At evening, sitting on this terrace,D.H. Lawrence
When the sun from the west, beyond Pisa, beyond the mountains of Carrara
Departs, and the world is taken by surprise ...
When the tired flower of Florence is in gloom beneath the glowing
Brown hills surrounding ...
When under the arches of the Ponte Vecchio
A green light enters against stream, flush from the west,
Against the current of obscure Arno ...
Look up, and you see things flying
Between the day and the night;
Swallows with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together.
A circle swoop, and a quick parabola under the bridge arches
Where light pushes through;
A sudden turning upon itself of a thing in the air.
A dip to the water.
And you think:
"The swallows are flying so late!"
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 swallows are gone.
At a wavering instant the swallows gave way to bats
By the Ponte Vecchio ...
Bats, and an uneasy creeping in one's scalp
As the bats swoop overhead!
Black piper on an infinitesimal pipe.
Little lumps that fly in air and have voices indefinite, wildly vindictive;
Wings like bits of umbrella.
Creatures that hang themselves up like an old rag, to sleep;
And disgustingly upside down.
Hanging upside down like rows of disgusting old rags
And grinning in their sleep.
Not for me!
I've loved D.H. Lawrence's poetry since I also discovered him as a favourite novelist in my teens.
This poem seems to me a counterpart of another poem he wrote about animals, the much-better known Snake, which in would urge you to read if you haven't come across it before. (It's too good not to have in your head.) Both poems deal with prejudice and how it seems to be a culturally learned reaction running contrary to our instinctive selves.
The words of this poem used to floods back into my head every time I take a late evening walk here. There's always that incredibly beautiful and peaceful moment when the sun dips behind the horizon, the call to prayers unwinds melodiously from the mosque ... and the swallows are suddenly replaced in the sky by bats. Take a stroll yourselves and see!
Lawrence's poem is set in Italy. The speaker realises that this "changing of the guard" has happened until some time after the bats have taken the place of swallows.
There's much to say about the poem, but I want to leave the fun of saying it to you!