Last Updated September 5, 2023.
"Piano" is a poem by D. H. Lawrence. The piano, central to the poem's narrative, is symbolic of D. H. Lawrence's childhood. The poet took piano lessons as a child but discontinued it as he became older. In the poem, Lawrence laments his decision to discontinue his piano studies, for playing the piano offered him great joy. The piano and the abrupt ending to his musical studies also symbolize the division between childhood dreams and the reality one must live in adulthood. The piano's simple black and white keys represent the easiness of his youth, when the world was compartmentalized and simplified. However, as an adult, he finds the world to be complex or, within this analogy, multi-chromatic.
Lawrence uses words that hint at the comfort of his childhood ("cosy"), and this further contrasts the simplicity of his youth with the stress of adult life. The piano is also an object of his childhood home; therefore, the piano also represents the people from his youth, such as his mother and the other loving people that occupied his household. In this way, the piano is like an anchor that keeps his memory of home from fading away into the dark night of his mind.
When the poem shifts from visions of the past to the realities of the present, the image of the piano becomes even more pronounced. In the present moment, the adult D. H. Lawrence would feel strange trying to relive his youthful exuberance or replicate his younger self's way of seeing the world. Perhaps, as an adult, he has already experienced so many things that make him jaded and cynical.
Lawrence's lamentation over the fact that one cannot recapture one's past, that memories are simply movies in one's mind, is only the microscopic view of the poem's overall message: life is transient in nature, and one should cherish moments as they happen before they become mere memories.