At evening, sitting on this terrace, When the sun from the west, beyond Pisa, beyond the mountains
Departs, and the world is taken by surprise… When the tired flower of Florence is in gloom beneath the
Brown hills surrounding… When under the arches of the Ponte Vecchio
A green light enters against stream. flush from the west.
‘Against the current of obscure Arno … Look up, and you see things flying
Between the day and the night; Swallows with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows
A circle swoop, and a quick parabola under the bridge arches
Where light pushes through;
A sudden turning upon itself of a thing in the air.
A dip to the water.
And you think:
The swallows are flying so late!”
Dark air-life looping
Yet missing the pure loop …
A twitch, a twitter, an elastic shudder in flight And serrated wings against the sky,
Like a glove, a black glove thrown up at the
And falling back. Never swallows!
The swallows are gone.
At a wavering instant the swallows gave way to bats
By the Ponte Vecchio…
Bats, and an uneasy creeping in one’s scalp As the bats swoop overhead!
Black piper on an infinitesimal pipe.
Little lumps that fly in air and have voices indefinite, wildly vindictive:
Wings like bits of umbrella. Bats!
Creatures that hang themselves up like an old rag, to sleep: And disgustingly upside down.
Hanging upside down like rows of disgusting old rags
And grinning in their sleep. Bats!
Not for me!
ABOUT DAVID HERBERT LAWRENCE
D.H.Lawrence was born on 11 September, 1885 at Eastwood. Nottingham Shire in England, the fourth child of Arthur Lawrence and Lydia Beardsall. His father was a miner while his mother was of a higher social class. After teaching for a while in elementary schools, he attended Nottingham University College in 1906. He died on 2 March 1930 at Vence in the south of France. Lawrence was a prolific writer of poetry, novels, short stories, plays, essays and criticism.
In the anthology of D.H. Lawrence titled Birds, Beasts and Flowers; the poet demonstrates love and hatred to some animals and plants. Lawrence combines ecstasy of praise and adoration with rational imagination for almond in the poem. “Almond Blossom”, Lawrence accuses the mosquito of intentionally harming humans in the poem, The Mosquito. In this poem, “Bat”, Lawrence states that he does not like bats because of their nature.
(A) Hatred; The poet considers the bat as the ugliest of all creatures. The poet’s description of bat portrays the bird as awfully disgusting, nauseating, and noisome and an omen of ill-fortune. “Creature that hang themselves up like an old rag, to sleep And disgustingly upside down.” (Line 39).
One Man’s Food is another Man’s Poison: Although Lawrence depicts the bat in the apt images of ugly creature. “Hanging upside down like rows of disgusting old days rags/ And grinning in their sleep”, the Chinese people consider the bat as a “symbol of happiness” (L.44). So, what the poet considers as a repugnant bird is a creature that brings gladness, joy, blissfulness and blessing to the people of China.
Nature: Nature is giving a priority in this poem by the ways the poet describes the beautiful setting. Names of ancient cities and places in Italy like Pisa, Florence, Mountains of Carrara, the arches of the Ponte Vecchio and River Arno are beautifully described. There is animistic nature worship in the presentation of swallows that show an acrobatic display in
“A sudden turning upon itself of a thing in the air /A dip to the water” (Lines 14 -15). Also, the poet gives credence to “the sun from the west”, “evening”, “tired flower”, “Brown hills”, “A green light”, “Stream”, “the day and the night”, “air”, “the water” as parts and parcels of nature.
It is very common that Lawrence is often conversational in his poems. This style is referred to as a dramatic monologue because an implied audience is being addressed. The nature of the tem shows the presence of the passive listener as in line 9 of this prem indicates: “Look up, and you see things flying” and lines 15 17 “And you think. The swallows are flying so late!”. This poem, “Bat” is a good example of dramatic monologue poem., It is the evening time as the poet sits on a terrace which is a flat area created on the side of a hill or a flat area next to a building where people can sit and relax. The opening stanzas introduces the reader to the poem’s settings in Italy where names of geographical landmarks are mentioned like Pisa, Florence, Mountains of Carrara, Ponte Vecchio and River Arno etc. The poet is observing the sunset beyond the hills in the West as the sunlight disappears gradually and darkness is falling in just as the flowers of Florence (a city in Greece) are losing their beauty. The hills around are dusty and brown because of the dryness of the season and hot weather. The vividness of the poem’s setting is illustrated in the curved pillars supporting Ponte Vecchio (a bridge across River. Arno in Greece), there is a green streak of light which is the reflection colour of the river from the sun setting.
The poet addresses the implied audience or passive listeners when he says: “Look up, you will see things flying”. The things fly at evening twilight or the transitional time between sunset and night fall. The lines made by the forward and backward movement of things (swallows) appear to act as the thread that can be used to join evening shadows together. The things or swallows in an acrobatic display move in a circle and through the “reflected light” make a mathematical curved line (parabola) under the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. The things or swallows fly forward and backward, and move up and down again to touch the water with their bodies. The things appear to be migratory birds (swallows) that often attach their nests to buildings. Swallow is a migratory swift-flying songbird with a forked tail and a long pointed wings feeding on insects in flight. The poet-speaker asks a rhetorical question: “and you think: The swallows are flying so late!” Swallows?”
