What does "the vista of years" mean in the poem "Piano"?

Quick answer:

The meaning of "the vista of years" in "Piano" first denotes a long view through a narrow opening and a wide view of objects or events. The adult speaker presents a focused view of his distant past as a boy sitting under a piano played by his mother. The speaker also provides vivid details that include what he heard and felt. Song transports the speaker through many years to a specific yet rich time and place of happiness.

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In “Piano,” the speaker nostalgically recalls his childhood days ensconced beneath a piano played by his mother. As a grown man, he hears a woman singing, which transports him to earlier times:

Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

The phrase “vista of years” can be interpreted in two ways, according to varied meanings of the word vista. A vista is a long view of a distant place or time through a narrow opening. The speaker instantly travels back through time from present adulthood to boyhood; this journey is direct and focused. He quickly mentally moves through a succession of years to reach this specific memory and point in time.

The word vista also can mean a wide, sweeping view of many items (physical) or events (temporal). Like a panorama, the “vista of years” includes many details about this childhood activity.

Most importantly, objects captured in a vista are beautiful and worth admiration. In this speaker’s case, the vista contains happy memories of comfort and security. Through auditory and tactile imagery, Lawrence emphasizes the joy and safety of the speaker’s memories. He recalls hearing the “boom of tingling strings” and his mother smiling while singing hymns. The piano is “tinkling.” He feels snug tucked under the piano, “pressing” his mother’s petite feet; they are “cosy” and warm inside on a winter night.

This “vista of years” also emphasizes the wide gulf between the present and the past. The speaker mourns the impossibility of returning to or recapturing his boyhood days of contentment.

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