This poem was given to me to read last week by one of our Get Into Reading group members. K, who has also been volunteering in our office found the piece of paper with the poem on it filed away with a collection of short stories, or rather sandwiched between other things in haste after one of the reading groups. It had been lying there, forgotten about, “It’s time we brought it back out into the light,” K said, “isn’t it?” Urging me to read it, telling me that it was one of the most beautiful poems that he’s ever read, I turned away from my computer screen to do just that.
What struck me most about re-reading ‘Piano’ by D H Lawrence was that it didn’t strike me as being merely an act of nostalgia but a beautifully penned illustration on the nature of memory. One can almost hear the “tingling strings” of the “tinkling piano”. These strike me as being like crystal clear water trickling and tumbling in narrow, rocky streams. So our lives move on, never stopping – like a river – and we’re left, on occasion, with our own “insidious mastery of song” which takes back to somewhere we can never really be again (and we may well not want to be) but in those moments floods our present life all the same.
Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
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.
In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.
So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
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.
D. H. Lawrence, 1918
Posted by Jen Tomkins