Last Updated September 5, 2023.
"Piano" is a poem by D. H. Lawrence. Written in the first person, the primary character is the speaker. In addition to the speaker there is a woman who sings to the speaker, reminding him of his mother and himself as a child sitting under a piano.
The speaker of this poem is a man, which is revealed when he talks about his "manhood" being "cast down" as he cries. The poem simply follows a memory trigger and the speaker's recollection of a former event—or more likely of a series of events which blend together into an impression—in his life. So the child who the speaker can see in the first stanza is revealed (in the second stanza) to actually be a memory of himself. There are only three characters in the poem, really. One character just appears twice at different points in his life.
The woman who sings softly in the first stanza appears again in the second stanza; her talent is described as "insidious," as if she is bewitching him. In the third stanza she reappears, bursting "into clamour." The speaker describes her as vain, as if her performance with the piano appassionato—a musical term used to instruct the musician to play with great emotion—is secondary to the speaker's personal experience.
The child is described in the first stanza as sitting under a piano, pressing on his mother's feet as she plays the piano and sings. In the second stanza, the child becomes central to a familiar scene: the warmth and coziness of singing together with family inside while it is cold outside. We come to understand that the child is the speaker when the speaker uses words like "our guide" and "old Sunday evenings at home." In the final stanza, we come back to see the speaker as an adult, weeping like a child at his memories of his mother.
The mother in the poem is shown as positive and loving: she "smiles as she sings" and is essential to the "cosy parlour." She is also shown to be feminine: her feet are "small" and "poised." Her piano playing is described as "tinkling" and "tingling." Perhaps this is in opposition to the singer, whose song is described as "clamour."