Born on 11 September 1985 and died on 2 March 1930, David Herbert Lawrence (D H Lawrence) was both an English writer and a poet. He is one of the representative writers of the twentieth century and he immortalized himself before he passed away at the age of 44 and a half years. Lawrence was born in Eastwood, United Kingdom and died in Vence, France of tuberculosis.
Some of the popular novels of D. H. Lawrence are Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928), Women in Love (1920), Sons and Lovers (1913), The Rainbow (1915), The Plumed Serpent (1926), etc. We cannot probably dare to name all the poems of D. H. Lawrence. Nevertheless, some of his most popular poems are ‘Piano’, ‘Self-Pity’, ‘Green’, ‘Humming-Bird’, ‘New Heaven and Earth’, ‘Snake’, etc. Lawrence is also popular for short stories like “The Rocking Horse Winner,” “Odour of Chrysanthemum,” “The Woman Who Rode Away,” to name a few.
Today, we are dealing with one of Lawrence’s poems, ‘Piano’. Firstly, we will summarize the poem and then analyze its themes separately.
Summary of D H Lawrence’s Poem ‘Piano’
D H Lawrence’s poem ‘Piano’ begins with a woman singing to the speaker of the poem in the dusk. The female singer sings the song in such a way that she reminds the speaker of his childhood days. When the speaker was a child, his mother used to play the piano when he sat on the feet of his mother. He also remembers the smile that glowed on his mother’s face when he enjoyed the music. This is all about the first stanza.
In the second stanza of Lawrence’s poem ‘Piano’, the speaker further clarifies how the woman singing to him in the present takes him back to his time with his mother. While listening to the woman’s song, he completely forgets the present and immerses in the past. Now, he has once again a longing to see the old Sunday evenings during the winter when his mother used to sing him hymns accompanied by the piano.
What the speaker says in the third stanza of D H Lawrence’s ‘Piano’ is even more striking. He asserts that the woman has already taken him back in the past and he can no longer hear her. He is thoroughly dwelling in his childhood days from where he cannot come forward to the present. He even forgets the fact that he is a grown-up man and weeps like a child.
The theme of ‘Piano’ by D H Lawrence
So, after reading the summary of the poem what do you think is the theme of D H Lawrence’s poem ‘Piano’? There are, in fact, multiple themes associated with ‘Piano’.
The most significant and explicit theme of Lawrence’s ‘Piano’ is nostalgia. Probably the musical instruments solely possess the power to take control of the emotions and feelings of people. Actually people from all walks of life. The woman singing a song to him in the dusk makes him so nostalgic of his time with his mother that he cannot help but cry and wish for the more of his mother.
The speaker is engulfed by the past to such an extent that the woman’s song is now a ‘clamour’. Though she is singing more and more passionately, it can no longer touch him. He rather cannot realize the present moment.
Manhood and Childhood
Yet another important theme of D H Lawrence’s ‘Piano’ is the manhood vs the childhood. We cannot disagree with the power of poetry. Though Lawrence does not explicitly define a man and a child, we come to know it from the picture he paints in our minds.
In the words of the speaker himself, the woman’s “insidious mastery of song betrays” him back. The attributes of childhood, that we know from ‘Piano’ are weeping and the best way for the mother to lull their children is to sing. In every patriarchal society, it is not considered normal for men to shed tears. As a matter of fact, if they cry they fear to lose their manhood. The speaker of the poem, ‘Piano’ does not wish to cry but at the same time, he is helpless.
Power of Music
The power of music is also one of the prominent themes of D H Lawrence’s poem ‘Piano’. In fact, the title itself suggests that there is something about the music. As already mentioned, if there is only one thing that can touch the heart of every person, it is none other than music.
When the speaker was a child, he used to listen to his mother sing hymn. Likewise in the present too, he is listening to a woman sing a song.
Rationality vs Emotion, or, Romanticism vs Modernism
We can find the theme of rationality and emotion in the poem ‘Piano’ by D H Lawerence. Modernism teaches human beings to work with the mind while romanticism endorses working with the heart.
The rationality of the speaker can be seen in his fear of losing his manhood. He just wants to listen to the woman’s song and still be in the present. However, he fails and starts crying “in the flood of remembrance.” Now, he has a longing to become a child again, and that is all because of the music which represents the spirit of romanticism.
Listen to the poem “Piano” read by Tom O’Bedlam!