Verse > William Blake > Poetical Works
William Blake (1757–1827).  The Poetical Works.  1908.
Songs of Experience
The Fly
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brush’d away.
Am not I        5
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?
For I dance,
And drink, and sing,        10
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.
If thought is life
And strength and breath,
And the want        15
Of thought is death;
Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live
Or if I die.        20
Note 1. The Fly] In the first draft found in the Rossetti MS. Blake begins the song thus:
Woe! alas! my guilty hand
Brush’d across thy summer joy;
All thy gilded painted pride
Shatter’d, fled …
These unfinished lines were cancelled, and he then turned to the shorter metre, preserving the ‘guilty hand’ in the first draft of stanza i. Then follows a deleted stanza, omitted by him in the engraved version, probably because, since writing the poem, he had used its first two lines as one of his ‘Proverbs of Hell’ (Marriage of Heaven and Hell, p. 250):
The cut worm
Forgives the plough,
And dies in peace,
And so do thou.
Then come the second, third, and fifth stanzas in their present form, followed by two versions of stanza iv, which was an afterthought. Lastly, prefixed numbers were added, indicating the present order of the stanzas.
  2 summer’s] summer MS. 3 thoughtless] guilty MS. 1st rdg. del. 13–16
Thought is life
And strength and breath.
But the want
Of thought is death.
MS. 1st rdg. del. [back]

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