Writing of a childhood memory brought to life, D. H. Lawrence portrays a nostalgic moment for an adult who remembers a special time in his past in the poem “Piano.” The narration is first person point of view with the narrator, an adult being pulled back into his past.
Setting and tone
The setting is two-fold. The atmosphere is dusky and soft. The speaker is sitting somewhere with his lover singing to him. This transports him back to his boyhood home. It is a memory poem that draw the adult back to his mother’s piano. The tone is intimate and yearning.
Everything in the poem inspires the feelings of love and wistfulness for the time in the past that was special to the speaker. The music that he hears is soft as the woman sings to him. He is whisked back to a scene in his youth: as a boy, he sits under the piano as his mother plays and sings. His memory brings back the thought of his mother’s tiny feet as he presses them. She does not scold him but smiles at him as she continues to sing.
The speaker thinks that this song has deceptively pulled him back in time despite himself. He is a man who should not be responding to this reminiscence because men do not show emotions; however, his heart feels such strong emotion that he weeps. The Sunday wintry evenings with the family singing hymns in the warm living room and the piano providing the tune tug so strongly at his heart strings that he cannot resist.
Back in the present, the singer continues on with the piano playing passionately, but the singing is like noise in comparison to his recollection of the time with his family. Recalling the childhood family time consumes him, and he takes off the facade of the macho man while he weeps for his past.
…my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.
Imagery provides the “vista” or visual perception of his memory. The metaphor that is used compares memory to the view seen across a landscape as though the scene is a flood of memories. The traditional image of a wonderful family sitting around a warm, crackling fire singing together and enjoying each other’s company makes any reader long for his childhood home. Through onomatopoeia, the sounds of the piano, the tinkling and tingling support the atmosphere of the cozy time together.
The vocabulary and diction in the poem convey the mixture of feelings that the speaker struggles with between his desire to not lose his masculinity and the tug at his heart to return to his childhood. The rhyme and structure of the poem add to the thought pattern of the speaker: three quatrains with rhymed couplets throughout the poem. The word choice indicates the poet’s strong respect and love for his mother and his family.
Memory has a hold on the speaker of the poem. He misses the special moments with his family. The poem is a conflict between the mature man and the enamored boy sitting under the piano listening to his mother.
The poem expresses the important relationships that people have in their lives. Mothers and sons have special bonds. The woman who sings to him becomes noise when he thinks of his mother’s love expressed in her song. The smile of his mother means more to him than the place that he finds himself in as an adult.
Music influences the soul. The poet is carried back in time by the tune that his lover sings. Rather than making him feel closer to the woman singing, it lures him back to a happier time.