The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Fly” is a short poem in free verse, in thirty-three lines, divided into eight stanzas. The title reflects Miroslav Holub’s practice, as a distinguished scientist, of frequently drawing on biology, with its life-forms and life processes, for his imagery. The fly serves as an observer of the Battle of Crécy, the fly’s demeanor and behavior being apposed to the human drama being enacted on the battlefield. Behind the fly is a second observer, the poet. The poem is a meditation on a historic event. The poem is also divided into what Holub calls units of attention, some of them long to achieve effects of suspense, others short for emphases, often one-word or one-image lines.

In the first line, the fly sits at a distance on the trunk of a willow tree. Then Holub uses one of his one-word lines, the word “watching,” to focus on the demeanor of the fly. It is watching the historic Battle of Crécy. Then, with four one-image lines, Holub quickly develops the drama on the battlefield: the battle cries, the surprise, the moans of the wounded, and, finally, the panic as the soldiers fall over each other in their frantic flight.

Holub now skips to the last of the fourteen futile charges by the French cavalry, concentrating the tragedy in two powerful images: a disemboweled horse and the blue tongue of a duke. He interpolates an image of the fly mating with a brown-eyed male fly from the neighboring village of Vadincourt (Wadicourt) during...

(The entire section is 470 words.)