fly doesn't sound very pleasant. "Bluebottle" might
redeem it, if only because the word (but not its object) has
a sonorous quality to most ears. But the astute
observer may also
note that the bluebottle
fly – a common housefly – breeds
in decaying organic matter. It is, as one HWG member noted with
alarm, often the first thing to arrive hovering over a freshly
Well, but we do hope you've also noticed the title bar to our
pages: "I heard a fly buzz when I died;" we quote.
The line is from a poem of Emily Dickinson's. One
critic has stated: "'I heard a fly buzz when I died' is one of
Emily Dickinson's finest opening lines." (Click the link for
access to his full article and the poem itself.)
can say that the intrusion of the fly with his buzz overpowers
the last gasp of the living. The protagonist in the poem
is a dying woman. Her last human act, shared by every one of
exception, is that of dying. Yet the fly – symbolic for insignificance,
for something vexatious and exasperating, steals
her final moment, as it were.
can only save our sense of final human dignity by contemplating
the significance of the fly as a foil. The juxtaposition of
frail death (and our ultimate obligatory acceptance of it)
and the nattering
of the universe (and our place in it) does have literary punch.
That, in my view, is what this poem's about.
what in my view is a very fine analysis of the poem, I refer the
gentle reader to this article from The
American Poetry Review, by Michael Ryan: "How
to Use a Fly: A Column."