Day 24: Of the Boy and the Butterfly

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my teaching day every day with the Two Writing Teachers community.


Kids crowded around the drain pipe.
“You stepped on it!”
“No, I didn’t!
“Yes, you did.”

The back and forth of perceived injustice came inside.

“He’s got it.”


“In his desk.”

D lifted the dish for me to see, “Please can I have it after school?”

IMG_4880 (1)So close, so beautiful. It took your breath away.

I asked him to let it be,  but nothing could get D’s mind off that butterfly.
Nothing could hold him.
Off he went out the door and into the garden.
Came back.
Asked to go to the bathroom.
Came back.
Asked to get a drink of water.
Finally, he settled.

That evening, I sent the picture of the butterfly to D’s mom.
She had heard the story of the butterfly.
I hope she checked his backpack.

Of The Boy And Butterfly

by John Bunyan

Behold, how eager this our little boy
Is for a butterfly, as if all joy,
All profits, honours, yea, and lasting pleasures,
Were wrapped up in her, or the richest treasures
Found in her would be bundled up together,
When all her all is lighter than a feather.

He halloos, runs, and cries out, ‘Here, boys, here!’
Nor doth he brambles or the nettles fear:
He stumbles at the molehills, up he gets,
And runs again, as one bereft of wits;
And all his labour and his large outcry
Is only for a silly butterfly.


This little boy an emblem is of those
Whose hearts are wholly at the world’s dispose.
The butterfly doth represent to me
The world’s best things at best but fading be.
All are but painted nothings and false joys,
Like this poor butterfly to these our boys.

His running through nettles, thorns, and briers,
To gratify his boyish fond desires,
His tumbling over molehills to attain
His end, namely, his butterfly to gain,
Doth plainly show what hazards some men run
To get what will be lost as soon as won.

Read more Poetry Friday posts at Catherine Flynn’s blog Reading to the Core.


19 thoughts on “Day 24: Of the Boy and the Butterfly

  1. “…what hazards some men run
    To get what will be lost as soon as won.”
    As with children, grown ups and butterflies…we are aways chasing what will be lost.

  2. Little boys can be so tender sometimes. Your “in the moment’ description of the boys’ excitement about the catch of the day is so authentic. Amazing that such a fragile creature can create such joy and awe. Your post reminded me of a beautiful caterpillar my son had found in our yard and placed on our back stoop to observe. Then I, unknowingly, burst through the back door, and…you guessed it…stepped right on his caterpillar. To this day he hasn’t forgiven me…and I don’t blame him.

  3. A bittersweet tale in that poem, but it is wonderful too, and I love that it’s connected to your own story. Hope he will remember that magic all his life!

  4. Oh wow…I don’t know that I’ve seen a butterfly so up close before…what an incredible work of art, a true example of the wondrous beauty of nature.

    And I love the depiction of a little boy bouncing with excitement over a beautiful butterfly. Society likes to picture little boys as destructive and wild, but they can be gentle and tender, too.

  5. “some men run
    To get what will be lost as soon as won.”

    The butterfly
    the boy
    his childhood… all we want to do is capture it and hold it still for a minute.

  6. Wow. To see a black swallowtail in March!

    “The butterfly doth represent to me
    The world’s best things at best but fading be.”

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