The Fly – William Blake – Analysis

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.

William Blake (1757 – 1827)

A five-stanza poem with a dancing careless rhythm that fits well with the ending in the last lines, the first four stanzas are ‘abcb’ and the final stanza ‘aabb’. The short lines reflect the nature of passing life and the poem itself perhaps produced from a passing thought when disturbed by an annoying fly.

The subject is life, nature, existence and death with a comparison between the fly and man. Blake controls the life of a fly that came to close just as fate, God or luck could equally determine the fate of Blake.

The poem concerns thought and action. Thoughtless action can cause death. Will some blind hand deal with Blake in the same way that Blake deals with the fly?

Thought always motivates action no matter how fleeting a thoughtless response. Thought dominates life. If life is totally in the mind then it is a happy life free from worry when the mind is so developed.

William Blake on Wikipedia

I ask you – Billy Collins

I ask you

What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside–
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

But beyond this table
there is nothing that I need,
not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
with cracked green leather seats.

No, it’s all here,
the clear ovals of a glass of water,
a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
not to mention the odd snarling fish
in a frame on the wall,
and the way these three candles–
each a different height–
are singing in perfect harmony.

So forgive me
if I lower my head now and listen
to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
while my heart
thrums under my shirt–
frog at the edge of a pond–
and my thoughts fly off to a province
made of one enormous sky
and about a million empty branches.

Billy Collins – American Poet Laureate 2001 – 2003

I love how Billy Collins takes the ordinary in life and colours it with his wild imagination combining the seemingly disconnected everyday scraps of existence into a worthy world of word pleasure – laying his work before us in his own inimitable style – always there is a touch of the unusual in his offerings as well as a philosophical acceptance of the foibles in human nature – plus that essential ingredient subtle humour.

And looking at the above ‘I ask you’ poem. I do like poetry that poses a question – even if he is talking to himself – isn’t it marvellous when we are content where we are in life?

And considering the second stanza –

while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

And of course the world does sail on the ‘waters’ of the past – but hopefully we make a bit of headway as the future disappears behind us and we add to the flow – but let the world sail on – and not worry about all the problems that beset our troubled world!

He shows his poetic skill to give the contrast between a few moments in a kitchen compared to all history … and those few ordinary moments, where you have time to yourself and to think, can be so precious and rejuvenating in the busy world of today.

Enjoy your own presence in the warm comfort and intimacy of your own being – where ever you are – and so I ask you to just sit back for a few moments … and I hope you can take a deep breath and slowly say to yourself life is very agreeable, in fact quite beautiful!