I never kill a fly because
I think that what we have of laws
To regulate and civilize
Our daily life - we owe to flies.

Apropos, I'll tell you of Choo, the spouse
Of the head of the hunters, Wung;
Such a beautiful cave they had for a house,
And a brood of a dozen young.
And Wung would start by the dawn's red light
On the trailing of bird or beast,
And crawl back tired on the brink of night
With food for another feast.

Then the young would dance in their naked glee,
And Choo would fuel the fire;
Fur and feather, how good to see,
And to gorge to heart's desire!
Flesh of rabbit and goose and deer,
With fang-like teeth they tore,
And laughed with faces a bloody smear,
And flung their bones on the floor.

But with morning bright the flies would come,
Clouding into the cave;
You could hardly hear for their noisy hum,
They were big and black and brave.
Darkling the day with gust of greed
They'd swarm in the warm sunrise
On the litter of offal and bones to feed -
A million or so of flies.

Now flies were the wife of Wung's despair;
They would sting and buzz and bite,
And as her only attire was hair
She would itch from morn to night:
But as one day she scratched her hide,
A thought there came to Choo;
"If I were to throw the bones outside,
The flies would go there too."

That spark in a well-nigh monkey mind,
Nay, do not laugh or scorn;
For there in the thoughts of Choo you'll find
Was the sense of Order born;
As she flung the offal far and wide,
And the fly-cloud followed fast,
Battening on the bones outside
The cave was clear at last.

And Wung was pleased when he came at night,
For the air was clean and sweet,
And the cave-kids danced in the gay firelight,
And fed on the new-killed meat;
But the children Choo would chide and boss,
For her cleanly floor was her pride,
And even the baby was taught to toss
His bite of a bone outside.

Then the cave crones came and some admired,
But others were envious;
And they said: "She swanks, she makes us tired
With her complex modern fuss."
However, most of the tribe complied,
Though tradition dourly dies,
And a few Conservatives crossly cried:
"We'll keep our bones and our flies."

So Reformer Choo was much revered
And to all she said: "You see
How my hearth is clean and my floor is cleaned,
And there ain't no flies on me"...
And that was how it all began,
Through horror of muck and mess,
Even in prehistoric Man,

And that is why I never kill
A fly, no matter how obscene;
For I believe in God's good will:
He gave us vermin to make us clean.

Font size:
Collection  PDF     

Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

2:31 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 2,474
Words 498
Stanzas 10
Stanza Lengths 4, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 4

Robert William Service

Robert William Service was a poet and writer sometimes referred to as the Bard of the Yukon He is best-known for his writings on the Canadian North including the poems The Shooting of Dan McGrew The Law of the Yukon and The Cremation of Sam McGee His writing was so expressive that his readers took him for a hard-bitten old Klondike prospector not the later-arriving bank clerk he actually was Robert William Service was born 16 January 1874 in Preston England but also lived in Scotland before emigrating to Canada in 1894 Service went to the Yukon Territory in 1904 as a bank clerk and became famous for his poems about this region which are mostly in his first two books of poetry He wrote quite a bit of prose as well and worked as a reporter for some time but those writings are not nearly as well known as his poems He travelled around the world quite a bit and narrowly escaped from France at the beginning of the Second World War during which time he lived in Hollywood California He died 11 September 1958 in France Incidentally he played himself in a movie called The Spoilers starring John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich more…

All Robert William Service poems | Robert William Service Books

7 fans

Discuss the poem Flies with the community...



    Find a translation for this poem in other languages:

    Select another language:

    • - Select -
    • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
    • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
    • Español (Spanish)
    • Esperanto (Esperanto)
    • 日本語 (Japanese)
    • Português (Portuguese)
    • Deutsch (German)
    • العربية (Arabic)
    • Français (French)
    • Русский (Russian)
    • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
    • 한국어 (Korean)
    • עברית (Hebrew)
    • Gaeilge (Irish)
    • Українська (Ukrainian)
    • اردو (Urdu)
    • Magyar (Hungarian)
    • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
    • Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Italiano (Italian)
    • தமிழ் (Tamil)
    • Türkçe (Turkish)
    • తెలుగు (Telugu)
    • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
    • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
    • Čeština (Czech)
    • Polski (Polish)
    • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Românește (Romanian)
    • Nederlands (Dutch)
    • Ελληνικά (Greek)
    • Latinum (Latin)
    • Svenska (Swedish)
    • Dansk (Danish)
    • Suomi (Finnish)
    • فارسی (Persian)
    • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
    • հայերեն (Armenian)
    • Norsk (Norwegian)
    • English (English)


    Use the citation below to add this poem to your bibliography:


    "Flies" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 17 Jun 2024. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/32124/flies>.

    Become a member!

    Join our community of poets and poetry lovers to share your work and offer feedback and encouragement to writers all over the world!

    June 2024

    Poetry Contest

    Join our monthly contest for an opportunity to win cash prizes and attain global acclaim for your talent.

    Special Program

    Earn Rewards!

    Unlock exciting rewards such as a free mug and free contest pass by commenting on fellow members' poems today!

    Browse Poetry.com


    Are you a poetry master?

    How many lines does a sonnet have?
    A 16
    B 12
    C 18
    D 14