Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Piano” is a poem about the power of memory and about the often disillusioning disjunction between the remembered experience of childhood and the realities of adult life. The poem is nostalgic without being sentimental; that is, it captures the power of one’s experiences as a child without ignoring the facts that one’s adult memories are selective and one’s perceptions and perspective as a child are severely limited by lack of experience, ignorance, and innocence. Lawrence does, however, provide adequate reason for the intense feeling, and he supports it with concrete, physical detail about the piano and the child’s mother.

The theme in “Piano” is a common one in much of Lawrence’s writing, from short stories such as “The Rocking-Horse Winner” to novels such as Sons and Lovers (1913). How do adults make their peace with the memories they have of their childhoods, and how do they separate memories of actual experience from imagined and invented moments? The speaker in this poem knows that his memory casts a romanticized and sentimentalized glow over the actual events that occurred, yet the power of the past, and his deep need to recapture a similar sense of the peace and protection he felt as a child, overwhelm his rational mind. In Lawrence’s world, the power of emotion is almost always too potent for the power of thought; what one feels intrudes on one’s thinking, even at times one does not wish it to.

It is...

(The entire section is 420 words.)