddled the wheely thing on the mouse and the image expanded – and there was that tiny fly sitting on the butterfly’s wing – I’ve circled it in the photo. How strange is that?

This brought to mind the silly rhyme :

Big fleas have little fleas, upon their backs to bite ’em
Little fleas have lesser fleas, and so on ad infinitum.

I had always thought this came from the master satirist Jonathan Swift so I poked around on Wikipedia to see where he said it. Well, he didn’t, not quite. He did say something similar in a poem he wrote, but it was actually Augustus De Morgan an incredibly clever mathematician who put it into the form I remember it.

Augustus’ daughter Mary De Morgan was an ‘enfant terrible’ and upset many adults in her circle – but children loved her fairy tales. Among those who tripped gaily through her audience were, William Morris the great textile designer and between-the-wars writers, Rudyard Kipling, Angela Thirkel and her brother Denis Mackail.

She told stories to story tellers – and so on ad infinitum, indeed.

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