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THE FLY - William Blake (1757-1827)


The Fly is a poem written by the English poet William Blake. It was published as part of his collection Songs of Experience in 1794. William Blake compares his life and death to that of a fly which he happens to kill unintentionally and finally advises the man to enjoy every day like the fly because no one knows when God will take away our life. The poem has been divided into 5 small stanzas having four lines each. The rhyme scheme is ABCB DEFE.

We don’t have any control over our life or death, so thinking about the future and fearing it is something that makes us sad and joyless. Hence we should accept our life, submit to our fate and live as much as we can.

In the first stanza, the poet who is sitting outside in summer is thinking about a little fly, whom his thoughtless hand killed. The poet is thus not happy with what he has done. However, his consciousness wakes up after killing the fly.

As a Romantic Poet, he is connected to nature. Thus both the summer and the fly have significance in his poetry. The summer symbolises hope, prosperity and joy whereas the killing of the fly symbolises the doom, blunder and something quite contrary to the former.

In the second stanza, the poet compares himself to the fly. He asks the fly (in imagination as it is death now) a rhetorical question “aren’t both of them similar to each other”.

In real life, it seems to be a wrong comparison. However, the poet here is talking in terms of their lives. Both of them are created by God, both live their lives, and both have to die one day (though the fly has died now).

The 3rd stanza is continuous from the 2nd one. According to the poet, they are similar in the way that he also dances, drinks and sings like the fly until one day when someone (here means God) will “brush his wing” i.e. take away his life as he did to fly.

Here, the poet focuses on two important aspects of life – first both fly and him (or man in general) enjoy their lives, they dance, sing, drink and do whatever they want. Secondly, both of them are subjected to death which is inevitable.

In the last two stanzas, the poet says that it is the thought which makes him different from the fly. It is good as well as bad – good in the sense that it makes humans wiser than the fly and bad in the sense that it makes us fear death.

The poet says that for humans, thought is our life, strength and breath and even the thought of death (i.e. everything). Thus if a man stops thinking he will be as happy as a fly if he lives or if he dies.


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