Last Updated on February 5, 2023 by Ralph Nyadzi
This is the tutorial I promised you concerning the analysis of Bat, a poem by the English poet and novelist D.H. Lawrence (1885 – 1930).
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Our analysis of Bat will begin with a summary of the poem’s subject matter and meaning. It will end with an extensive list of likely exam questions on Bat.
As you can see, we’ve got a long way to go. So fasten your seatbelts, sit back and relax as you take in as much as you can from the coming analysis of Bat.
Just in case you didn’t know …
The poem Bat is one of the six non-African poems in the WAEC 2021 – 2025 Elective Literature syllabus for SHS students and WASSCE candidates. You must therefore get ready to answer an essay question on Bat especially if you intend to be a WASSCE Literature-in-English candidate (school or private) any time from 2021 to 2025.
Without further ado, let’s begin our analysis of Bat with a summary of the subject matter of the poem.
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It is happening at sunset
Bat is both a narrative and descriptive poem.
In the first stanza, the persona describes the setting within which the event he is about to describe unfolds before his eyes. He is sitting on a terrace where he can see far towards a place called Pisa. It lies “beyond the mountains of Carrara”.
The time is evening or dusk. It is the time of day that the sun sets (departs) in the west. It is those very last few minutes before darkness suddenly spreads around, taking the world “by surprise”.
A place in Florence, Italy
Next is a two-line stanza. But it is packed with very important information that will help us in our analysis of Bat.
In stanza two of Bat, the poet discloses the name of the place he is. It is Florence, a town in Italy.
The condition of the flowers he can see is very much in line with the time of day. The plants or vegetation (flowers) look tired and gloomy after a long day under the bright sun which is now going down.
But here is the contrast. Unlike the flowers, the surrounding hills look bright and lively as they glow against the falling sun’s golden rays.
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Close to the bridge and the river
The description of the scenery (against whose background the event he is yet to tell us occurs) continues in this stanza. The “green” rays of the setting sun beautifully reflect against the water of the river Arno (obscure Arno) lying “under the arches” of a bridge called Ponte Vecchio.
Look up to the sky and see swallows flying
In the fourth stanza, we finally get to know what we’ve been expecting since line one of stanza one. The moment of SUNSPENSE is coming to an end.
In a direct address to the audience, the poet suddenly asks us to look up. He wants us to “see things flying” up there in the sky.
At this stage, the poet says the flying things must be BIRDS. Swallows, in fact.
There is a powerful display of the poet’s mastery of metaphor and imagery here as he compares the graceful movement of the flying things to “dark thread” It moves “between the day and the night”, sewing together the resulting shadows of the meeting of these two contrasting parts of the day.
Beautiful graceful movement of swallows
The poet’s careful description of the movement of what he believes to be “Swallows” continues in stanza five. He speaks of the
- Fast movements (swoop),
- the quick turning under the Ponte Vecchio bridge’s arches,
- the sun’s light that pushes through
- the sudden turning of the swallows in the air
- And a sudden movement toward the water below
They are simply a delight to watch or even imagine.
So this fifth stanza of Bat is all about what happens at sunset as one sits on that terrace in the Italian city of Florence. It tells of the quick graceful movements that the poet keeps admiring all around him.
But… wait a moment; this isn’t normal
It is at this high point of sheer joy at the spectacle of nature, at its liveliest and most beautiful, that a disturbing thought comes to the poet’s mind.
This brings us to the next stanza of the poem.
How come swallows are flying so late? Because, all of a sudden, the persona realizes this is not natural. Swallows are not known to be nocturnal animals. Something else is. Swallows don’t fly at this late hour of the day.
“The swallows are flying so late”
The thought jolts him back to reality. He must be mistaking something more sinister and more loathsome for the beautiful movement of birds.
It marks the turning point and anti-climax in the poem, Bat. And it also ushers in the second part of the poem.
The real things are dark, impure and black!
Now the poet begins to see the same flying things differently. They are no longer the birds that swoop and weave bright delicate movements across the darkening sky.
