by D. H. Lawrence
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 cozy parlor, 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.
The poem depicts a man picturing his mother in the past while listening to the piano music. The words in the poem such as “hymns in the cozy parlor” and “appassionato” gives a spiritual and dreamy feeling. I could interpret two meanings from this poem: yearning for maternal love and freedom after laying down innocence.
The piano music guides the man to his memories of his mother. The man seems quite It is quite clear that the man misses his mother, he tries to excavate even the smallest details of her from his memories.
Personally, the last lines of the poem, “Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past,” gives a sense of relief and freedom. The man seems to have those feelings after showing tears and letting go of his manhood. The manhood is as a constraint that is put on the man all the time; it is his duty to not show weakness. However, he cries while picturing his mother, and by doing so, he lays down his manhood, and finally gains freedom and relief. As I read those last lines, I could picture an innocent boy falling into the arms of his mother after he is scared. Furthermore, some lines of the poem are incomplete, imperfect sentences, and this could be a representation of an incomplete state or innocence, which is the contrast of maturity.
I viewed the transition between the stanzas as yearning for his mother -> yearning changes into sadness -> laying down his maturity(shackles/constraint).
Rules and Restraints
The rules and restraints this poem uses are: rhyme, imagery, alliteration, personification and metaphor. The poem has three quatrain stanzas(verse with 4 lines). The rhyme scheme of the poem is AABB. Some alliteration can be spotted here and there: alliteration of the word s in ‘smiles as she sings’, and the word t in ‘the tingling strings’. Also, the poem uses a lot of imagery, it makes the reader picture a scene. The second line of the second stanza, “till the heart of me weeps to belong” uses personification to show the man’s yearning and sadness.
The author of this poem is David Herbert Lawrence, a novelist, short-story writer, poet, and essayist who was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England(September 11, 1885). His early life was quite harsh. His family was poor; his father Arthur John Lawrence worked as a coal miner, and his mother Lydia Lawrence worked in the lace-making industry. Although Lawrence’s mother worked in a factory, she was well-educated and loved literature, so she made sure that her son was well-educated. Lawrence was very fragile and susceptible to illness, and couldn’t fit in with peers when he was young. From this, I infer that Lawrence wrote the Piano, since his mother meant so much to him. Without any friends, his mother would have been the only person that Lawrence could communicate with and rely on. After he graduated Nottingham highschool in 1901, he received his teaching certificate from Nottingham university, then took a teaching post at an elementary school in the London suburb of Croydon while writing several pieces. Then in 1912, he fell in love with Frieda von Richthofen, who was the wife of Ernest Weekley, the professor of Nottingham University. After persuading Frieda to leave her family, Lawrence traveled to Germany and Italy as he kept writing. When he got back to England, he published some books, but the government banned them for their obscenity. Unlike this poem(Piano), his writings were known and blamed for being graphic and sexual. The topics he enjoyed exploring through his writing are sexuality, emotional health, vitality, spontaneity, and instinct. During World War 1 in 1917, he was banished from Cornwall because the government saw him as a wartime security threat. Lawrence spent the next two years moving among friends’ apartments. This is the time period when he wrote Piano. I think that the harsh times he was going through made him more desperate and stressed, so he wrote the poem to remember his pleasant memories of his mother to gain comfort. When World War 1 was finally over, he emigrated to New Mexico, America. Lawrence kept writing, but once again, his writings weren’t allowed to be published due to their sexual content.The book was banned in the United States until 1959, and in England until 1960, when a jury found Penguin Books not guilty of violating Britain’s Obscene Publications Act. Lawrence is known as the influential author/poet that started open discussion of sex, which is quite shocking and innovational at that time. D.H. Lawrence died in Vence, France, on March 2, 1930, at the age of 44.
I drew what I could picture while reading this poem. I drew the man as a child in order to show the man letting go of his manhood and revealing his inner self. The size of the suit is too oversized for the boy, this symbolizes that the struggles and responsibilities the man had to withstand throughout his life was too big for him. The figure on the right who is comforting the child is the music from the piano and the man’s mother.
Echo and Narcissus (1903)
by John William Waterhouse
Response to the painting
To be honest, I chose this art piece because I briefly knew the Greek mythology behind it. The name of this painting already shows the two figures in the story, Echo(woman) and Narcissus(man). I have a vague memory of the story as Echo losing her voice and being unable to speak and get noticed by Narcissus, but I don’t remember the details.
Despite the fact that the pictue illustrates a sad scene, the colors are quite bright and vibrant. The painting gives us a brief idea of what’s happening: Echo feels attraction towards Narcissus, but Narcissus doesn’t seems unaware or doesn’t care about Echo. Pity and yearn can be seen from Echo’s Expression.
Rules and Restraints
The picture is a zero perspective drawing with no vanishing points, but there is a horizon. A lot of red and green colors(complimentary colors) are used, creating a vibrant look that make objects stand out. The two figures stand out even more, since the colors are used in full saturation. According to researches, the colors are those of Victorian England-rich and textured soft rose, lush greens, golds and blues. The category the painting falls into is Romantic realism.
When Narcissus was born, his mother, Liriope, asked Tiresias, if her son will live to old age. Tiresias answered, “Yes, if he never knows himself.” After 16 years, a wood nymph named Echo spotted Narcissus hunting in the woods, and fell in love with him. Although Echo approached Narcissus, she couldn’t say anything to him, because of Hera’s curse. Echo was a very talkative nymph, and she was cursed because of this. One day, Zeus came down to the woods to have fun with the nymphs, until Hera showed up to find him. Echo quickly went up to Hera and chattered to draw her attention, while Zeus escaped. However, Hera found out she has been tricked, and as a punishment, Hera took away Echo’s voice so that she is only able to repeat whatever she hears. As a result, Echo was disabled to speak to Narcissus, until Narcissus says something. Finally, Echo managed to have a conversation with Narcissus by repeating his words. Nevertheless, Echo rejected her, retorting, “Hands off! I would rather die than you should have me!”. With a broken heart, Echo ran off to a cave and mourned until nothing but her voice was left. Meanwhile, Narcissus continued refusing hundreds of women, who became outraged and asked the gods for justice. Nemesis, goddess of vengeance, heard the call and responded by making Narcissus fall in love with the reflection of himself on a pond. Unable to touch or do anything with his reflection of himself, Narcissus grew hungry, but his obsession with the figure in the water kept him from moving. Eventually, he died of starvation, leaving Echo and other nymphs mourning.