The Fly Poem Shows the True Meaning of Being Alive

The Fly poem cover image

A profound message about life, soul, and everything that holds meaning for us is conveyed by William Blake in this poem which uses an analogy of a fly! I think this speaks the poetic genius of Blake. A very short poem, The Fly is a poem that reveals a lot about humans, our aspirations,s and the very quality that makes life special. A small action can reveal some of the deepest questions and a small fly can make us look for things even the most majestic moments cannot. 

Let’s look at the encounter that encouraged the poet to write this poem, drawing the similarities between a fly’s death and a human’s life. Take a look at the poem by William Blake;

The Fly

Little fly,

Thy summer’s play

My thoughtless hand

Has brushed away.

Am not I

A fly like thee?

Or art not thou

A man like me?

For I dance

And drink and sing,

Till some blind hand

Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life

And strength and breath,

And the want

Of thought is death,

Then am I

A happy fly,

If I live,

Or if I die.

The Fly and Life

The poem is made of very short lines, creating a fast-paced rhythm to the poem. The poem is made of five stanzas of four lines. Let’s analyze each stanza to see what the poem is trying to convey. 

Little fly,

Thy summer’s play

My thoughtless hand

Has brushed away.

The poem starts with the encounter. Blake brushed away a fly that was flying near him on the warm summer day. He says his thoughtless hand brushed him away, meaning that it was instinctual of him to do that. But this act started a thought in his head which is further explored.

Am not I

A fly like thee?

Or art not thou

A man like me?

The first thought that comes into the poet’s mind is that both the fly and humans have life, irrespective of their shape, size, or abilities. Perhaps brushing the fly away and seeing the response in order to save its life, Blake saw a common element, trying to save one’s life. This perhaps made him realize that both fly and a human are very similar. How similar? Let’s see.

For I dance

And drink and sing,

Till some blind hand

Shall brush my wing.

Blake says that he (and humans) dance and drink and sing. These three activities are meant to encapsulate the life of humans, everything we do, talk, eat, live, etc. The fly also does the same things; dances when it flies up and down and sideways, fluttering its wings. The fly also sings with the buzzing it makes and it also drinks. 

In the same way, if some blind hand shall do the same to Blake, he too will cease to do all those things, like the fly. The reason Blake says “Blind hand” refers to the unconscious nature of the event, to move their hands without knowing the consequences of their actions. Blind can also mean an uncaring hand, which is fate. Anything can happen to anyone, untethered from what the person is. 

The Fly poem by William Blake
The Fly Poem by William Blake

If thought is life

And strength and breath,

And the want

Of thought is death,

Now we come to the metaphysical aspects of life and we get another layer of understanding of what he meant when he said “the hand will brush his wings”. It isn’t necessarily death that will stop the poet, but the cessation of thought.

He says thought is life, breath, and strength and the lack of it is death. Thought here means the ability to write, compose, express the artistic self. This is what makes Blake happy, this is his summer’s play. If loses it, it will be the end of him.

Then am I

A happy fly,

If I live,

Or if I die.

Finally, he ends the poem by saying that both in life and in death, be it physical or of thought, he and the fly are the same. He is just like the happy fly, buzzing around, living life, expressing himself. And if he dies, then that will be the end of it. But the similarity between him and the fly will never cease. This concludes the article.

But why should you stop reading? Take a look at these poems by William Blake and read more beautiful poems;

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