Compare and contrast the poems "Piano" and "Discord in Childhood" by the poet D.H.Lawrence.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The writer D. H. Lawrence presents two different pictures of a child’s life and memories in his poems “Piano” and “Discord in Childhood.”

“Piano” employs a first person point of view.  The narrator seems to be the poet who relives a lovely memory from childhood. 

The form of the poem is four quatrains.  The lines are coupled within the quatrain for rhyming.

The speaker connects the occasion of a woman singing softly to an emotional experience in motion.   He returns in his mind to his child’s love for his mother as he sits under a black grand piano and presses her feet as she plays and sings.  The mother smiles back at him returning his love.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cozy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide. 

The narrator weeps for this time in his past: the Sunday wintry nights when his family sang and used the piano to guide their tunes.

When he returns to the present, in comparison, the woman’s songs have become nothing more than noise. Rather, he is drawn to the childhood memories dropping his masculine guile and weeping for the time long past.

The poet employs imagery to assist the reader in following him through the present and past memories. 

The second poem “Discord of Childhood” poetically illustrates how a work can be intensified through onomatopoeia, imagery, and diction.  With the title of the poem, the reader should be ready for a memory of something dissonant.

The poem uses two quatrains with every other line rhyming. 

1st Stanza—

This flashback recalls a parental argument. 

The poem presents an anonymous narrator [probably the child] who seems to have knowledge of the inside and outside of the house. 

The vivid imagery portrays a windy night with an ash tree’s branches hanging down looking like whips.  Later, in the night, the wind grows stronger making screeching noises as it slashes through the tree.  The tree’s branches are compared to a ship’s sails and rigging in a storm.  The imagery prepares the reader for the next stanza’s violent scene.

2nd Stanza

Within the house two voices arose in anger, a slender lash
Whistling delirious rage, and the dreadful sound
Of a thick lash booming and bruising, until it drowned
The other voice in a silence of blood, 'Neath the noise of the ash

Now the poem and narrator move the reader inside the house.  

Two people are angry and arguing.  The quarrel becomes violent.  One of the voices is silenced because of blood which implies that one of the parents has been hurt.  Outside the trees’ branches continue to blow and the wind whistles through it.  Someone has been bruised both by the words and possibly by the hand of the other.

This would be a nightmarish occurrence for a child.  To hear the sounds of the storm and the wind whistling through the ash tree while his parents argue.  The poem’s imagery finalizes the domestic abuse with the booming angry voices, the bruising and blood. 

These poems present both ends of the spectrum for a child’s memories---from the mother playing and singing the piano to a terrible, stormy night with the parents screaming and arguing.   The imagery is powerful.