The above quote is part of a poem I came across recently, thoughtless cruelty by Charles Lamb. The poem talks about a man who queries a boy called Robert, for killing a fly which had in no way harmed him. The man goes on to explain to Robert that a fly already has a short life, which is made even shorter by nature’s forces like wind and birds; and there goes Robert, further shortening it.
He explains that though a fly may be small in size, it doesn’t in anyway belittle it’s pain. The nerves are still there, the fibres are still there although the we can’t see them.
Below, is the full poem which I got from Poetry Foundation. I hope you enjoy it as much I do.
There, Robert, you have kill’d that fly,
And should you thousand ages try
The life you’ve taken to supply,
You could not do it.
You surely must have been devoid
Of thought and sense, to have destroy’d
A thing which no way you annoy’d
You’ll one day rue it.
Twas but a fly perhaps you’ll say,
That’s born in April, dies in May;
That does but just learn to display
His wings one minute,
And in the next is vanish’d quite.
A bird devours it in his flight
Or come a cold blast in the night,
There’s no breath in it.
The bird but seeks his proper food
And Providence, whose power endu’d
That fly with life, when it thinks good,
May justly take it.
But you have no excuses for’t
A life by Nature made so short,
Less reason is that you for sport
Should shorter make it.
A fly a little thing you rate
But, Robert do not estimate
A creature’s pain by small or great;
The greatest being
Can have but fibres, nerves, and flesh,
And these the smallest ones possess,
Although their frame and structure less
Escape our seeing.