"Bat" by D. H. Lawrence (David Herbert Lawrence, 1885–1930) is a poem that draws upon the author's extensive experience living in countries other than his native England. "Bat" takes place in Florence, a beautiful and famous city in Italy. From his terrace, the poet watches twilight creep over the city, and he expresses his surprise as nature's nocturnal flying creatures come out.
In order to better understand this poem and its literary devices, it helps to know a bit about swallows, the birds mentioned in the poem. Swallows are small and fly in very darting and acrobatic ways, weaving in and out of the narrow alleyways of European cities and villages as they catch insects in the warm months.
"Bat" is a poem filled with a literary device called imagery. Imagery is a description that evokes the senses and leaves a lasting image in the mind of the reader. As night falls, the poet sees "Swallows with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together." What an amazing example of imagery this is! Because of their similar flight patterns, the bats do at first look like swallows and, as night falls, it seems they are "sewing the shadows together."
Lawrence also uses the literary devices of metaphor, personification, and simile. A metaphor creates a powerful image by comparing something to another thing without the use of the words "like" or "as." A great example in this poem is " The tired flower of Florence," which paints a picture of a city at the close of day.
"Swallows give way to bats, changing guard" is an example of a literary device called personification. The birds and the bats switch places like humans "changing guard," as one set of people arrives and takes over the duties of those going home.
Simile, a literary device that uses the words "like" or "as" for comparison, also appears often in this poem. The bats have "wings like bits of umbrella." This creates a vivid image of the shape of bat wings.
"Creatures that hang themselves up like an old rag, to sleep," is a simile that again lets the reader imagine what a bat looks like to the poet when it is hanging upside down.
Repetition, another literary device, is used in the line, "Hanging upside down like rows of disgusting old rags" to express the build-up of an emotion on the part of the poet. Clearly, bats are unpleasant to him.