Reference > Quotations > John Bartlett, comp. > Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. > 3128. Jonathan Swift
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John Bartlett (1820–1905).  Familiar Quotations, 10th ed.  1919.
 
 
NUMBER:3128
AUTHOR:Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)
QUOTATION: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. 1
ATTRIBUTION:Poetry, a Rhapsody.
 
Note 1.
Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
De Morgan: A Budget of Paradoxes, p. 377. [back]
 

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