Getting into the right mood for the poem… Try and think about a song that loved when you were little… how did it make you feel? Now think about a song that reminds you of happy times… Music helps us get in touch with the past…
Subject/Theme • Nostalgia for childhood…but he feels some shame for that Nostalgia (Nostalgia is a strong emotional desire to connect with the past). • The power of music to evoke memories • The memory of his mother playing music • The way music links the past and present • Religion versus secularism
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. He sits listening to music being played and drifts back into a memory of childhood.
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. Despite his better judgement and feeling that he should know better he still imagines he is back in his childhood home listening to the piano.
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. It doesn’t matter what the singer does now it won’t make the speaker as emotional as the memory of the past, which makes him cry.
Mood/Tone • Nostalgic/Sentimental – ‘Softly’ Line 1, ‘Smiles as she sings’ Line 4 • Moves from happy to bittersweet in Stanza 2 - ‘Betrays me’ • Modulates into sadness as nostalgia builds in Stanza 3 – ‘glamour of childish days’, ‘I weep’.
Structure • Poem is built up in rhyming couplets – these create a sense of harmony. • This is built upon with the use of three equal quatrains. • Perhaps the regular rhyming structure sounds slightly musical – euphony? • Modulates between past and present – look for the time words – ‘Now’, ‘back’ etc.
Viewpoint • A single speaker but the point of view shifts between that of a child and that of an adult. • Notice the transition between the 1st and third person. • Moves forward and backward between past and present.
Language Music – Contrast between strong and weak sounds, like the struggle between the two singers. E.G ‘softly’ and ‘boom’. Music – Musical sounds ‘tinkling’, ‘tingling’ which sounds like the top range of a piano.
Metaphors The piano – Produces a flow of music, which sweeps like river of time. The Appassionato – The religious or transformative power of art. The mother – A kind of Mary-like figure, a Madonna.
Freudian matters… One of the main anxieties that people have is that the passion for his mother dominates the poem in a rather unhealthy way – or is it? Think about the Oedipus complex…
D.H Lawrence – Piano PowerPoint by Mr Monaghan September 2011