The Fly And The Taper

A Fly circles round and round a lit candle. This poem describes the progress to its ultimate conclusion of burnt fly.

Sometimes pleasure leads to pain.


JN Fable 043

Sketch: James Northcote; Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: J. Jackson (1828)

Prithee, little buzzing fly,
Eddying round the Taper, why
Is it that its quiv’ring light,
Dazzling, captivates your sight?
Bright the taper is, ’tis true,
Trust me ’tis too bright for you;
‘Tis a flame, fond thing! beware,
‘Tis a flame you cannot bear;
Touch it, and ’tis instant fate;
Take good counsel ‘ere too late.
Buzz no longer round and round,
Settle on the wall or ground;
Sleep till morning; with the day
Rise and use your wings you may.
Know the source of all thy joy
Shines, alas! but to destroy.
Prithee my advice pursue;
Trust me thou wilt find it true.
Lo! good counsel nought avails,
Round and round and round it sails;
Sails with idle unconcern.
Prithee, trifler, can’st thou burn?
Madly heedless as thou art,
Know thy danger and depart.
Why persist? advice is vain;
Singed it falls, and writhes in pain.


Learn from this, ye giddy train;
Learn that pleasure leads to pain.
Timely, then, temptation shun,
Or, like the Fly, you’ll be undone.
Is not this, deny who can,
Is not this a draught of man?
Like the fly, he rashly tries
Pleasure’s homing sphere, and dies.
Vain the friendly caution, still
He rebels; alas! and will.
What is said let pride apply;
Flies are weak, and man’s a fly.