Swallows are nocturnal birds but why are they flying in the evening time? Swallows have saw-wings and have a distinctive appearance with their imperfect movement in a curve crossing. It seems that swallows look like a black glove throw up and down with light in the background. The poet confesses the ‘things’ can never be swallows because they do not normally fly at night; hence, the “things” are “Bat!” The poet engages the military metaphor when he confirms that the swallow guard the bridge during the daytime while the bats do the same at night. The poet is irritated as the bats fly in battalions over his head and towards the sky. These small animals are flying about in the air swiftly and madly with their unpleasant shrill voices – like small kind of bat – “Pipistrello!”
Bats have the wings like a piece of a wretched umbrella, hang themselves upside down in rows to sleep, looking more like an
old rag. In this manner, the bats are odious, loathsome and sickening to look at especially when they “grinning in their sleep”. The poet concludes the poem in a laconic humour: “In china the bat is (a) symbol of happiness/Not for me”. In china, people regard a bat as a bird of good fortune and happiness but the poet demonstrates his powerful hatred for the creature that prowls the night and makes odious noise and sleeps like old rags.
(1) Language: In order to show his hatred for the bats, the poet refers to them and their characteristics in invective language like “Flying madly”, “voice indefinite”, “wildly indictive” “old rays” “disgusting” “Black Piper”. In fact, the use of “black” here has a negative connotation of “devil or evil”. The meaning of
“disgusting” is something “so bad. urfair, inappropriate etc that you feel annoyed and angry.
(2) Allusion: In the opening stanzas, allusions are made to medieval landmarks that serve as the setting of the poem. The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Amo River, in Florence, Italy. Another allusion is “Mountains Carrara” -Carrara marble is a type of white or blue-grey marble of high quality, popular for use in sculpture and building decoration. Carrara marble has been used since the time of Ancient Rome. Florence is a city found in Tuscany, Italy. The poem has a quality and adequate setting.
(3) Simile: The use of simile is apparent in this poem. The ugly appearance of bats is described in: “Wings like bits of umbrella”, “Creatures that hang themselves up like an
old rag…” “”Like a glove, a black glove thrown up at the night”. The apt descriptions of bats show the poet’s aversion for the creature.
(4) Personification: Nature like sun, vegetation, the swallows, flowers and bats are all accorded human attributes to draw the reader to the poet’s belief system. The flowers in Florence are withered away, hence the poet says “When the tired flower of Florence…” (line 5) Flowers can never be tired like human beings. Swallows behave like human tailors when they are “sewing” the shadows together” (line 11). Bats behave like an insane person in being “Flying madly” (line 33).
(5) Alliteration: There are many examples of alliteration that add to the theme of this poem but prominent ones are: “When the tired flower of Florence…” (f.f) (line 4). “A twitch a twitter…. “(line 21) (t.t) Another
example is “Little lumps that My…”(line 36) (1.1).
(6) Rhetorical Question: The poet engages the rhetorical question to ask the silent audience about the identity of the creature of his discussion and to change his subject in line 19: “Swallows?” Later in the poem, Lawrence discovers the true identity of his discussion and shout: “Never swallows!/Bats”.
(7) Repetition: Although there is a little variation in the repetition, lines 38-40 are given the queer and awkward descriptions of bats as in: “Creatures that hang themselves up like an old rag, to sleep;/ And disgustingly upside down/ Hanging upside down like rows of disgusting old rags”. The repetition of “upside down”, “old rags” and “disgusting” shows the poet’s strong hatred for bats. Other words repeated in the poem are “glove”, “Swallows” and “Bats”.
(8) Antithesis: Bats are the symbol of happiness and good fortune in China but the poet considers bats as a disgusting and ill-omen creatures. Hence, the poet develops chiroptophobia (fear of bats). This attitude confirms the fact that one man’s food is another man’s poison. The poet has a great love for swallows but bats receive a great condemnation from him.
(9) Metaphor: The seemingly sarcastic and negative charges against the bat make the creature a repugnant bird as in “And serrated wings against the sky” (line 22), “Black Piper”. (line 35) “Little lumps that fly in air” (line 36). Another example is “changing guard” which is a military metaphor, that is, the swallows like military men guard the bridge during the day time while bats do the same at night. Bats are therefore compared to black piper, little lumps etc.
(10) Visual Imagery: The poet is succeeded in presenting the horrible picture of bats through the visual imagery. In our inner mind, we see the image of disgust in the way bats fly, sleep upside down, their wings like a wretched umbrella. The worst description of bats is “And grinning in their sleep”.
With uneven stanzas of 45 lines, the poem is written in single prose-like form. It is a narrative prose- poem presented in free verse with occasional rhymes.
The tone of every literary work of art is whatever being read in light of the writer’s perspective. The writer state of mind is the tone. The tone of this poem is sarcastic because the poet could not see anything good in bats. The poet’s impression of bats is that they are horrible nocturnal creatures which see at night but blind during the day time.