They are “dark” in appearance. And they lack the “pure loop” of the swallows he previously thought they were. The poet’s uncharitable attitude to what he is seeing now is portrayed in his choice of words in this stanza.
- dark air-life looping,
- serrated wings,
- black glove thrown up at the light,
- falling back.
They are bats; they can never be swallows
In this ninth stanza, the poet is now faced with REALITY. He is convinced that what he’s been watching is, in fact, a bunch of disgusting bats.
And, with that, his attitude changes instantly to one of intense hostility and contempt.
Clearly, the beauty and brightness are gone. The poet’s early admiration is now replaced by revulsion.
He shouts with disappointment ringing in his voice:
The swallows are gone.
An unwelcomed change
From stanza ten onwards, the tone of this narrative moves in the opposite direction from where we saw it in the opening stanzas.
The change from swallows to bats is so sudden that the poet compares the incident to the quickness of the military practice of changing guards.
The bats fly madly and their movement alone, above one’s head, is enough to give one the creeps.
Bats, and an uneasy creeping in one's scalp As the bats swoop overhead! Flying madly
There is this tone of hesitation borne out of a feeling of dread in the assonance used in “Bats, and an uneasy ..” in the extract above.
The persona detests these flying mammals so much that he can’t restrain himself from calling them by their real local (apparently derogatory) Italian name. Pipistrello!
It is significant to note, also, that from the moment awareness dawns on the persona that he’s been mistaking the dreaded bats for swallows his tone has turned hysterical. It’s now shouting all the way. This is portrayed in the repeated exclamation marks in this second part of the poem.
Bats are evil, unnatural, unsightly and dangerous
The rest of the lines of Bat have nothing positive to say about the bats. The poet portrays them as dark, fear-inspiring creatures. He freely compares the bats to anything negative.
- Black piper
- Voices indefinite, wildly vindictive
- Wings like bits of umbrella
- Hang themselves up like an old rag
- Like rows of disgusting old rags
- Grinning in their sleep
Bats bring me misery – won’t have anything to do with bats
Finally, the persona comes to an emphatic conclusion on his opinion of bats. He says, granted, bats may be revered in some places like China where the people regard them as symbols of happiness but he will never have anything to do with them. Because they mean nothing positive to him.
“In China, the bat is a symbol for happiness.
Not for me!”
You can get all the 6 WAEC-prescribed non-African poems for WASSCE/NECO etc Literature (2021 – 2025) right here. Make sure to download your FREE PDF COPY so you can study them offline any time you choose.
Analysis of Bat by D.H. Lawrence
We’ve now come to the stage where we must do a thorough analysis of Bat, a poem by D.H. Lawrence.
My analysis of Bat will focus mainly on the themes in the poem and the use of poetic devices and techniques. Among these are diction, imagery, symbolism and figures of speech.
Just to let you know the order I intend to follow in this analysis of Bat.
- The themes in the poem Bat
- Poetic devices or techniques. Under this are the following
Major elements relating to style
The poet’s use of diction and imagery
Other important literary devices
- The significance of the title of the poem
- Likely examination questions on the poem Bat.
Without wasting any more time, let’s dive in to begin an analysis of D.H. Lawrence’s poem, Bat.
Analysis of the Themes in the Poem, Bat
So, as promised, this part of our in-depth tutorial on the poem Bat is devoted to a discussion of the themes in the poem.
Here we go.
The Theme of Change
(or the Theme of Transition from the Romantic Era to the Modern Industrial Era)
At a wavering instant the swallows gave way to bats
By the Ponte Vecchio …
D.H. Lawrence’s poem Bat is not just a simple poem about two flying animals in the sky. In fact, the poet uses his experience at sunset in faraway Florence, Italy, to express his concerns over the changes that have taken place in his world.
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Hence, the phrase, “changing guard” has metaphorical undertones.
This change has to do with the negative effects of the industrial revolution he sees around him. The use of machines for mass production, the exploitation of the natural environment for industrial raw materials and the resulting degradation of the once-beautiful and healthy natural environment are some of the issues D.H. Lawrence and his contemporaries had to grapple with.
Therefore, in Bat, the poet has succeeded in giving a voice to his concerns over these sudden and sweeping changes.
