Featured Poem: Piano by DH Lawrence

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For this week’s Featured Poem we turn to the nostalgic recollections of DH Lawrence in his poem Piano.

Born in Nottingham, September 1885, DH Lawrence was a man of many talents, exploring the expanse of Modernism by writing novels, poetry, plays, essays, literary criticism and by painting.

During his own lifetime Lawrence endured persecution, censorship and misrepresentation of his creative work, which led him to spend much of his later life in voluntary exile, travelling the world.

DH-Lawrence.jpgPublished in Lawrence‘s 1913 collection Love Poems and OthersPiano is a lyrical poem which explores how the speaker’s childhood memories rush back, sparked by the music of a woman singing. The speaker initially seems intent on resisting these charged memories, but “in spite of” himself the music “betrays” him back until he is overcome.

The memories themselves have a warmth, an atmosphere that stirs the speaker’s sentimentality. Lawrence appeals to the readers’ senses with the “cosy parlour” and “tinkling piano” to draw us in that wintry Sunday afternoon.

At last the speaker gives himself over fully to the sorrowful nostalgia and the “glamour of childish days” in a most dramatic way which seems to justify his initial reluctance to indulge them.

 

Piano

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.
DH Lawrence

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