The speaker of this poem uses several literary devices to convey his shifting perceptions of the natural world as day turns into night, and he focuses his reaction particularly on bats. Unlike some people, the speaker finds the creatures "vindictive" and loathsome.
In the opening stanza, the speaker employs metonymy by writing that "the world is taken by surprise." While his focus is on the natural world in this poem, the "world" here comes to represent the reaction of all of the people in the world as they collectively shift their emotions at the end of the day.
The speaker uses both alliteration and metaphor in the following line:
When the tired flower of Florence is in gloom beneath the glowing.
The repetition of the f sound here provides a stuttering hesitation, as if the world is pushing back against the evolution into darkness. He also compares Florence to a "tired flower," illustrating both the beauty of the city and the weariness inherent in the close of day.
Hypophora is employed when a speaker asks a question and then answers it himself. An example can be found when the reality of the flying creatures begins to dawn on the speaker:
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.
The speaker begins with an internal question, reflecting his confusion about what he is viewing in the sky. He begins to note the details of the flying creatures, and his initial impressions of the "swallows" begins to falter as he considers their "twitching" movements and the "serrated wings" that aren't reflective of a swallow. And then the answer follows: Bats! He faces this conclusion with an exclamation, conveying his disgust in the realization.
"Bat" is a lyrical poem that traces the speaker's change from delight at what he thinks are swallows flying in the twilight air at dusk in Florence to his disgust when he realizes that they are bats.
Lawrence uses imagery and metaphor to highlight the contrast. When the speaker thinks the flying creatures are swallows, he uses pleasant imagery to describe them, such as "a quick parabola under the bridge arches" and "spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together." However, once he realizes they are actually bats, the imagery changes: they become "lumps" and " disgusting old rags."
Lawrence uses other literary devices to underscore the emotional change the speaker experiences at his realization. For example, he uses exclamation points three times after his discovery to highlight the shock and alarm he feels. He calls the bats by their Italian name, pipistrello, as if the jolt of awareness has shocked him into another language. The exclamation point with "Bats!" also conveys his surprise and disgust. The exclamation points, sharp and precise, are used as contrast to another form of punctuation, the vague drifting ellipses at the poem's beginning that show the speaker's dreamy, unfocused state of mind:
When the tired flower of Florence is in gloom beneath the glowingBrown hills surrounding ...
In the first three stanzas, the speaker is simply drifting in his thoughts.
The speaker employs alliteration, which is when words beginning with the same consonant are placed in close proximity, to express some of his unease at the bats, which are "A twitch, a twitter" and then "little lumps" in the air.
Lawrence uses interior dialogue (rather than monologue) to indicate the change in consciousness the speaker experiences as he applies knowledge to his perceptions:
And you think:"The swallows are flying so late!"
"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.