"Black Flies" as written by and Benjamin John Howard....
Black flies on the windowsill
That we are
That we are
That we are to know
Winter stole summer's thrill
And the river's cracked and cold

See the sky is no man's land
A darkened plume to stay
Hope here needs a humble hand
Not a fox found in your place

No man is an island, this I know
But can't you see?
Maybe you were the ocean when I was just a stone

Black flies on the windowsill
That we are
That we are
That we are to hold
Comfort came against my will
And every story must grow old

Still I'll be a traveler
A gypsy's reins to face
But the road is wearier
With that fool found in your place

No man is an island, this I know
But can't you see?
Maybe you were the ocean when I was just a stone

No man is an island, this I know
But can't you see?
Maybe you were the ocean when I was just a stone

So here we are

And I don't wanna beg your pardon
And I don't wanna ask you why
But if I was to go my own way
Would I have to pass you by?

And I don't wanna beg your pardon
And I don't wanna ask you why
But if I was to go my own way
Would I have to pass you by?


Lyrics submitted by Dasgupta, edited by M4TTY

"Black Flies" as written by Benjamin John Howard

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Black Flies song meanings
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15 Comments

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  • +8
    General Comment"But it is the hauntingly somber track “Black Flies” that Howard said is his personal favorite. It is often mistaken by the audience to be a heart-felt love song, while in fact it is a tale of friendship run afoul.

    “We ended up doing separate things and going separate ways,” said the singer. “That’s what I write about most of the time, the people who come in and out of our lives and the memories that you form around them,” said the singer" - Business bworldonline.com/weekender/…
    tobetrueon April 22, 2012   Link
  • +2
    Song Meaningi went to his show yesterday and before he started he said the song was about losing a good friend. i think this makes sense when he says
    "Black flies on the windowsill
    That we are
    That we are
    That we are to hold
    Comfort came against my will"

    as if they tried to hold on to a friendship that wasn't going to work out in the end anyways. such a beautiful song and lyric. and even better live!
    mget77on September 19, 2012   Link
  • +1
    Lyric CorrectionBlack flies on the windowsill
    That we are
    That we are
    That we are to know
    Winter stole summer's thrill
    And the river's cracked and cold

    See the sky is no man's land
    A darkened plume to stay
    Hope here needs a humble hand
    Not a fox found in your place

    And no man is an island, oh this I know
    But can't you see, oh?
    Maybe you were the ocean, when I was just a stone

    Black flies on the windowsill
    That we are
    That we are
    That we are to hold
    Comfort came against my will
    And every story must grow old

    Still I'll be a traveler
    A gypsy's reins to face
    But the road is wearier
    With that fool found in your place

    And no man is an island, oh this I know
    But can't you see, oh?
    Maybe you were the ocean, when I was just a stone

    And no man is an island, oh this I know
    But can't you see, oh?
    Maybe you were the ocean, when I was just a stone

    So here we are

    [Instrumental]

    Oh I don't wanna beg your pardon
    And I don't wanna ask you why
    But if I was to go my own way
    Would I have to pass you by?

    Oh I don't wanna beg your pardon
    And I don't wanna ask you why
    But if I was to go my own way
    Would I have to pass you by?
    x-miss-kelly-xon November 22, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this song is about an old love of the singers.
    "black flies on the windowsill" refers to flies that have tried and tried to get somewhere but have failed because there has always been something in the way (the glass). This is a metaphor for the relationship with the woman that this song is about. These two people have tried again and again and again to make things work yet there was always something in the way to stop them and eventually after giving it everything they have they are left motionless - emotionally dead.
    "winter stole summers thrill" refers to how their relationship once was and where its ended up. What was once a radiant happy summer was overthrown by the negativity of the winter - the good times where overlooked because of the bad things happening around them.
    "see the sky is no man's land, a darkened plume to stay, hope here needs a humble hand, not a fox found in your place" shows how although the singer has moved on, no one can fill the void left by his previous love. Another woman is but a fox by comparison.
    The song continues along these lines throughout the rest of its entirety. He shows again how much he feels for this girl and how he'll never be the same without her. He'll forever be a black fly on the window sill because he's given all that he has to try and be with her.
    lyricguy1990on June 29, 2012   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningThis is my first attempt at interpreting a song and its a bit left field, but here goes...

    Black flies on the windowsill
    That we are
    That we are
    That we are to know

    I think the first five lines are a metaphor for being stuck in a classroom, trapped behind glass, yearning to be outside. The repetition of lines is synonymous with an old school style punishment, and "that we are to know" indicates they are there to be taught.