One significant way the poet persona in Bat effectively develops the theme of change (or transition) is to depict strong images of movement from one object or state to the other.
Here are some instances of the motif of change in the poem.
Birds to mammals
The plot of the narrative is built around a rather strange spectacle the persona observes while relaxing on a terrace in Florence. At first, he believed he was seeing harmless birds (swallows) flying gracefully in the rays of the setting sun.
But, suddenly, to his utter shock and dismay, the realization dawns on him that what he is seeing are not swallows after all. They are bats.
The change of the image of swallows to bats shocks him so violently that he has no kind words for the bats.
He is unhappy with the way change has come so quickly and so violently.
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Below are the other motifs that relate to the theme of change in Bat.
- From light to darkness
The appearance of the swallows is associated with light while that of the bats is linked to darkness and gloom. The contrast between these two excerpts from the poem says is all
A circle swoop, and a quick parabola under the bridge arches
Where light pushes through;
Like a glove, a black glove thrown up at the light,
And falling back.
- From beauty to horror
The description of the movement of the swallows depicts beauty and elegance. On the other side, the incoming bats have an unsightly image that evokes a feeling of terror mixed with contempt.
Another comparison will do here.
FOR THE SWALLOWS:
Look up, and you see things flying
Between the day and the night;
Swallows with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together.
AND FOR THE BATS:
Hanging upside down like rows of disgusting old rags
And grinning in their sleep.
- From happiness to shock
There is also a change in the persona’s mood from light-hearted admiration to shock. This is in accordance with the theme of the poet’s reaction to change.
From admiration to revulsion or disgust
Finally, there is a visible shift in attitude from admiration for the swallows to disgust for the bats,
Creatures that hang themselves up like an old rag, to sleep;
And disgustingly upside down.
The examples outlined above go a long way to reinforce the theme of change in the poem.
The Poet’s Attitude to Change
The poet is very hostile to the change that he has to deal with. This can be deduced from the diction he employs in his description of the bats.
The bats fly “madly”, are “wildly vindictive” and look like “bits of umbrella”. The imagery of violence that comes up in these expressions underscores the poet’s loathing for the kind of change he sees all around him.
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The Theme of Disappointment or Reversal (unmet expectations)
Another noticeable theme in Bat is that of disappointment or reversal in fortunes.
The poem apparently has something else to say. His message seems to go beyond the dominant theme of change from a life of simplicity to one bogged down by the dangers of modernity that we just saw.
So, what of this other theme?
It is this idea that life is full of disappointments. We are never sure of what is real and what is not. And we must be prepared for unmet expectations as we move through life.
Moreover, the reality is always not so real after all.
This is why human beings are prone to get disappointed when what they expect turns out to be a different thing altogether.
In Bat, D.H. Lawrence registers, in very strong terms, his disappointment with the sudden turn of events. His initial joyful experience with the image of the swallows is quickly wiped away.
Sadly, it turns out to be a fleeting joy. It disappears so suddenly.
But this is the reality of man’s existence. And we need to accept it and live with it. It is obvious this is another lesson to take away from the poem Bat.
The Theme of Nature and Its Beauty
A careful reading of the lines of Bat, (especially the ones that speak of the flight of the swallows) will show you this one unmistakable theme. It is that nature, undisturbed, can be truly beautiful.
This beauty of nature is portrayed through a careful selection of words. It is further reinforced by the poet’s deliberate use of rhythm in the relevant lines.
Furthermore, the powerful evocation of nature imagery is for a purpose. It is meant to enable us to see nature in a positive way. The lines below are proof of how diction, imagery and rhythm are combined to show the beauty of nature in its primitive state.
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.
Apart from rhythm, diction and imagery, the poet also uses the bird (swallow), the sunset, the mountains (of Carrara) and the river (Arno) as symbols of nature.
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The Theme of Nostalgia – A Longing for the Past
The swallows are gone.
This sounds very much like someone, being deeply disappointed, crying (like a child) for the return of the beloved swallows.
As I pointed out already, the swallows here represent untainted nature in its glory. They stand for the past as it was in the period before the onset of the industrial revolution.
