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Short poem

Charles Lamb (1775-1834)

Thoughtless Cruelty

              1There, Robert, you have kill'd that fly -- ,
              2And should you thousand ages try
              3The life you've taken to supply,
              4    You could not do it.

              5You surely must have been devoid
              6Of thought and sense, to have destroy'd
              7A thing which no way you annoy'd --
              8    You'll one day rue it.

              9Twas but a fly perhaps you'll say,
            10That's born in April, dies in May;
            11That does but just learn to display
            12    His wings one minute,

            13And in the next is vanish'd quite.
            14A bird devours it in his flight --
            15Or come a cold blast in the night,
            16    There's no breath in it.

            17The bird but seeks his proper food --
            18And Providence, whose power endu'd
            19That fly with life, when it thinks good,
            20    May justly take it.

            21But you have no excuses for't --
            22A life by Nature made so short,
            23Less reason is that you for sport
            24    Should shorter make it.

            25A fly a little thing you rate --
            26But, Robert do not estimate
            27A creature's pain by small or great;
            28    The greatest being

            29Can have but fibres, nerves, and flesh,
            30And these the smallest ones possess,
            31Although their frame and structure less
            32    Escape our seeing.


1] Lucas attributes this poem questionably to Mary Lamb (496).

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, ed. E. V. Lucas, III (London: Methuen, 1903): 410. PR 4860 A2 1968 Robarts Library. Lucas' text made from Andrew W. Tuer's facsimiles.
First publication date: 1809
Publication date note: Poetry for Children, Entirely Original, 2 vols. (London: M. J. Godwin, 1809)
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 4:2002/2/17

Composition date: 1808 - 1809
Rhyme: aaab cccb ...

Other poems by Charles Lamb