September 7 D H Lawrence

Gathering swallows, ‘twittering in the skies’ , to echo Keats, are pictured by D. H. Lawrence in an Italian setting, with other air-borne creatures, in his evocative poem,


At evening, sitting on this terrace,
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.
Never swallows!
The swallows are gone.

At a wavering instant the swallows give way to bats
By the Ponte Vecchio,
Changing guard.

Bats, and an uneasy creeping in one’s scalp
As the bats swoop overhead!
Flying madly.
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.

In China the bat is symbol of happiness.
Not for me!

Next Poem:  Tarentella by Hilaire Belloc