HAPPY BIRTHDAY – D.H. Lawrence, born 11 September 1885
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.
I prefer Lawrence’s poetry to his novels, and I think his poem Piano is a wonderful evocation of the way in which a piece of music can bring memories flooding back. I love his poem Kangaroo and the one about the baby tortoise.
Sons and Lovers is my favourite of Lawrence’s novels, and there are some good TV adaptations of that book. I do, however, rather struggle with The Rainbow and Women in Love. I just don’t think women think and act the way Lawrence has them do in those novels.
I have visited his birthplace in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire – “the country of my heart” as Lawrence called it. His mother’s little parlour, with the piano on display, is rather pitiful in its attempts to be genteel, and also very moving. Eastwood also has excellent displays about Lawrence’s life in the local museum, and a literary trail you can walk that takes you to places where the family lived and which he immortalised in his fiction.
There is an early version of this poem which is interesting to read here.
D.H. Lawrence died too soon, on 2 March 1930, aged only 44.
Have you read any of his work? Tell me in the comment area below.
Susannah Fullerton: Poem of the Month – April 2016 – ‘Piano’
All Poetry: Kangaroo by D.H. Lawrence
Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence
Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
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