How can I analyze the following stanza from "Piano" by D.H. Lawrence? In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong To the old Sunday...

How can I analyze the following stanza from "Piano" by D.H. Lawrence?

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 cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

Expert Answers
andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker states in the first line of this quatrain that even though he does not want to be ("in spite of myself"), he is drawn back to a memory of his childhood by the music he hears. He metaphorically calls the music "insidious mastery," which suggests a treacherous craftiness. The music is so good that it overwhelms him and takes him back to a memory that he does not necessarily wish to recall. "Insidious" connects to "betrays" in the second line. It is as if the dulcet sounds he hears force him to expose his true feelings, even though he does not want to. The music is so masterfully conveyed or the song so beautifully and powerfully sung that he has no choice but to give in and unintentionally reveal what he feels.

He is emotionally overwhelmed and experiences a deep longing for a time past. The speaker specifically states that he is carried back to "old Sunday evenings at home" during winter when they all sat in the comfortable parlor singing hymns with the piano as instrumental accompaniment. "Old" accentuates the nostalgic mood and suggests something respected and treasured. "Sunday" symbolizes something holy; in the Christian faith, it is seen as a day of praise and worship. This image is emphasized by "hymns," which are religious songs or poems typically sung in church on Sundays in praise to God. 

The powerful imagery used in this stanza clearly conveys a deep sentiment. His experience in the present is so forceful that he is engulfed by feelings of nostalgia. One can imagine the speaker sitting, listening and bearing an expression of profound longing for those days he mentions. They were pleasant, happy times that he has maybe pushed to the back of his mind, but now the beautiful and haunting rendition that he hears practically forces him to recall them.

The third stanza emphasizes the depth and the authority of this particular recollection. It is so strong and vivid that he breaks down, literally forgets about being a man, and cries like a child.


accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let us remember that in the first stanza of this poignant poem, the sound of a woman singing sends the speaker off on a trip down memory lane, as he remembers playing at the foot of a piano as a little boy whilst his mother is singing and playing. The second stanza, which you have quoted above, states that the speaker realises he is being nostalgic, yet in spite of his efforts to remain in the present, the force of nostalgia in the form of the "insidious mastery of song" takes him back to the memories of Sunday evenings at home with the winter cold outside and the warmth of the fire and of family love in the inside as the family sit together and sing hymns.

It is interesting that this pleasant memory is one that the speaker fights against. He is now an adult, and he identifies that a massive gap exists between the innocence of his childhood and how he perceived life and the experience he has gained in his journey towards being an adult. He seems to recognise that such childhood memories are extremely romanticised and idealised, and therefore is somewhat suspicious and distrustful of them.