The Fly (poem)

"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.[1]

The poemEdit

The illustrated version of "The Fly" from Copy F of Songs of Innocence and Experience currently held at the Yale Center for British Art[2]

Little Fly
Thy summers play,
My thoughtless hand
Has brush'd away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing:
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength & breath:
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.[3]


Blake printed the poem with the text set in the branches of trees, an image of a nurse and a toddler in the foreground, and a girl with a racket about to hit a shuttlecock in the background.[4] G. S. Morris notes that "the lines 'Till some blind hand / Shall brush my wing' seem to follow the feathered shuttlecock directly into the little girl's racquet".[5]

The poem catches the narrator in an act of thoughtlessness that leads to the contemplation of the act and its implications. The fly suffers from uncontrollable circumstances, just as the narrator does. This humbling simile has caused the narrator to move from thoughtlessness to thought, and, as "thought is life", from death to life, allowing the conclusion, "Then am I / A happy fly / If I live, / Or if I die", a conclusion to which Paul Miner comments: "Brain-death is real death".[6]



  1. ^ Complete Poems, ed. Ostriker, p. 124.
  2. ^ "Annotation for Songs of Innocence and of Experience, copy F, object 48 (Bentley 40, Erdman 40, Keynes 40)". The William Blake Archive. Retrieved Mar 31, 2013.
  3. ^ Blake, William (1988). Erdman, David V. (ed.). The Complete Poetry and Prose (Newly revised ed.). Anchor Books. pp. 23-24. ISBN 0385152132.
  4. ^ See the image in the external link below.
  5. ^ G. S. Morris, "Blake's THE FLY", The Explicator (Fall 2006) 65, 1, p. 18.
  6. ^ Paul Miner, "Blake's Swedenborgian Fly", Notes and Queries (Oxford, 2011) 58 (4), p. 530.

Other sourcesEdit

  • William Blake, The Complete Poems, edited Alicia Ostriker, Harmondsworth, England (Penguin, 1977).

External linksEdit