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David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930)

Man and Bat


              1When I went into my room, at mid-morning,
              2Say ten o'clock ...
              3My room, a crash-box over that great stone rattle
              4The Via de' Bardi ....

              5When I went into my room at mid-morning
              6Why? ... a bird!

              7A bird
              8Flying round the room in insane circles.

              9In insane circles!
            10... A bat!

            11A disgusting bat
            12At mid-morning! . . .

            13Out! Go out!

            14Round and round and round
            15With a twitchy, nervous, intolerable flight,
            16And a neurasthenic lunge,
            17And an impure frenzy;
            18A bat, big as a swallow.

            19Out, out of my room!

            20The venetian shutters I push wide
            21To the free, calm upper air;
            22Loop back the curtains ....

            23Now out, out from my room!

            24So to drive him out, flicking with my white handkerchief: Go!
            25But he will not.

            26Round and round and round
            27In an impure haste,
            28Fumbling, a beast in air,
            29And stumbling, lunging and touching the walls, the bell-wires
            30About my room!

            31Always refusing to go out into the air
            32Above that crash-gulf of the Via de' Bardi,
            33Yet blind with frenzy, with cluttered fear.

            34At last he swerved into the window bay,
            35But blew back, as if an incoming wind blew him in again.
            36A strong inrushing wind.

            37And round and round and round!
            38Blundering more insane, and leaping, in throbs, to clutch at a corner,
            39At a wire, at a bell-rope:
            40On and on, watched relentless by me, round and round in my room,
            41Round and round and dithering with tiredness and haste and increasing delirium
            42Flicker-splashing round my room.

            43I would not let him rest;
            44Not one instant cleave, cling like a blot with his breast to the wall
            45In an obscure corner.
            46Not an instant!

            47I flicked him on,
            48Trying to drive him through the window.

            49Again he swerved into the window bay
            50And I ran forward, to frighten him forth.
            51But he rose, and from a terror worse than me he flew past me
            52Back into my room, and round, round, round in my room
            53Clutch, cleave, stagger,
            54Dropping about the air
            55Getting tired.

            56Something seemed to blow him back from the window
            57Every time he swerved at it;
            58Back on a strange parabola, then round, round, dizzy in my room.

            59He could not go out,
            60I also realised ....
            61It was the light of day which he could not enter,
            62Any more than I could enter the white-hot door of a blast-furnace.

            63He could not plunge into the daylight that streamed at the window.
            64It was asking too much of his nature.

            65Worse even than the hideous terror of me with my handkerchief
            66Saying: Out, go out! ...
            67Was the horror of white daylight in the window!

            68So I switched on the electric light, thinking: Now
            69The outside will seem brown....

            70But no.
            71The outside did not seem brown.
            72And he did not mind the yellow electric light.

            73Silent!
            74He was having a silent rest.
            75But never!
            76Not in my room.

            77Round and round and round
            78Near the ceiling as if in a web,
            79Staggering;
            80Plunging, failing out of the web,
            81Broken in heaviness,
            82Lunging blindly,
            83Heavier;
            84And clutching, clutching for one second's pause,
            85Always, as if for one drop of rest,
            86One little drop.

            87And I!
            88Never, I say ....
            89Go out!

            90Flying slower,
            91Seeming to stumble, to fall in air.
            92Blind-weary.

            93Yet never able to pass the whiteness of light into freedom ...
            94A bird would have dashed through, come what might.

            95Fall, sink, lurch, and round and round
            96Flicker, flicker-heavy;
            97Even wings heavy:
            98And cleave in a high corner for a second, like a clot, also a prayer.

            99But no.
          100Out, you beast.

          101Till he fell in a corner, palpitating, spent.
          102And there, a clot, he squatted and looked at me.
          103With sticking-out, bead-berry eyes, black,
          104And improper derisive ears,
          105And shut wings,
          106And brown, furry body.

          107Brown, nut-brown, fine fur!
          108But it might as well have been hair on a spider; thing
          109With long, black-paper ears.

          110So, a dilemma!
          111He squatted there like something unclean.

          112No, he must not squat, nor hang, obscene, in my room!

          113Yet nothing on earth will give him courage to pass the sweet fire of day.

          114What then?
          115Hit him and kill him and throw him away?

          116Nay,
          117I didn't create him.
          118Let the God that created him be responsible for his death ...
          119Only, in the bright day, I will not have this clot in my room.

          120Let the God who is maker of bats watch with them in their unclean corners ....
          121I admit a God in every crevice,
          122But not bats in my room;
          123Nor the God of bats, while the sun shines.

          124So out, out you brute! ...
          125And he lunged, flight-heavy, away from me, sideways, a sghembo!
          126And round and round and round my room, a clot with wings,
          127Impure even in weariness.

          128Wings dark skinny and flapping the air,
          129Lost their flicker.
          130Spent.

          131He fell again with a little thud
          132Near the curtain on the floor.
          133And there lay.

          134Ah death, death
          135You are no solution!
          136Bats must be bats.

          137Only life has a way out.
          138And the human soul is fated to wide-eyed responsibility
          139In life.

          140So I picked him up in a flannel jacket,
          141Well covered, lest he should bite me.
          142For I would have had to kill him if he'd bitten me, the impure one ....
          143And he hardly stirred in my hand, muffled up.

          144Hastily, I shook him out of the window.

          145And away he went!
          146Fear craven in his tail.
          147Great haste, and straight, almost bird straight above the Via de' Bardi.
          148Above that crash-gulf of exploding whips,
          149Towards the Borgo San Jacopo.

          150And now, at evening, as he flickers over the river
          151Dipping with petty triumphant flight, and tittering over the sun's departure,
          152I believe he chirps, pipistrello, seeing me here on this terrace writing:
          153There he sits, the long loud one!
          154But I am greater than he ...
          155I escaped him....

Florence.

Notes

3] crash-box: Lawrence's room is subject to loud noises and vibration from the street below.

4] Via de' Bardi: a street running from the Ponte Vecchio along the Arno and then south towards the Museum.

16] neurasthenic: hypersensitive.

125] sghembo!: `obliquely' (Italian).

149] Borgo San Jacopo: a street beginning at the junction of the Via de' Bardi and the Ponte Vecchio and going along the Arno to the Ponte S. Trinita.

152] pipistrello: `bat' (Italian).


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: D. H. Lawrence, Birds, Beasts and Flowers: Poems (London: Martin Secker, 1923): 103-10. PR 6023 A93B5 1923 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1923
Publication date note: See Roberts A27
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 4:2002/1/8

Composition date: 17 September 1921
Composition date note: See Kinkead-Weekes, 671, 748
Form: Free Verse


Other poems by David Herbert Lawrence