The Fly: by William Blake - Summary and Analysis

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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.

Summary and Analysis


      In Songs of Innocence the security of innocence is extended even to, insects such as the ant. But here The Fly is killed mercilessly, though by chance. In this poem Blake expands Desecartes' dictum - "I think therefore I am" This means that it is his capacity to think that makes man a live human being. Only the life of the soul or heart is real and joyful. It does not stop at death. The poem originates from the poet's killing of a fly. In tone and style it is akin to the poems in Songs of Innocence. But its sober philosophical outlook tends to bring it under the head of Experience.

The poet in a thoughtless moment kills a fly and feels sorry for his act. The fly's life is very short and the poet feels it is sinful to kill it.
The Fly


      The poet in a thoughtless moment kills a fly and feels sorry for his act. The fly's life is very short and the poet feels it is sinful to kill it. Later the poet goes on to wonder if he is not a fly like the one he killed. It is also correct that the fly is made of flesh and blood just like man. Like the fly the poet also dances, drinks and sings until blind fate cuts his thread of life. Life is characterised by the capacity to think as well as breathe and an inability to think is death. If this is valid for the life of all beings, there is no difference be tween a man and a fly or the poet and the fly. The poet says that he is in no way higher than an insect, nor is any insect meaner than him. Just as his thoughtless hand finishes the life of a fly, the thoughtless hand of fate shall one day finish his life also.

Man and Fly Identified:

      The kernel of the poem is the identity between man and fly. Both of them are intimidated by the teasing 'blind hands'; perhaps Blake's maxim "thoughtlessness is death" further brings out the idea that the thoughtlessness Blake has shown in killing a fly, is a kind of death of himself. As a critic maintains, Blake may be saying: "Man is like a fly, not only because his life is short, or because he is powerless against fate, but because the fly, like a man, enjoys life and possesses thought". The poet commits the mistake by chance. But he knows that it is a similar force and power that works behind Life, and life in all creatures hold the same value. In his acts also he resembles a fly because, as the poet says, he also sings and dances and goes rollicking as the fly does in its summer play. The poet wants to establish the fact that animals also can think like human beings.


      One of the drawbacks in the idea propagated by Blake through his poem 'The Fly' is often decried by critics. Is man a being having capacity only to think? Blake is accused of having ignored the human capability of intuition, foreseeing and sensing. He is said to have overlooked the other realms of mind such as the unconscious and the subconscious, which play no unimportant role in the life of human beings. From 'The Fly' we get the picture of a man who is rationalising everything and is mechanical and self-contained. But this view can be easily disproved. The capacity to think is to cultivate an awareness, and awareness is nothing but knowledge, which is the 'renewed light' or God. Again, awareness is a term with a vast vista of meanings. Awareness may be the awareness of human soul, awareness of oneself and the awareness of the unconscious and the subconscious.

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