In “Bat,” D. H. Lawrence observes how the waning daylight brings to view a swarm of swallows; to his horror, these birds turn out to be bats! Throughout the poem, he employs various literary devices to convey his dismay. Specifically, his use of metaphors conveys his changing emotions toward and increasing disgust at this shocking revelation.
Initially, he sits on a terrace to enjoy the sunset:
When the tired flower of Florence is in gloom beneath the glowing
Brown hills surrounding...
The city of Florence is a “tired flower.” This metaphor suggests that this lovely art-filled city and its inhabitants are weary at the end of the day and anticipate impending nightfall with a bit of melancholy. The flower is in “gloom,” not in bloom. Nonetheless, the atmosphere is a bit magical, with “glowing” features and “green light” shining under local bridges’ arches.
Lawrence uses a sewing metaphor to describe what he first thinks are swallows,
with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together.
This metaphor makes the birds seem harmless and almost domestic, with words like “spools,” “thread,” and “sewing.” The fact that the thread is “dark” and stitching together “shadows,” however, foreshadows a more sinister discovery.
Lawrence soon reveals his doubts with “Swallows?” He describes the birds’ movement as
an elastic shudder in flight
and serrated wings against the sky
Both “elastic shudder” and “serrated wings” are domestic yet disturbing metaphors. The birds may glide with a supple quality like elastic (continuing the sewing motif), but also quiver or convulse as a group. Their wings appear like jagged knives; instead of slicing bread, their wings cut the sky and are weapons.
When Lawrence realizes that the swallows indeed are bats, he compares the switch to “Changing guard.” This metaphor transforms harmless, ornamental palace guards (swallows) into aggressive soldiers (bats).
Lawrence uses two more metaphors to describe the bats:
Black piper on an infinitesimal pipe.
Little lumps that fly in air and have voices indefinite, wildly vindictive;
Here, the bats are black, or evil, pipers that screech endlessly. These animals are eerie, sickly “lumps” invading Florence with their vindictive cries.