Now, that period seems to have disappeared forever. In its place has come the factories of mass production and pollution. This new way of life is what the bats represent.
The poet is devastated as a result. A note of despair can be heard in the above lines. He cries out, hoping that, somehow, someone would heed his call for a return to the past life.
The Theme of Synergy (accommodation or compromise)
This might be a minor theme in Bat by D.H. Lawrence since it is almost unidentifiable. But it is still there.
In fact, there are pointers to this theme of synergy or compromise. You may as well call it the theme of accommodation.
Overall, it emphasizes the need for allowing positive past values to live side by side with the emerging modernist lifestyle.
One instance of the poet’s interest in the merging of the past with the present is found around the early part of Bat. Day, for example, stands for the glorious past and night represents the dark days of the present modern life.
Look up, and you see things flying
Between the day and the night;
Swallows with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together.
Here is the persona, employing the metaphor of stitching, weaving or sewing to convey his view on this matter. Is he calling for peaceful coexistence between the old and the new?
Your guess is as good as mine.
This theme of synergy in Bat just goes to reinforce a similar theme of nostalgia that we’ve discussed a few moments ago.
The Theme of Cultural Differences (and Prejudice)
Next in our analysis of Bat is a look at yet another theme that could have easily escaped anybody’s attention.
I’m here referring to the theme of cultural differences. We can explore the theme of cultural differences in the poem, Bat from, at least, three different angles.
Here they are.
- The difference between the past (often romanticized) way of life and the modernist way of life. We’ve already said a lot about this under the themes of change and nature.
- The difference between the cultural attitudes of foreigners and our own (and the prejudice that goes with the way we perceive foreign attitudes)
Let me explain this one.
The poet tells us that the bat is a “symbol for happiness” among the Chinese. But, for a Westerner like him, it is not. As far as he is concerned, the bat is the opposite of everything that has to do with happiness.
In China bat is symbol for happiness Not for me!
The vitriol, and the tone of contempt that ring through the above lines is almost unmistakable. And the feeling of his own cultural superiority cannot be denied.
Herein lies the issue of the poet’s irrational prejudice and hatred, not only toward bats but also against people who don’t regard them with the same disdain as he does.
- A celebration of cultural diversity
However, there is this unequivocal acknowledgement on the part of the persona that there are other cultures where the same bat is held in high esteem. One man’s meat is another man’s poison, you may say.
The poet thus appears to be celebrating cultural diversity. And, if so, then it again goes to cement the other theme of peaceful co-existence or synergy we saw earlier.
Poetic Devices and Other Techniques in Bat
We shall now turn our attention to how the poet employs the necessary poetic devices, as well as other literary techniques to advance the development of the various themes in Bat.
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Note that from this stage in our in-depth analysis of Bat by D.H. Lawrence, you will come across the repetition of some points from the previous section of this study guide.
The reason is this. In any analysis of a literary text, it is the same issues that we always talk about under slightly different topics. This is the reason why I personally don’t think studying Literature should be that difficult.
Diction and Imagery in “Bat” by D.H. Lawrence
I will give you the kinds of imagery present in Bat. I’ll also show you the way the poet’s choice of words and expressions (diction) has been able to help him develop or convey his ideas or themes for our easy understanding.
Descriptive Words and Expressions
D.H. Lawrence makes use of a sizeable number of descriptive expressions (adverbials and adjectives) in his poem, Bat. While some are simple and easy to relate to, there are others that are unfamiliar foreign expressions. Below are some examples.
PLEASE NOTE: The descriptive parts are the ones in italics.
- The sun from the west
- Beyond Pisa
- Beyond the mountains of Carrara
- Tired flower
- Brown hills
- Green light
- Obscure Arno
- Dark thread
- Quick parabola
- Under the arches
- Sudden turning
- Dark air-life
- Pure loop
- Elastic shudder
- Serrated wings
- Black glove
- Uneasy creeping
- Flying madly
- Black piper
- Infinitesimal pipe
- Little lumps
- Voices indefinite
- Wildly vindictive
- Disgustingly upside down
- Hanging upside down.
