Monday, 18 September 2017

D H Lawrence poem: 'Man and Bat'

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

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

A bird
Flying round the room in insane circles.

In insane circles!
. . .  A bat!

A disgusting bat
At mid-morning! . . .

Out! Go out!

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

Out, out of my room!

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

Now out, out from my room!

So to drive him out, flicking with my white handkerchief;
But he will not.

Round and round and round
In an impure haste,
Fumbling, a beast in air,
And stumbling, lunging and touching the walls, the
About my room!

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

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

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

I would not let him rest;
Not one instant cleave, cling like a blot with his breast to
   the wall
In an obscure corner.
Not an instant!
I flicked him on,
Trying to drive him through the window.
Again he swerved into the window bay
And I ran forward, to frighten him forth.
But he rose, and from terror worse than me he flew past me
Back into my room, and round, round, round in my room
Clutch, cleave, stagger,
Dropping about the air
Getting tired.

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

He could not go out,
I also realized  . . .
It was the light of day which he could not enter,
Any more than I could enter the white-hot door of a blast

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

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

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

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

He was having a silent rest.
But never!
Not in my room.

Round and round and round
Near the ceiling as if in a web,
Plunging, falling out of the web,
Broken in heaviness,
Lunging blindly,
And clutching, clutching for one second's pause,
Always, as if for one drop of rest,
One little drop.

And I!
Never, I say . . .
Get out!

Flying slower,
Seeming to stumble, to fall in air.

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

Fall, sink, lurch, and round and round
Flicker, flicker-heavy;
Even wings heavy;
And cleave in a high corner for a second, like a clot, also a

But no.
Out you beast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wings dark and skinny and flapping the air,
Lost their flicker.

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

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

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

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

Hastily, I shook him out of the window.

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

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

- D H Lawrence (Firenze, Italia)

After typing the above I went for a trail run in the morning sun. When I reached a point where I had to cross a busy main road which ran through the trees of the Vienna Woods a man and a dog suddenly appeared.

The dog, which was not on a lead and not muzzled, ran up to me and then back to the man who tried to put him on the lead, but it was too late for the dog now ran into the road and ran back and forth crossing the road several times before running "round and round and round in an impure haste" and "as if in a web staggering" and "lunging blindly" which now caused oncoming drivers to stop. One driver shouted abuse in the direction of the dog's owner and shook his fist. Another driver pipped his horn politely.

Let the God who created dogs be responsible for their fate I thought when one of the vehicles almost collided with the crazed animal.

The dog's owner eventually grabbed hold of his of his pet by the collar and I said to him: Many dogs behave like this. Maybe more than you can imagine.

Continuing my run I wondered if this incident was an example of synchronicity, or only a mere coincidence.


  1. Oh such a lovely poem and a good end. It reminded me of when a blue bottle fly comes in and flies everywhere except out of the window. lol

    1. Thanks Briony, I think the bluebottles are in a similar panic.

  2. Synchronicity I would like to think.

  3. Poetic story... Man and Bat by DH Lawrence, things we all metaphorically face, grand Gwilym!

    __ Lives of hopefulness; in comfort within their time; fly in well sought need.
    __ Bats seek the shadows; as birds search within sunlight; each hunters on air.

    Reasonable choices are theirs. Some bats fly in the light, some birds in the dark. I'm... always in the dark. _m

    1. Magyar in the dark? think you are pulling my leg. Alarming statistic in Austrian paper at weekend 30% of 15 year olds in state schools are illiterate. Now, that's in the dark. Very dark. Does not bode well for the future.

  4. I love your artwork and follow you pots this very minute!