Describe the speaker, tone, and mood of the poem "Piano" by D. H. Lawrence.

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The speaker in D. H. Lawrence’s poem “Piano ” recalls the times when, as a child, he used to sit at the piano, listening to his mother play. The speaker feels nostalgic for those times, and he is sad that those times are now past, never to be...

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The speaker in D. H. Lawrence’s poem “Piano” recalls the times when, as a child, he used to sit at the piano, listening to his mother play. The speaker feels nostalgic for those times, and he is sad that those times are now past, never to be experienced again. He “weeps to belong” to those times once more, when he was with his mother, warm and snug inside, in “the cosy parlour.” The nostalgia of the speaker’s memories infantilizes the speaker. His “manhood is cast / Down in the flood of remembrance” so that he “weeps like a child for the past.” The metaphorical “flood” suggests that the speaker is helpless against the memories. They overwhelm him as would a flood, and, ironically, he is reduced to the emotional state of the child he can no longer literally be.

The mood, or tone, of the poem is synonymous with the tone of the speaker’s voice. At the beginning of the poem the tone is calm, peaceful, and wistful. The first word, “Softly,” suggests calmness straight away, and this is then compounded by the references to the “tingling strings” of the piano and the mother who “smiles as she sings.” In the second stanza the tone changes and becomes somewhat melancholy. The music he hears, and which prompts the memories of his childhood, is described as “insidious,” implying that the music harms him in some way. The music, he says, “Betrays him back” to the past. The alliteration of the letter “b” in this phrase creates a harsher tone.

In the third and final stanza, the speaker’s tone seems resigned and perhaps exasperated. He says that “The glamour / Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast / Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child.” The listing of effects here, and the absence of connectives, implies a matter-of-fact tone. The speaker is resigned to the fact that he is helpless against the metaphorical “flood” of nostalgia.

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The speaker of this poem does not identify himself, but we know that he is male, and he is old enough that the childhood he is remembering in this poem is in the past. The speaker is stirred by a woman "singing to me," which seems to spark a memory in him—he feels the singing "taking me back down the vista of the years" to his childhood.

The motif of music is what connects the present day to the memory. Note that the word piano itself means "softly," just as the woman is singing "softly." The mood of the poem, too, is soft; its tone is nostalgic, with the speaker saying, "the heart of me weeps to belong / To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside." This remembered "home" is defined, for the speaker, by its music: the "hymns in the cosy parlour," "the tinkling piano," and the "boom of the tingling strings" when the speaker sat, as a child, beneath a piano played by his mother. These sensory, auditory details help create the evocative mood of the piece: we feel the "boom" of the piano strings and hear the "tinkling" piano, the words almost onomatopoeiac.

In the final stanza, the speaker identifies a disconnect between the "clamour" of the singer, back in his present day, the softness of the song, and the memories, which came before. "It is vain" for the singer to try to break him from his reverie with "the great black piano appassionato." The speaker is too lost in his wistful, pensive nostalgia, with the memory of his childhood having almost a magical hold over him, a "glamour":

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.
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