‘The Fly’ is one of several short animal-related poems that Nash wrote with a young audience in mind. This poem and the others like ‘The Octopus‘ and ‘The Cow‘ are meant to be humorous. They usually contain puns or other types of figurative language to help paint an entertaining picture of the animal’s nature. Some are more thought-provoking while others are simply meant to make the reader smile.
Summary of The Fly
The first line tells the reader, quite simply, that God made the fly in “his wisdom”. This sarcastic phrase is followed up by its second half in the second line. It adds that God “forgot” to tell humanity why he made this particularly annoying creature. Nash assumed, correctly, that the reader is going to understand the joke in these lines.
You can read the full poem here.
Despite its brevity, Nash makes use of several literary devices in ‘The Fly’. These include but are not limited to examples of enjambment, allusion, and alliteration. The latter is concerned with the use and reuse of consonant sounds at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “forgot” and “fly”.
In between the two lines of ‘The Fly,’ there is also an example of enjambment. Nash chose to separate the phrase with a line break, requiring the reader to move to the next line to get what is almost a punch line. Lastly, there is an example of an allusion. Nash knew that readers did not need him to spell out why flies are annoying, everyone would know well enough why they’re irritating to the speaker.
Analysis of The Fly
God in his wisdom made the fly
In the first line of ‘The Fly’ the speaker begins by referring, sarcastically, to God and his “wisdom”. It’s immediately clear that the speaker isn’t being genuine when he uses the word. He’s implying the opposite, that there was no wisdom involved in creating the fly at all. Readers should take note of the use of enjambment in this line. It requires the reader to jump down to the second line in order to conclude the one-sentence poem.
In the second half of this poem, Nash finishes the phrase that he began in the first line. He says that God created the fly and then “forgot to tell us,” humankind, “why” he chose to do so. The second line creates a perfect rhyme with the first line. This is part of why the poem has the impact it does and has become one of Nash’s most commonly read. It may not be his best, but it is definitely well-known.
Another important technique at play in this poem is an allusion. Nash only alludes to the plethora of irritating things that flies do, assuming that the reader will immediately understand what he’s getting at.
Readers who enjoyed this piece should also look into some of Nash’s other poems. For example, ‘The Cow‘, ‘The Octopus’, and ‘The Germ’. These are some of the many animal poems that he created for a young audience. Some of his other most famous poems include ‘The People Upstairs’ and ‘A Word to Husbands’. The latter addresses what husbands need to do to maintain a successful, strong marriage. It includes listening to your partner when they’re right and being humble when you are.