Bicycle, fish, airplane, hat, card, homework, swing, flower, picture, sunglasses, watermelon, puddle, school bus, and lawnmower are words that connect with people with his or her memories in some way. An instant word can bring memories back into his or her reality. Their memories can be so vivid that their dreams may feel like present day. The stream of consciousness can take one word and recreate your whole past. In the poem, “Piano”, written by D.H. Lawrence, the narrator is affected by the word piano. A woman sings softly to him while he reminiscences about his childhood and his happy memories of his mother. The narrator feels betrayed by the song that has sparked him to rethink the recollections. In his remembrance, the narrator cries for his lost past. In “Piano”, D.H. Lawrence conveys the meaning of the poem with very distinct tones in each stanza: in the first, the tone is mellow; in the second, bitterly resentful; and in the third, the narrator is melancholic.
In the first stanza, the meaning is expressed with the tone that is conveyed as warm, mellow and tranquil. Lawrence uses words and phrases such as “Softly”(L1) and “in the dusk”(L1). These words express the atmosphere the narrator is in while he reminisces about his past. The narrator dreams of playing the piano with his mother and being aware of all the senses that he felt. “Softly”(L1) is also connected with the word piano. In musical terms, piano means to play soft and the word guides you through the song. “A mother who smiles as she sings”(L4) is a pleasant memory for the narrator because he is unaware of his present surroundings of another woman singing. A mellow tone communicates to the reader that the narrator is in a dream like state of mind.
Through the mellow tone the reader can capture a mental picture of what he is imagining. “A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings”(L3) has connected with the reader of what the narrator is dreaming. The reader feels like he or she exists in his state of mind. The sound of the piano is felt. There is a vivid picture of the narrator connecting with his mother while they play the piano together. The mother and son seem to smile as they play and obliviously they are having a good time. The reader is able to connect with this image because of the warm tone portrayed in his
memory. The readers will often recreate their own memories with the same warm tone in their everyday life.
The second stanza awkwardly changes into a bitter resentful tone. “Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong”(L6) shows that the narrator feels that the song makes him think of pleasant times in the past and the narrator wants to go back to those feelings of his childhood. Lawrence has chosen the specific wording to show the reader that the narrator is resentful towards the song because it reminds him of his past. The usage of “old Sunday evenings”(L7) depicts the repetition of happy events with the narrator’s mother. The change in the tone contrasts with his warm memories, obviously times have changed for the narrator. The bitterness also shows the reader that the narrator is cynical about letting go of those memories with his mother.
The reader understands the narrator’s bitterness because of the image the stanza portrays. The “insidious mastery of song”(L5) brings out feelings of betrayal in the narrator because he feels that the song is the cause of his memories. The narrator might feel like he was tricked into reminiscing by the song and piano. “Hymns in the cozy parlor, the tinkling piano our guide”(L8) shows the reader that he was very comfortable with his mother. It also gives the reader a sense a home. For instance, it may remind somebody of the holidays when all of the family is around and enjoying each other’s company. The reader can sense tension between the past and the present of the narrator. The harsh image of the narrator being bitter towards a song seems silly but the reader can understand his bitterness by bringing his or her own memories into account.
The third stanza is conveyed as melancholic and sorrowful. The narrator feels that the singer is acting “vain”(L9) when she begins to sing too loudly. This shows that the narrator feels that the woman should not be in his memory. He shows his selfish side when he wants to reminisce alone. “Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past”(L12) shows the reader that he wants to be that child again when everything was happy. He cries because he cannot go back to that time. Because of the image of the narrator as a grown man crying, the reader feels sorry for the narrator. Him crying gives the reader a clue that the narrator is proud enough to cry but also depressed about the narrator’s own situation.
The visual image and meaning in the third stanza is portrayed through the melancholic tone. The reader can sense many emotions that are connected with the narrator and his past. The sadness he feels is shown through his weeping. The narrator obviously had a loving, deep connection with his childhood for him to feel this way. The reader also feels a little discomforted because of the intimacy of the reader and the narrator’s expression of grief. In everyday life, people do not usually express their sadness with such an open relationship, especially for grown men. The third stanza lets the reader confront the reminiscing feelings that we all share with the narrator.
Lawrence uses specific words, phrases, and mood to convey the visual image through his poem. The meaning of the poem is suggested through each stanza’s tone. With each changing emotion the reader feels that himself or herself are incorporated into the mood of the narrator’s feelings. A humanizing touch is needed for the reader to feel connected with the poem. Lawrence uses strong words and simple sentences to juxtapose the piano playing in the narrator’s memories with the lyrical, emotional, and musical stanzas. The three distinct stanzas that convey the meaning of the poem are mellow, bitter, and melancholic that describes the narrator’s feelings as well as many other readers as they read the poem.