D. H. Lawrence’s poem “Piano” illustrates the use of imagery. Through the images, both visual and auditory, the reader acknowledges the nostalgic mood of the poem. Written in 1918, the poem expresses the long held belief that a man should not cry; yet, this man cannot hold back his tears.
The point of view of the poem is first person with a man [possibly the poet] as the narrator. His portrayal of the events he describes is both complex and revealingly simple.
- The poem has three stanzas. Each stanza is a quatrain. The lines are coupled so that every two lines rhyme.
- Every stanza follows the same pattern: the first two lines provide a scene of the present with the last two lines comparing the present to the past.
- His vocabulary and diction are easy to follow and conversational in style.
The poet builds its impact with imagery. There are two picture painted by the poet: the woman in the present singing and playing the piano; and the mother playing the piano and the boy underneath at her feet.
Metaphor—the man’s memory of his childhood is compared to a vista, which mean a panoramic view or landscape
Simile—When the man’s emotions overwhelm him, he compares his emotional state to a child.
In the present, a woman is singing to the speaker which reminds him of a time in his childhood. The poet sets the scene using the words softly with the time at dusk. As he hears the music, he sees himself sitting under the piano as his mother plays and sings. This is a happy time because the mother smiles at her child. The sounds are now booming and tingling…as he listens and watches his mother, he touches and presses her feet. The mother does not mind this interference.
The speaker does not really want to feel this experience at the time. He describes the impact of the song as sinister because it takes him back [whether he wants to go or not] to a nostalgic time in his life---a beloved time. Within himself, he cries for the time on the Sundays when it was winter outside. The family would sit in the warm living room and sing with the piano as the leader of their tunes.
So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamor
With the great black piano appassionato. 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.
Because of his happy memories, the present day singer’s song has changed from soft to noisy with the large, ebony grand piano. The speaker’s memories call him to another place when he was a child. As a sophisticated man, he does not want to show his emotions; however, he can no longer restrain himself, and he cries for the child that he was. Reluctantly, the speaker gives himself over to these memories.
Nostalgia for another time and place---sometimes music, sounds, and places take a person back in his memory. Often, the recollection makes the person go back to a pleasant time; however, the memory make bring the pain of the loss of the childhood or the loss of the people in the memory.
Man versus Child---The child loved his mother and enjoyed the time spent under the piano with the family singing and laughing. On the other hand, the speaker fears the loss of his masculinity when he yields to the memory’s emotions. This issue is one that a man faces in today’s society; however, men are beginning to be more comfortable in showing their true feelings.