Emily Dickinson's 'I heard a Fly Buzz - When I died' — Analysis

Emily Dickinson's 'I heard a Fly Buzz - When I died'

Emily Dickinson's 'I heard a Fly Buzz - When I died'  — Analysis

Emily Dickinson was born on 10 December 1830 in Amherst which was situated in the Connecticut River Valley. During her lifetime, Emily Dickinson published just seven poems, and even those appeared anonymously. After her death, her younger sister discovered the mine of hidden poems which Emily had been writing. She got the poems published and as the last member of her family, she lived long enough to see the poems achieve popularity. Finally, Thomas H. Johnson published The Poems of Emily Dickinson in three volumes. These volumes contained 1775 of Emily's known poems. Emily told a friend of hers. "If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her", she has not escaped fame. Even in the 1890's, Emily became a popular poet and achieved a wider and more lasting reputation in the 1920's. 

'I heard a Fly Buzz - When I died'

I heard a Fly buzz —when I died —
The stillness in the Room
Was like the stillness in the Air— 
Between the Heaves of storm —

The Eyes around —had wrung them dry —
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last onset —when the kind
Be witnessed —in the Room —

I willed my keepsakes —signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable —and then it was 
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 —

Emily Dickinson's 'I heard a Fly Buzz - When I died'  — Analysis

Emily Dickinson's poem 'I heard a Fly Buzz  when I died' is simple and lucid, it reflects the morbidity of a death scene.

In the first stanza, the poetess tells about the buzz of a fly which interrupts -- rather ludicrously --the approach of death. She describes then the atmosphere of the sick room: the stillness in the room is like the deceptively calm centre of a storm which is deceptively calm. The second stanza describes the dry-eyed onlookers as they come closer in the room in order to witness the last dying moments. In line 7 the final death-struggle is described as an 'onset' when the king comes in with the treasures of paradise. The third and fourth stanzas contain the climax. The final acts of a dying person are described with detachment. The pun in 'signed' and assignable' illustrates death's supreme power and the worthlessness of the documents, empty phrases and a corrupting body which one left behind. When the soul waits for death, the buzz of a fly interrupts the grand moment.

In 'I heard a Fly Buzz  when I died', a fly come at the wrong time — like many things in life — as an irritant which distracts the attention of the people from the magnificent approach of death. But the fly signals the presence of death. The fly comes between the light and the dying person, blocking the physical sight, but, at the same time, allows the dying person to see the radiance of immortality.

Further, in the third stanza, the poetess talks about distributing her keepsakes'  the token of her life, The only heavenly music or a semblance of it was the 'blue  uncertain stumbling buzz'. In this stanza, the mystery is evoked by a single word 'blue'. The presence of a buzzing fly, the distribution of 'keepsakes' and the attempts of a soul to prolong life suggest that the whole poem satirises the traditional view of death as a peaceful re ease from life's presences and a glorious entrance into immortality.

The poem 'I heard a Fly Buzz — when I died' contains four stanzas. None of the stanzas follows a rhyme pattern. In the first stanza, the 'stillness' is repeated twice indicating the stillness if the imminent death. In the third stanza, the literary device 'alliteration' is used. Example: Blue  Buzz Between

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