So what is the significance of the descriptive nature of the poem’s diction? It is significant for the reasons below
- It helps evoke the right atmosphere the poet wants to put across
- Also, it is one vehicle through which the mood of the persona is effectively presented to us.
- Through the use of descriptive diction, we are able to to form vivid mental pictures of the natural setting or scenery of this narrative poem.
- The above, in turn, enables the audience to better appreciate the vital themes in the poem
Now let’s get down to the various instances of imagery in the poem, Bat. We shall identify more expressions or words that help bring forth the intended images.
Words in the poem that point to the theme of nature and its positive attributes (the beauty of nature) include the following.
Industiral Imagery (Imagery of Modernist Lifestyle)
The poet, in his desire to contrast (show the difference between) the positive attributes of the romantic period represented by the swallows with the distasteful ones of the modern industrial era depicted by the bats, uses words associated with industry or manufacturing to speak of the bats.
Let’s look at a few examples of words that feature prominently as the poet speaks about the annoying appearance of the bats.
The poet depicts the idea of the fast pace of change happening via a deliberate selection of certain words and expressions. They create an image of change, movement and speed.
Missing the pure loop
Flying madly (In effect, the change the bats represent is violent and destructive)
Expressions that create a frightening atmosphere of horror, gloom and foreboding as brought by the appearance of the bats are:
Bats! (note the exclamation sign)
Pipistrello! (note the exclamation sign again in this Italian word for Bat)
Grinning in their sleep
Imagery of Loss (Nostalgia and Romanticism)
The poet is largely successful in conveying to his audience the need for a desire to bring back what has been lost. This he achieves by including words that paint an image of longing for something valuable that has been lost.
The use of foreign (Italian) vocabulary may have added to the dominant message in the poem that the industrial age is alien and unhelpful for humanity
But, at the same time, it is possible that the foreign words are there to depict the now-lost romanticized past. That lost past experience is exotic and appealing.
Ponte Vecchio (the bridge)
Portrayal of the Image of Swallows
The swallows are presented to us as a symbol of all that is positive and elegant. The poet achieves this with a careful combination of visual and auditory imagery.
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He associates them with words and expressions that clearly put a distance between them and the unsightly, disgusting bats.
A good example is the use of many -ing-words (or participles) to portray the rhythm of their graceful moments as he imagines them fly and swoop across the golden evening skyline, over the water of the river Arno, under the Ponte Vecchio bridge.
We cannot help but admire their movement as they swoop, circle, weave and turn in the air.
Portrayal of the Image of Bats
D.H. Lawrence presents bats as a symbol of evil, ill-omen and ugliness.
Their appearance quickly spoils the mood of the persona. Rather than bring him joy, the sight of the bats sends him into a state of dismay.
Here is how this revolting image of the bats is made to get to us.
The poet introduces his audience to the bats with an element of shock. So, right from the word go, we have been conditioned to see nothing welcoming about these “creatures”.
- And you think:
“The swallows are flying so late!”
These are mammals whose appearance and mannerisms can make one cringe with revulsion and fear mixed together.
- Bats, and an uneasy creeping in one’s scalp
As the bats swoop overhead
The expressions and other literary devices that convey to us the image of the bat are meant to show us how disgusting the bats are, as compared to the swallows.
Another instance is when the bats are compared to “black gloves” that dim any light around them.
Yet again, they are unsightly “little lumps”.
Like a “black piper” the bat makes ominous sounds that put fear in the hearer.
When they hang up there in the dark, close together, they make one think of a “disgusting old rag”.
And, most horrifying of all, though they have this appearance of birds, they are not. The bats are mammals with wings that resemble bits of umbrella, grinning while they are deep asleep – hanging in the air with their heads turned “disgustingly upside down.”
Clearly this damning portrayal of the bats by the poet shows that his attitude towards them is one of hatred mixed with dread.
The fact that it is these animals that he uses to symbolize the modernist age leaves no doubt in our mind as to the poet’s hostile attitude toward everything that this period in human history represents.
