I heard a fly buzz when I died;
The stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.
The eyes beside had wrung them dry,
And breaths were gathering sure
For that last onset, when the king
Be witnessed in his power.
I willed my keepsakes, signed away
What portion of me I
Could make assignable,–and then
There interposed a fly,
With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
I could not see to see.
Short Poem Analysis
"I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died" by Emily Dickinson is a haunting and introspective poem that explores the moment of death and the enigmatic transition from life to whatever lies beyond. Through its vivid and unsettling imagery, the poem delves into themes of mortality, the insignificance of human existence, and the mystery of the afterlife.
The poem begins with the speaker's observation of a seemingly mundane event—a fly buzzing in the room at the moment of death. This juxtaposition of the ordinary and the profound immediately draws the reader's attention and creates a sense of eerie dissonance.
The poem's language is stark and unadorned, reflecting Dickinson's characteristic style. However, this simplicity serves to intensify the poem's impact, as the matter-of-fact description of the fly and the "With Blue—uncertain stumbling Buzz" contribute to the sense of stark reality.
The central moment of the poem—the speaker's death—is depicted with a sense of detachment and ambiguity. The speaker describes the scene as "the King" himself being present and noting that "there interposed a Fly." This interruption by the fly, which can be seen as a symbol of life's persistence even in the face of death, creates a sense of disruption and uncertainty.
The poem concludes with the image of "the Windows failed," suggesting the closing of the speaker's eyes or the dimming of consciousness. The final line, "And then the Windows failed—and then / I could not see to see," leaves the reader in a state of existential ambiguity, contemplating the mystery of what comes after death.
"I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died" is a meditation on the enigmatic nature of death and the liminal space between life and whatever lies beyond. It invites readers to confront the ultimate unknown and consider the idea that even in the most profound and solemn moments, the ordinary and the unexpected can intrude. The poem's unsettling and thought-provoking imagery lingers in the reader's mind, inviting contemplation of life's transience and the enduring mysteries of existence.