On Finding a Small Fly Crushed in a Book Poem by Charles Tennyson Turner Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The simple poem “On Finding a Small Fly Crushed in a Book” by Charles Tennyson Turner contrasts the death of a fly with that of a human. Turner demonstrates his proficiency with and comprehension of the poetic verse in “On Finding a Small Fly Crushed in a Book.” This particular poetry emphasizes how everyone will eventually meet death and how it is inevitable, much like a book closing on a fly. He talks about it as something that will happen no matter what one does, without seeming dejected or afraid. 

About the Poet 

Alfred Tennyson, the younger brother of renowned English poet Charles Tennyson Turner (1808–1879), garnered greater attention. Their early experiences as Lincolnshire natives fostered a strong relationship and a shared love of writing. In 1829, they even collaborated to produce “Poems by Two Brothers,” a collection of poems. Charles developed into a skilled sonneteer who was commended for his peaceful contemplation, emotional nuance, and delicate touch. His writing adds another dimension to Alfred’s legacy as a Victorian poet by providing original insights into issues that Alfred investigated. Charles didn’t have a wide poetic range, but reviewers respected him for his mastery of the sonnet form and recognized him as a gifted poet in his own right.


Charles Tennyson Turner’s poem “On Finding a Small Fly Crushed in a Book” is fourteen lines long, with most of the lines using the iambic pentameter method.


Some hand, that never meant to do thee hurt,

Has crushed thee here between these pages pent;

But thou has left thine own fair monument,

Thy wings gleam out and tell me what thou wert:

Oh! that the memories, that survive us here,

Were half as lovely as these wings of thine.

Pure relics of a blameless life, that shine

Now thou art gone: Our doom is ever near:

The peril is beside us day by day;

The book will close upon us, it may be,

Just as we lift ourselves to soar away

Upon the summer airs. But, unlike thee,

The closing book may stop our vital breath,

Yet leave no lustre on our page of death.

The speaker addresses the fly in the opening words of “On Finding a Small Fly Crushed in a Book.” This method is called an apostrophe. The fly is dead and unable to respond, so even if it could understand the speaker, it would be unable to do so. “Some hand” hath done “thee hurt,” he says the fly. He thinks that even though the person who killed the fly in the book didn’t intend to, it nonetheless happened. The fly has used its body to make a monument to its existence, even though this is a horrible and insignificant death. Its wings continue to “gleam out,” signaling to the speaker that “thou wert.” The fly tells everyone it comes into contact with in the book that it was once alive. 

The poet starts the second verse with the word “Oh!” He draws a parallel between the fly’s monument—its little body—and other memories—those of life in the book. He hopes that the memories he has of life are “half as lovely,” or at least as gorgeous, as the fly’s vision in the book. Its powerful wings make a connection with the speaker at that precise moment. 

He goes on to describe the fly’s wings, saying that they seem to him to be “Pure relics of a blameless life.” The fly led a perfect, sinless life, going about its daily business without ever making a mistake. They still gleam when “thou art gone,” now. The speaker is reminded of both his own and everyone else’s mortality by this. The speaker states, “Our doom is ever near,” following the caesura in the second half of the eighth line. This sets up the poem’s last six lines or sestet. 

The speaker of “On Finding a Small Fly Crushed in a Book” states that “peril is beside us day” in the ninth line, now addressing the reader or listener more widely. Danger and death are lifelong partners. The book that closed on the fly will eventually “close upon us.” He has seen the fly’s death as a more general metaphor for everyone’s impending mortality. It may arrive right as we’re attempting to lift off into the warm breeze. 

The speaker compares what humanity leaves behind to what the fly has left behind in the last two sentences. He declares, “We will not surrender the “lustre” of our existence to “our page of death.” This refers back to the phrase before it, which described the fly’s wings as shining. The speaker claims that since it is a symbol of the fly’s life, humanity will never have it. 


In his poem “On Finding a Small Fly Crushed in a Book,” Charles Tennyson Turner reflects on the impermanence of existence and the certainty of death via the terrible death of a fly. The speaker of the poem finds a fly crushed between book pages in the first line, “Crushed…between these pages pent.” He considers how accidental its demise was, speculating that a careless reader may have accidentally imprisoned it.

The speaker is captivated by the fly’s persistent beauty even as they acknowledge its mortality. Its wings, which have been maintained and are now “gleaming out,” astound him and serve as a “fair monument” to its former life. This picture prompts a moving analogy between the physical mark left by humans and that of the insect. The poem changes, comparing the premature death of the fly to the shutting of everyone’s “book” of life. The speaker conveys a desire for human memory to have the same beauty and durability as a fly’s wings. He hopes that our lives will have a lasting good effect, like the fly’s frozen wings bearing quiet witness to its fleeting existence.

The last few words, which acknowledge the transient nature of life and the influence of fate on our paths, have a sense of sorrow. The speaker notes, “Death comes when least we think of him,” serving as a reminder that life’s book can end suddenly. The poem ends with a thought-provoking query: “Oh! that the memories that survive us here, Were half as lovely as these wings of thine.”

“On Finding a Small Fly in a Book” is, all things considered, a meditation on mortality that invites readers to consider the legacy they leave behind. The poem uses the moving image of a squashed fly to inspire us to appreciate our time and work towards having a positive influence. In the end, we hope to leave a beautiful “monument” that represents our beloved memories and enduring contributions to the world rather than physical remnants.