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.
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”.
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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.
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.
Find the analyses of both the major and minor themes in Bat by clicking the NEXT PAGE button right below.