David Herbert Lawrence’s Bat foregrounds the poet persona’s sheerful disdain for bats. He portrays bats as “disgusting old rags” “grinning in their sleep”. The poem is a mixture of ignorance and acquaintance because from the very beginning of the poem, the poet persona is seen “sitting on this terrace” picturing the mountains of Carrara.
Then he looks up to see things flying with a circle swoop and quick parabola. The poet persona at once believes they are swallows. But upon better observation of their manner and time of flight which is most unlike swallows, he finds himself dismissing his earlier submission; “never swallows/bats”.
Read the Poem: BAT by D. H. Lawrence
Then the poet persona shows his unveiled aversion for bats in ardent screams, an outright burst of emotion; “flying madly/voices indefinite, wildly vindictive”.
He, however concludes, on the subjectiveness of his aversion in tandem with the beauty is in the eye of the beholder cliché, only that it is now ugliness is in the eye of the beholder, a round-about description of the subjective theory of aesthetics.
The poet persona claims that even though, he hates bats, there are places where the bats are liked and even revered, places like China where it is “a symbol for happiness”.
The preeminent theme in this poem is the theme of hatred. The poet persona bares his hatred of bats and how he finds them disgusting. He is particularly revolted by how they hang themselves like “old rags”.
From all indices, the poet persona seems to be well versed with the mechanics of nature, being quick to distinguish between the flying pattern of a swallow and that of a bat.
On a grander scale, one may assert that the poet persona’s distaste for bats as a species of animals is probably a reflection of his thoughts about European industrialization.
While the poem seems to concentrate on “bats” in the literal sense, the poem however, using the symbol of a bat, spells out the after-effects of industrialisation: environmental degradation and human depredation and so on and on. Going by the background of the poet, one could say as much.
D. H. Lawrence lived between 1885 and 1930, a period that saw the industrial rise and technological growth of Europe and its neighbours: an era that saw the invention of planes, and First World War which told the tale of how much damage the technological innovations could inflict on humanity.
So, Lawrence must have seen the effects of this industrialisation and had possibly expressed this using the symbol of “bats”, a bird species the poet persona has almost equal aversion for.
Besides, the poem describes how beautiful nature is and how catastrophic it can be when it doesn’t represent the human interest. This the poet persona demonstrates through a juxtaposition of swallows and bats.
At inception, the poet persona is happy and indeed amazed by the flight of birds he thought to be swallows and how they seem to be beautifully arranged.
However, his amazement changes into horror and disgust when he realises his mistake. His reaction to the knowledge that they are bats is one of anger, hatred and disdain.
On the contrary, as the poet persona is quick to point out, bats symbolise happiness in China.
This is a clear expression that beauty is beauty only when it is in synergy with human interests but catastrophic and disgustful when it doesn’t represent human interests. The poet persona is obviously irritated by “bats” and this he shows clearly in the poem.