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D. H. Lawrence's "Piano" is a rational, nostalgic poem about the romanticized memories of childhood compared with the realities of adult life. The speaker reluctantly allows himself to be swept into the past. The reason for this reluctance is that the speaker doesn't want to get overly sentimental because this would not be realistic and it would not do justice to the significance of his particular memory. In other words, the speaker is careful to avoid being overly sentimental because the memory itself is, while powerful, about a quaint simplicity of life.
In the first stanza, the speaker (as an adult) listens to a woman singing. From this experience, he recalls a childhood memory of listening to his mother sing while playing the piano. In the second stanza, he tries to ignore this nostalgic memory and attempts to focus on the present experience as an adult. However, the memory is too powerful. "In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song / Betrays me back," (5-6). This memory is of Sunday evenings singing hymns inside a cozy house in winter. This vision of the warm house protected from the cold winter outside parallels the life of a child when he/she is protected from the realities and responsibilities of the adult world.
In the third stanza, the speaker notes that the singer (of the present tense in his adult experience) no longer holds his attention. He is completely wrapped up with the memory and longs for his childish days.
This poem is about the nostalgia and/or myth of the ideal family life. The speaker resists this reverie because he thinks it is impractical. It will only lead to more longing for an idealized past.
The memory is very specific. This is important because it shows how vivid and selective the memory is. In other words, in idealized moments of memory, we only remember the good things; and, we tend to remember them as being even better than they were. The speaker is fully aware of this, but gets lost in the memory after all. In this case, hope, emotion and nostalgia overpower rational thought to the point that the adult becomes like a child. "The glamour / Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast / Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past." (10-12).
The rhyme scheme (aabb) is simple, perhaps reflecting the form of some hymns or just the simplicity of the quaint, cozy memory. Enjambment is used (one line running on to the next) to show the connection between the past and the present, notably in lines 2-3 and 5-6. The singer's song and the mother's hymn show the bridge from the present to the past via the timelessness of music.
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