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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

D. H. Lawrence: Bat


The old bridge -- Ponte Vecchio, Florence: photo by Ben Thé Man (Ben), 14 August 2012

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.

In China the bat is symbol for happiness.

Not for me!

D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930): Bat, from Birds, Beasts and Flowers: Poems (1923)

Pipistrello, San Salvario (Torino): photo by Bruce Sterling, 21 December 2007

Bat in No. 10: photo by Danny Ayers (danja), 11 August 2011

Pipistrello al attacco, Maldives: photo by Fréderic Vienne, 21 August 2011


TC said...

Lawrence’s free verse in Birds, Beasts, and Flowers is among the small best ever written. It can be analyzed, but the paradigms produced by the analysis are worthless. It cannot be explained away, demonstrated in a mathematical sense. Neither, certainly, can any other great poetry; but at least a convincing illusion can be created, and the young can be provided with something to practice. A poem like “Bat”... moves with a stately, gripping sonority through the most complex symphonic evolutions. The music is a pattern of vibration caught from the resonant tone of Lawrence himself. The concerto is not on the page, little spots with flags and tails on a stave, but the living thing, evolving from the flesh of the virtuoso. It is like Gregorian chant or Hindu music, one thing when sung at Solesmes, or in the ruins of Konarak, another when “rendered” by the Progressive Choral Group or at a concert of the Vedanta Society of Los Angeles.

Kenneth Rexroth: from Poetry, Regeneration and D. H. Lawrence (1947)

ACravan said...

Thanks -- I needed this and it's wonderful -- the poem, the Rexroth and, of course, the photos. Yesterday, while waiting for the person I was having lunch with, I pulled up my college newspaper on my "smartphone" and read about the appearance of "slam poet" Andrea Gibson, who had apparently just wowed the campus. I was surprised that the students were interested in attending a poetry reading, but then when I read selections of Ms. Gibson's "free verse," I was appalled, but my surprise vanished. Somewhere along the line, in college probably, I read a quotation from Plato that went something like "hard is the good" and, even based on the limited experience I had back then, I could accept that. I don't think I could ever have accepted the easy, vacant, profane complaints of Ms. Gibson's "poetry," but things seem to be different today than I previously imagined. I guess I'm out of touch. Curtis

Wooden Boy said...

Swallows with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together.

The birds putting the backdrop together for the coming abject scene.

That plain jutting out line about the Chinese symbol and then that last "Not for me!" - the Nottinghamshire voice must come through there.

TC said...

The swoop and dip of the dark bodies brings to mind images of some unspecified tragedy -- the fallen angels, spiraling downward to darkness.

Lawrence's ability to feel himself into another living thing is remarkable. It has nothing to do with sentimentality or warm fuzzy feelings. His concern is life, for better or worse. His shudder of revulsion is as intense in its way as an act of love.