Q. How does Clarke create a sense of mystery in the poem ‘Pipistrelle’?
The aforementioned poem, ‘Pipistrelle’, has been scripted by the utterly renowned welsh poet Gillian Clarke. The poem talks about a description of a small Old World bat that Clarke seems to have come across. She uses diction, imagery, style and structure to create a sense of mystery in the poem.
Clarke has employed efficacious diction that portrays the poem as a mysterious one. ‘Dusk’ marks the beginning of the poem, suggesting how Clarke keeps the readers in the dark from the very beginning. This may arouse a feeling of curiosity inside the readers while subsequently the twilight makes them contemplate various aspects of the same. Moreover, she reveals a ‘Subliminal’ messenger that wanders around humming the ‘psalms of its veins’. Here, the ‘subliminal’ messenger builds up mystery as it provides Clarke with hints about its existence subconsciously, while keeping her oblivious about the same. The ‘psalms of its veins’ may suggest how it carries long forgotten messages with it, while may also depict the creature as a necromancer, mystifying the environment further. This adds mystery to the scene as the readers are not truly aware of who is the ‘subliminal messenger’, while the necromancy may point towards the ill forces from the deep dark abyss.
The ‘screen of evening’ is yet another smart wordplay by Clarke that adds mystery. She claims how there is a ‘screen’, something that typically allows light and is transparent, while beyond lies the ‘evening’, a dark chasm of oblivion. This may suggest how Clarke is trying to say that even when everything is crystal clear, we are still unaware of what is truly going on and fail to get a thorough understanding of the moment. This is further justified when Clarke describes how everything has been scripted but in ‘illegible freehand’. This here may be a reference to the book of ‘fate’ as it is undecipherable, intentionally used by Clarke to express how it seems alien to her too. Here she might have made reference to God, creating mystery as she refers to supernatural forces influencing the lives on earth, as already mentioned in the ‘bible-paper’. Thereafter, she reveals the appearance of the ‘Pipistrelle’ for the very first time in the line ‘This one, in a box, mouse’. The usage of commas delays the revelation of the bat as she doesn’t want the readers to get it’s true sense in order to keep them intrigued and give a better understanding of mystery. This causes a ‘small foreboding’, making the readers weary and cautious as they are unable to unravel this mystery of the true identify of this critter. This is further justified when she mentions how the ‘spool’ uncoiled amongst the ‘plum-trees’. Plum trees are a symbol of happiness, the reason why Clarke says it was encompassed by the dark forces, notifying us how somewhere inside this labyrinth of mystery lies happiness.
Clarke has used imagery to paint a vivid picture of the surroundings and the articles around her in order to amplify the mystical aura set by them. She refers to empty ‘bottles’, where this vague statement leaves the readers pondering about the cause of it being empty. Moreover the statement is ended by caesura suggesting how she yet again wishes to leave the readers uninformed, as she chooses to make them adapt to the mystical nature of the environment. She makes reference to a ‘rose’ that has been pressed between a book. A dead rose makes the readers brainstorm of it’s importance and significance in the book. Yet again mystery helps the readers delve deeper into the meaning of this poem as they contemplate the events that led to the flower reaching there. She personally communicates with the readers towards the end of the poem when she says ‘you could read your future’. This may be a reference to how bats use ultrasonic location during which waves reflect back. This may tell us how Clarke wishes to say what goes around comes around. This here has been used by Clarke to ease the mystery and help the readers do a critical self-analysis of their deeds and hence, extrapolate what happens in future.
The way Clarke structures her poem plays a crucial role in making the poem mysterious. The time of the day transits from ‘dusk’ to ‘night’ and then to ‘midnight’. It may be an indication of how the forces of spirits increase as nightfall sets in its foot, mystifying the poem even further with every passing second. Moreover, readers can form a link between the first two stanzas to get a firm understanding of Clarke’s point of view. She tells how it is ‘dark’ and we ‘can not see’, but we still ‘love’ the image. This may suggest how when the night unravels all its aspects, even though they may be surrounding us, we humans are not qualified enough to intercept these supernatural messages. This is what makes her say that mystery intrigues humans as it creates a sense of unpredictability. Unanticipated changes in life morph into a sudden out surge of emotions when mystery is looked through; the true sense of life. Hence, she says ‘ashes/days cool’ suggesting how it is better to live in mystery as predictability may cool the warmth and excitement of secrets. On the whole, the poem is a little obscure, making the readers desperate to unravel every aspect of the same and indulges them to involve deeper in the poem. Moreover, there is no coherence or chronologic order in her delineation of ideas suggesting how she wishes to portray the way life it is, full of mystery and always in limbo.
Personally, I believe Clarke here herself acts as a ‘subliminal messenger’ as she uses bats and other miscellaneous objects in order to resemble various phases of life and give a deeper insight of the same. She here tries to provide the readers with some obscure ideas that can be moulded into a bigger picture of life, while paints parts of them to keep them channelized and bring out unique interpretations for every individual. The versatility of this poem provides it with scores of interpretations, which too creates mystery as the readers fail to identify the true sap of the poem. The title of a bat species and the delineation of associated objects suggests how Clarke creates mystery from the very beginning as readers await to hear more on the bat.
Hence, Clarke uses diction, imagery, style and structure to create a sense of mystery in the poem.