D.H. Lawrence’s “Piano” is a poem about a fully-grown adult reminiscing about the past. The ‘piano’ serves as a metaphor of nostalgia. The rhythm of the piano seems to connect him with the past.
Music has a highly evocative power of bringing back memories. The picture seems to be faint as in the dusk. The singing comes softly to him, the song of a woman. Here memory is personified as a person holding the poet’s hand and leading him down the staircase symbolic of the memory lane. It gives the picture of the poet attaining adulthood through boarding the staircase of Life.Imagery is a significant part of the poem as the word ‘vista’ echoes. ’Vista’ means ‘the visual percept of a region’. The vision the speaker is endowed with is that of a child sitting under the piano. He is caught in the boom of the tingling strings. And he is simply happy to be there as he is with his mother who sings. The image evokes the picture of a kitten rubbing against its mother, as the boy presses against the poised feet of his mother. The adjective ‘poised ‘ is used to define the feet of the woman, reflects the regard and pride the speaker had for his Mom even at that tender age. The word ‘poised’ has the following meanings: self-possessed; dignified; exhibiting composure. Therefore, the metaphor used here may also function as a synecdoche; the part refers to the whole.When the poet asserts that in spite of himself he was forced to reckon those moments, he refers to his masculinity. The general perception of masculinity demands that a man should not give into sentiments. However, the poet here does. It ‘betrays’ him back, tricks him into the nostalgia of childhood. It forces him to weep to belong:
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.
The piano was their guide; it became a way of life for them, and united them together through the magic of its music. The word ‘hymns’ is utilized by the poet to connote that the music was not only melodious, it was divine as well. The mastery of the song was ‘insidious’, it came about inconspicuously but ended up having a considerable effect on the speaker (and the others).
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
However, it is now vain to crave for the clamour of the music. For, it no longer denoted a collective feeling or the unadulterated childhood passion. It was just a ‘great black piano appassionato’, and its function was limited to its utility value. It had no emotional appeal. The ‘glamour’ of the childhood days is juxtaposed against the poet’s manhood, thereby diminishing his manhood-appeal:
” my manhood is cast/Down in the flood of remembrance.” He weeps like a child for the past. Therefore by the action of his weeping, the gap between the child and man, sentiment and masculinity, and the past and present is abridged.
© Rukhaya MK 2010
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