Bats, by D. H. Lawrence

I was recently on holiday in Katoomba where I found an anthology of poems called “The Poet’s Voice”. Printed in the 30s and edited by John Garrett and W. H. Auden, it contained, amongst others, the following poem by D. H. Lawrence.

While I rather liked the poem, especially the description of bats as “Swallows with spools of dark thread”, I felt I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to speak up in defence of an animal that I’m rather fond of, having become accustomed to their presence in the parks around Melbourne.

So, here is D. H. Lawrence’s poem, which will be followed in short order by my response.

At evening, sitting on this terrace,
When the sun from the west, beyond Pisa, beyond the mountains of Carrara
Departs, and the world is taken by surprise …
When the tired flower of Florence is in gloom beneath the glowing
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 together.
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 light,
And falling back.
Never swallows!
The swallows are gone.
At a wavering instant the swallows gave way to bats
By the Ponte Vecchio …
Changing guard.
Bats, and an uneasy creeping in one’s scalp
As the bats swoop overhead!
Flying madly.
Black piper on an infinitesimal pipe.
Little lumps that fly in air and have voices indefinite, wildly vindictive;
Wings like bits of umbrella.
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.
Not for me!

Reading:Cultural Amnesia” – Clive James
Listening:Ocean Of You” – The Blackeyed Susans

Published by

Tim Hamilton


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