Other Literary Devices
Shall we now identify other equally important poetic devices in Bat? Let’s begin this section of the analysis of Bat with the poet’s use of contrast.
There is so much to say about the poet’s use of the literary technique known as contrast in Bat.
At every stage of the poem, D.H. Lawrence juxtaposes or places two opposite things side by side with each other. The purpose is to show the difference between them for our appreciation.
Contrast is an appropriate poetic technique in Bat because it effectively conveys the themes of change and contrariness. The difference between the old order and the new, modern way of life is made very clear with these opposites.
Below are examples of the opposites that stand by side for us to see the different shades of objects and ideas in the poem.
- The beautiful swallows and the ugly bats
- The purity of life in the romantic era and “dark” days of the modern industrial era
- Light and darkness
- Day and night
- The natural (flower, sun, stream, hills, swallows etc) and the unnatural or artificial (terrace, arches, bridge, umbrella, bats etc)
- The familiar (sun, mountains, hills) and the unfamiliar or alien (Pipistrello, Ponte Vecchio, China etc)
- Admiration and shock
Finally, the structure of the poem has something to say about the use of contrast.
Looking at the form of Bat, one can easily conclude there is no clear uniformity in terms of stanzas, rhyme or punctuation.
This lack of uniformity in structure is characteristic of modernist poetry – the age to which D.H. Lawrence belongs. It is the age that began to show signs of a departure from the conventions of the romantic era.
Thus each stanza of Bat is starkly different from the other. Some stanzas are made up of either one-word single lines or one-phrase single lines.
Then, there are double-line stanzas, three-line ones and so forth.
One must also not miss the fact that the entire structure of the poem is carefully built around this technique of contrast.
Here is how it is done.
The early part of the poem gives us a pleasant experience as we observe the graceful movement of the swallows across the evening sky. On the other hand, the latter part meets us with shock and dismay. Change has suddenly happened. And it is not a happy one.
The above point to the fact that there is ample evidence of effective use of contrast in the poem, Bat, by D.H. Lawrence.
The visible symbols that run through the lines of D.H. Lawrence’s Bat are:
- Day/Light which stands for the beauty and glory of the years gone by.
- Night/Evening/Darkness representing the dark days of the modern industrial age.
- Swallows standing for the happy past
- Bats symbolize the unnatural and the ugly. They also symbolize negative change.
- Foreign Italian (non-English) words which stand for the alien way of life that has unfortunately come to define life for the poet’s generation.
- Bridge/Umbrella. These are symbols of modernity, of industry and manufacturing.
- Water/Sky/Mountains. They stand for nature.
The poet uses apostrophe in that we hear the persona address an imaginary audience in lines like these:
- Look up, and you see things flying
Between the day and the night
- And you think
“The swallows are flying so late”
Swallows? (Note the RHETORICAL QUESTION here as well.)
We define metaphor as a direct comparison between two entities that have almost nothing in common. Although they both denote comparison, metaphor, unlike simile, makes no use of the word, “like” or “as”.
Here are some examples of metaphor in Bat by D.H. Lawrence. Note that we’ve already explained their effectiveness in the poem.
- Glowing brown hills (this can also be considered as transferred epithet)
- Elastic shudder
- Serrated wings
- Like a glove, a black glove thrown up at the sky
- Wings like bits of umbrella
- Creatures that hang themselves up like an old rag to sleep
- Hanging upside down like rows of disgusting old rags
- When the sun … departs
- The tired flower of Florence
- A green light enters
- Swallows … sewing the shadows together
- Tired flower of Florence
- Glowing brown hills
- Flower of Florence
- Flush from the west
- Swallows with spooks
- A circle swoop
- A twitch, a twitter
- Little lumps
- Evening, sitting
- A twitch, a twitter
- Bats and an uneasy
Words and expressions repeated often in the poem include the following.
- … and the world is taken by surprise
Traces of Romantic Poetry in Bat
Romantic literature refers to works of art that look back and glorify the past life before the onset of the industrial revolution in Europe. Notable poets of this era include William Wordsworth and Coleridge.
Though D.H. Lawrence cannot be said to belong to the romantic era, it is clear that he is sympathetic toward the ideals of that age that preceded his.