    Winter stole summer's thrill
    And the river's cracked and cold

    This indicates a change in circumstances, possibly coming to terms with the routine and rigor of a winter school term, following a particularly good summer (term?). The "darkened plume to stay" is probably a metaphor for the Devonshire winter weather, dark clouds and raining non stop.

    Still I'll be a traveller
    A gypsy's reins to face
    But the road is wearier
    With that fool found in your place

    I think these lines are about continuing to learn and grow emotionally and intellectually possibly unwillingly. “Gypsy's reins to face” to me implies being shackled to the task, unceremoniously bridled. The process of learning is “the road”.

    And no man is an island, oh this I know
    But can't you see, oh?
    Maybe you were the ocean, when I was just a stone

    I think this is about recognition of unseen talent, maybe an unwillingness to show (or see) talent or a fear of inadequate talent in the presence of someone who was either better on some level or possibly an authoritative figure. There are lots of stones, but one ocean; again a metaphor for being one individual within a group.

    Ben has hinted that this song is about the loss of a friend but there are two lines in the song that give more of a clue on this.

    Hope here needs a humble hand
    Not a fox found in your place

    and

    But the road is wearier
    With that fool found in your place

    The "lost friend" seems to have had a specific role that was taken by a replacement, and the replacement was inadequate, and this has added to the bitterness of loss. Possibly a mentor of some kind? If the classroom metaphor is correct then perhaps its a teacher.

    This is my interpretation. It makes sense to me anyway, because in many ways, I am the ocean.
    ginger72on January 30, 2013   Link
  • +1
    My Interpretationblack flies on the windowsill

    I imagined flies being trapped in a home and then dying as they try to exit through the window, but the glass holds them back. These flies are Ben and his friend.

    No man is an island
    maybe you were the ocean and I was just a stone -

    He doesn't want to be alone but he feels pressure and discomfort from the relationship
    burningwaffleson June 05, 2013   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI loved this song from the first time I heard it, and I have listened to it so many times. Somehow though, just tonight it hit me like an absolute brick to the chest. I'm not even sure I can stand to talk about it right now, and at the same time I feel compelled, even if no one cares. I'm sorry if this is a little jumbled.

    The lines that hit me the hardest:
    "comfort came against my will, every story must grow old."
    I don't know why i didn't see it before, maybe because it wasn't so personally relevant before. I thought that first line was clever, but couldn't put my finger on it. I get it now. I understand what it feels like when that deep ache that threatens to swallow you whole just ... eases, and it's a very mixed feeling. You want to hold onto the pain, because it's still a type of connection to a relationship that meant so much to you. And when you don't feel that vibrant pain as strongly, the 'story grows old." The idea of it is unbearable, how could it just be over? But comfort has to come. Yet, it 'comes against your will' because you have to 'go your own way' you just wish with all of your heart that going your own way didn't mean 'passing [them] by.'

    maybe if hope had had "a humble hand" it wouldn't have turned out this way, but you were a fox instead, and a fool. He invested so much in this friendship, but he couldn't carry it entirely. I think there is also bitterness in the line 'maybe you were the ocean when i was just a stone.' You were so huge and important to my life, and you tossed me about and forgot about me. I was somehow inconsequential to you.

    Still I'll be a traveler
    A gypsy's reins to face
    But the road is wearier
    With that fool found in your place

    You don't get the option in this life of just giving up because someone tears a part of you up and throws it away like it meant nothing. I'll keep going, Ben says, driven like a gypsy, but I'm changed, and that's not just okay. What you did by me was wrong.

    I don't know how he managed to write my soul, but he absolutely did.
    ariel11109on May 21, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General Commentmaybe when the other one was the ocean means that he/she was wiser at that moment or perfectly ripe for what the relationship was about and Ben was not. But no man is an island. The island stands out of the ocean at all times. He is maybe saying that nobody understands everything and is above everybody. We take turns being the stone ( gets eroded by the ocean/getting hurt by another) or the ocean ( hurting others) .
    jamie52360on March 20, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song will never grow old on me. The lyrics reflects my feeling deeply. The world is a big blue ocean, but i am just a stone, witness the tide comes up and low. No where to go, and no place to talk.
    shi1040459on March 28, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Maybe you were the ocean, when I was just a stone"
    Crushingly beautiful.
    jailbirdon December 15, 2011   Link

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