Rukhaya M.K

A Literary Companion

Poetry Analysis: D.H.Lawrence’s “The Mosquito”

The poem is included in the collection Birds, Beasts and Flowers. Lawrence penned most of the poems in this collection while he was in Italy. It exemplifies the poet’s visualization of the animal world.

The prescribed poem exemplifies that the mosquito is not as insignificant as people make it out to be. The poet bestows upon it the honorific titles ”Monsieur”,”you exaltation”. etc. Far from ignoring it, the poet poses a series of interrogatives before the insect. Why does it stand on such high legs, as placed on a pedestal? He questions it on the length of its ‘shredded shrank.’ The word shrank means ‘the lower part of the leg.’ However, it also implies ‘to shank’ or to hit with a knife connoting the mosquito’s stinging.
Physically though insignificant, it seems to defy the forces of nature itself: the law of gravitation as it weighs no more than air. It fools the speaker himself, as it rests weightless upon himself. The mosquito is a phantom disregarding all worlds. The Winged Victory displayed at the Louvre, is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world. It was created to honour the Goddess Nike, and symbolizes action and triumph. (Wikpedia)The arms and the figure’s head of the statue has never been found. Therefore, the figure of the Winged Victory resembles the shape of the mosquito. Nevertheless, the mosquito is an inch taller, in that it has its head intact, to smile and look back at its tail. The poet exclaims as to how it can assign so much of devilry into its frail, delicate body. Being translucent, it appears phantom-like.

Queer, with your thin wings and your streaming legs
How you sail like a heron, or a dull clot of air,
A nothingness.

The poet finds it weird and wonderful that it seems to be as harmless as a heron sailing in water, or a lifeless clot of air. Though it appears to be a ’nothingness’ a certain aura appears to surround it. The aura exists, indubitably even though it is an evil one paralyzing the speakers mind beyond thought. His smallness causes him to be invisible and his swift movements tease the eye with its antics. The ‘anesthetic power’ refers to the power of the mosquito draw the conscious attention of the people from their practical chores and cognizant thoughts. Though the speaker is larger in size than the mosquito, it is the mosquito who manages to utlize the space in all dimensions, with it prowling and circling. And rather than the speaker enveloping him with his giant size, it appears to be the mosquito that envelops the speaker with its scaling flights. It is a ghoul on wings as it devours human blood. The speaker challenges it to be stationary so that they are on an equal footing. The mosquito seems to have read the poet’s intentions always before it lurched off into the air. The poet utilizes his verbal histrionics to settle his score with the mosquito calling it names like ’speck”. etc. The very fact that he disputes as to who wins this duel: “Man or mosquito” lays bare the fact that he places the mosquito on an equal footing with him; and therefore, indeed, it “exists”.

It is your trump,
It is your hateful little trump,
You pointed fiend

The word ’trump’ has the following meanings that are applicable here to the mosquito:

1)to devise deceitfully or dishonestly
2) To play a trump card when one of another suit has been led.
3)) A wind instrument of music; a trumpet, or sound of a trumpet; — used chiefly in Scripture and poetry.

The third meaning refers to the sound the mosquito makes in the speaker’s ear. However, the mosquito cannot help it in spite of itself, owing to its survival instinct. Probably this is why Providence protects it. The blood is like liquor to the mosquito, something that it is addicted to. To the rational being, this act of survival instinct is the “obscenity of trespass.” The mosquito soars with a paen of derision, a triumphant song filled with scorn. The mosquito’s weaknesses turn out to be its greatest strengths-“hairy frailty” and the “imponderable weightlessness.” These are the attributes that allow the mosquito to escape yet again and again. The mosquito’s triumph lies in it proving its existence in spite of its diminutive size. Though the speaker at the end has reduced the “Winged Victory” to “an infinitesimal faint smear,” the creature remains invincible and unshakable in its spirit.

© Rukhaya MK 2010

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  1. Thanks Rukhaya ji, simply good language.

  2. Thankz mam..

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