Here are some traces of Romantic poetry found in the poem, Bat.
- The poet speaks with nostalgia about the glorious past symbolized by the swallows
- There are strong images or symbols of both nature and industry in the poem.
- Personification is used to give life and vitality to the natural elements before the change happens
- The poet paints a negative image of the new age. representing it with the disgusting bats.
- There is an emphatic rejection of the new order.
In China the bat is symbol of for happiness
Not for me!
The Poem, Bat As Monologue
Bat is in many ways a monologue. Let’s take a quick look at some key elements of monologue in the poem.
- The persona, sitting all by himself, reflects on a harrowing experience he’s just had.
- Apostrophe. Once in a while, the persona invites an imaginary audience to travel with him through time as he recollects his experience.
- The poem Bat, like other monologues treats an issue which is both deeply personal and public in nature at the same time. These issues are the ugly, destructive effects of the changes happening around him. He exprsses discomfort over the way the simplicity of nature and joys associated with it have suddenly given way to life marked by unsightly developments.
- Self-talk, even up to the last line when the persona exclaims, “Not for me!” also makes this poem a monologue.
- Above all, just like many other monologues, the poem, Bat is in the narrative style, making copious use of descriptive diction, uneven stanzas and unpredictable meter and rhyme..
This takes us to our next point for discussion. What makes, D.H. Lawrence’s poem, Bat a narrative poem?
What makes Bat by D.H. Lawrence a narrative poem?
We can identify at least a few elements of narrative poetry in Bat. Let’s have some instances.
The poem Bat opens with the narrator telling the audience about the time and place it all started – a common narrative style of many storytellers.
At evening, sitting on this terrace
When the sun from the west …
Remember our analysis of Niyi Osundare’s The Leader and the Led? That is another narrative poem in this collection of WASSCE/NECO/SSCE Literature poetry for 2021 to 2025.
Point of View
There is a third-person narrative voice in Bat. Note that the poet only positions himself as an onlooker keenly observing the movements and changes going on right before his eyes. But he has an opinion of his own. And he doesn’t mince words to make it known to his audience.
Like most narrative poetry, the poem Bat is highly descriptive. Earlier in this analysis of Bats, we identified the large collection of adjectives and adverbials present in the poem.
So you can go back and take a second look at them.
The persona is at pains to give us a detailed description of the places, periods and actions as they unfold in Bat.
Firstly, the descriptive nature of the diction, as stated above, helps in the effective narration of what he has seen.
Secondly, he gives the audience names of places to clarify the setting. Take a look at these instances
- …beyond Pisa, beyond the mountains of Cararra
- The bridge of Ponte Vecchio
Time is the third aspect of the setting that is forcefully presented to the audience. This is again achieved with references to the time of day, nature and the like.
Sun … departs
It is sunset when the darkness is fast approaching
Finally, the atmosphere is one that is first marked by vitality and beauty only to be replaced by one of darkness and horror.
In the plot of this narrative, the conflict between modernity and a romanticized past plays out very powerfully. This conflict is represented by the contrast between the bats and the swallows. The changing of the guards tells us how the villains, bats, seem to have emerged as the victors in the struggle.
Thus, the forces of darkness have, for now, overpowered the forces of beauty and life. It is an understandably disappointing anti-climax which the narrator is able to reach with his audience after building a note of suspense in the preceding lines leading up to this stage.
There are characters in Bat. They are the ones through whose peculiar features and actions we are able to appreciate the various issues raised in the poem.
I’m referring to the Swallows and the Bats.
It is not unsurprising, therefore, that the narrator personifies them in the poem.
THE POET’S TONE
The poet’s tone can be described as reflective and filled with concern and despair at the same time. He speaks of a development that, he is convinced, does not bode well for his generation. His choice of words and his attitude show this.
Comparison of the Poet’s Attitude to Swallows and Bats
Congratulations for reaching this stage of what has proven to be the in-depth analysis of Bat that we promised ourselves.
Now, we shall conclude the analysis of Bat by D.H. Lawrence with a brief comparison of the poet’s attitude toward the swallows on the one hand, and the bats, on the other.
