It’s strange how the right poem or song comes to you just as you need it. I attended a funeral service and upon returning home decided to read a poem. I opened my copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience and this one was the next up.
Thy summer’s 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.
The fourth stanza really put life into perspective for me. Thought is life, or in other words, consciousness is life. Only the end of one’s consciousness can mean true death. So the big question is: Does consciousness end when the physical form dies? I say with confidence, no, consciousness continues to live on, and Blake affirms this in the last stanza. He is a happy fly, regardless of whether he is physically alive or dead, because either way, his consciousness continues. The fact that he is spiritually aware is what constitutes happiness.
Blake uses a fly to symbolize that even the smallest of creatures is endowed with consciousness. I would take that a step further and assert that everything that exists has consciousness. I believe that consciousness is inherent in energy, and energy is a part of everything that exists. It therefore stands to reason that everything, from an animal to a grain of sand down to the tiniest subatomic particle, all possess their own form of consciousness. And since science has proven that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it also stands to reason that consciousness can neither be created nor destroyed. It is eternal and knowing that makes me feel happy.
6 responses to ““The Fly” by William Blake: Consciousness is Life”
Blake was a genius… Proof of that is the symbols that are hidden behind the fly… Consciousness (Thought) being related to life and hence end of one’s consciousness can mean true death.
I found truly interesting that Blake believed that the soul (Consciousness) was immortal… he was a platonic poet in so many different ways, wasn’t he?
Great overview and analysis, dear Jeff. Thank you very much for sharing. Best wishes to you, Aquileana 😀
Hi Aquileana. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I think your are correct that Blake was a platonic poet, but I don’t think that would be contradictory to believing consciousness to be immortal. Have you read the works of Plotinus (a neo-platonic writer from Alexandria). He argued the concept of emanation from the godhead. As each form is emanated farther and farther from the source, it becomes more fragmented and less divine. Consciousness is but another emanation. It is immortal because eventually, after death possibly, it will go back to the source and become one with the divine consciousness.
I hope that makes sense. It’s early here and I have not had coffee yet 😉 best to you and thank you for taking the time to read my posts and to share your thoughts. Cheers!
Plotinus… Great thoughts… I have not read too much by him, though…
But Plato himself considered the issue in his dialogue “Phaedo”….http://wp.me/p60vo-35b
Thank you,dear Jeff… Happy day to you!. Cheers,
It’s been quite a while since I read Phaedo. I may have to re-read it 😉
Blake’s use of the fly to symbolize consciousness is exquisite. I enjoy how you look at literary words from poem to fiction, and non-fiction too!
Thanks Christy! Your kind words mean a lot to me. I hope you have a wonderful day 🙂