Please note that this assessment of the way the poet treats or regards these two animals in the poem is based on the words he uses to refer to them. It is also derived from the things he makes them represent.
First the swallows.
Now we can have a comparison of the poet’s attitude to swallows and bats in our analysis of Bat.
The poet sees the swallows in a positive light. To him, swallows represent natural beauty. By portraying their movements in a positive light in the first part of the poem, D.H. Lawrence succeeds in showing clearly that he cherishes the old way of life that is now being taken over by modernization.
Now the bats
Bats have nothing good to offer. So he is no fan of theirs. This should be an apt statement on the poet’s attitude toward bats in the poem. All the forms of diction the poet employs together with the imagery of horror associated with bats attest to this assessment of the poet’s attitude to them.
A Comment on the Title of the Poem
So why is it that D.H. Lawrence chose to give “Bat” as the title to this poem instead of Swallow? At least, he could have even made it “Bat and Swallow”. Or?
That’s a fair question to ask, right?
After all, the two animals play an important role in the poem.
Well, let’s look at it this way.
We may consider Bat as the appropriate title for the poem when we pay close attention to the issue that most preoccupies the persona’s mind.
It is the question of the devastating effects of change or modernization. The theme of change or transition from the old traditional ways to the new ways is of primary concern to the poet.
As we can see, Bat is a poem, composed to criticize this artificial way of life. The poem is designed to focus attention on what is wrong rather than what is right.
And, since the bats are the symbols of this horrible new life, it is only appropriate to focus the reader’s attention on them right from the beginning.
They are the epitome of the ugly, disgusting changes going on. What they represent are what needs to be tackled. And the situation is urgent. Hence the title of the poem is BAT rather than SWALLOW.
Likely Exam Questions on Bat
We are at the end of our analysis of Bat. Make sure to find time to write an essay on as many of the below likely questions on Bat as possible.
- Comment on D.H. Lawrence’s poem, Bat as an exposition on the conflict between traditional life and modernization.
- Comment on the structure of the poem, Bat
- What is the significance of the the title of the poem, Bat?
- What do you like about the swallows in the poem, Bat?
- Consider D.H. Lawrence’s Bat as a narrative poem.
- Discuss the poet’s use of diction and imagery in Bat
- Identify two symbols in Bat and show their effectiveness.
- Examine the view that Bat belongs to the romantic tradition in Literature.
- What aspects of modern life are portrayed in Bat?
- Examine the poet’s nostalgic mood in Bat by D.H. Lawrence.
- Comment on the theme of cultural revival in Bat
- Discuss the use of contrast in the poem Bat.
- Highlight the descriptive style found in Bat.
- What images of nature are present in the poem, Bat?
- Comment on the role of bats in the poem Bat by D.H. Lawrence
- What is your assessment of the Bats?
- Give your impressions of the swallows in D.H. Lawrence’s Bat?
- Consider the poet’s reaction to change in Bat.
- Would you say that Bat is simply a poem of resistance to inevitable change?
- What do you find most interesting about the poem Bat?
- Comment on the use of foreign words in Bat.
- Discuss the poet’s use of repetition and simile in Bat.
- Comment on the poet’s attitude.
Ayekoo! (I mean, well done). Thank you for being part of this effort to analyze Bat properly by turning it inside out. It’s now left to you to make good use of the points in this tutorial on the analysis of Bat. Promise me you’ll do just that. Thank you!
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9 thoughts on “Analysis of Bat: Meaning, Themes and Poetic Devices”
Type here.. So awesome and fantastic . oh well I’ll say thank you sir! God blessing
It’s my pleasure.
nice poem bruh
Well done sir, I find delight whenever i visit your site for a review.
Keep up the good.
God bless u.
Thank you for your kind words, Emmanuel. They mean a lot to me.
The ideas are great and spot on. I feel delighted to learn from them
I’m happy it helped. I appreciate your kind words.
In fact,this is a fantastic and a well done job for all most all the literature students.My Allah,the almighty reward you beyond your aspirations.
Thank you, Othman.