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Category Archives: Analysis of Poems.

Analysis of all the poems in the Edexcel O level Specification (2008)

Analysis: Prayer Before Birth (Louis McNeice)

Louis MacNeice expresses a strong disgust towards the corrupted and evil world through Prayer before Birth in which he takes the persona of an unborn child who prays to God.

The poem starts with a plea to be heard as the unborn child asks God to keep away the nocturnal creatures, both real and imaginary away from him so that they might not cause him any harm. The unborn child’s need to be comforted against people who with the help of deadly drugs and clever lies will control him and dictate his actions is made clear in the second stanza. Wary of the influence man will have on him; the unborn asks to be surrounded by nature, which man has still not been able to corrupt. He prays for a clear conscience that can show him his way on the path of life. The unborn child knows that he will do lots of evil things in this world under the influence of Man, and asks to be forgiven beforehand. Everything that he will say, think or do will harm someone else and for that he asks repentance. He then asks to be prepared beforehand for all the roles that he must play in life when the entire world turns against him to the extent that even his children hate him and the beggar is indifferent to him.
The sixth stanza adequately summarizes the whole poem. The unborn asks God to keep away such people who are either as savage as animals or act tyrannously thinking they are as supreme as God Himself. He then asks for the willpower to stand up against those who would try to destroy all that is unique inside him and turn him into an insignificant part of a large machine. They would control him like as if he were a small stone which the wind can blow here and there as it likes, or like as if he were the water which a person tries to hold in his hands but ends up spilling everywhere. The poem ends with a final ultimatum: The unborn pleas to be protected against those who would do such things to him or asks to be killed instead of being sent into such a world.

Louis MacNeice uses a number of literary devices to make the stark truth behind the poem clear. The most noticeable among these is the repetition: The phrase “I am not yet born” is repeated a t the start of every stanza which makes it very clear that even though the child has not appeared in the world, he is aware of the darkness which surrounds it, giving a dark and hopeless tone to the poem. Then the abundant use of assonance juxtaposed with alliteration such as the assonance of “bat” and “rat” and the alliteration of the letter B in “bloodsucking bat or rat”; or the repetition of the letter L in “lies lure” and the assonance in “wise lies” in the phrase “wise lies lure me”; give an internal rhyme to the poem. Going on to the third stanza one finds nature personified in several instances: “Trees to talk to me. Skies to sing to me” Giving nature the qualities normally attributed to Man emphasizes the disgust that the unborn child feels towards the world as he wants nothing to do with it and craves the company of nature. However MacNeice contradicts himself by using the paradox in the next stanza “white waves call me to folly” where white waves, metaphorically resembling purity are personified to be beckoning the unborn towards evil. This thus proves that the intensity of corruption is such in the world that nothing, not even nature, can remain pure for long. The last stanza is flowing in metaphors as the poet describes how mankind will manipulate the actions and emotions of the child. He fears that he’ll become a “cog in a machine” or be blown like “thistledown hither and thither” or be wasted like water held in hands. These metaphorical comparisons emphasize the acute absence of control that the unborn can exercise on his life.

Thus is Prayer Before Birth a potent monologue, with its cascading lines, each heavy in their use of internal rhymes and repetition, assonance and alliteration, are insistent, driving, a crazed litany; they’re powerful, yet wonderfully poignant.

Right from the title to the lethal ending, this poem casts a very harsh light on the evilness of society and the corruption of mankind all over the world. The fact that MacNeice had to take up the persona of the unborn child shows how little he thinks of Man. The world is such that he does not think that even a young child; an infant, cannot remain unblemished from its cruelties. He was propelled to see it through the eyes of an unborn child, one that is still within the safe confines of its mother’s womb, to have an untainted point of view.

The poem is quite depressing and sad as it paints the world in such dark colors that no matter what the unborn child does, once he is in the world, he is going to get affected in some manner or the other. If the people can’t manipulate and control him with their lies and drugs and cage him within tall walls of social refrain, making him do evil things to cause other people harm that he would not have otherwise done; if he fights them and resists their dictation of his life, then they’ll reject him and he’ll become an outcast. People of all classes: wise old men, cunning politicians, happy lovers, mean beggars and even his own innocent children, will turn their backs on him and he’ll be left standing alone in the path of life. If seen in a wider perspective, the unborn’s unwillingness to be controlled could also be a desperate outcry against being categorized: everyone in this world is sorted, either into religions or class or color or country. This is also a way of subtle manipulation that the world has a whole exercises on the individual.

Thus he wants nothing to do with Man. He craves the company of nature, asking God to provide him with all those things which aren’t anymore found in this world, things which remain pure and unaltered by man’s influence, like the sky which cannot be conquered and the water which cannot be contained.

The strongest stanza of the poem, the seventh, is a personal favorite. With the poem being written at the height of World War II,this stanza has a particular importance. As the unborn prays for strength against those who would ‘dragoon him into a lethal automation’, the thought of a soldier immediately comes to mind. A person who is not allowed to show any emotion, and is asked incessantly to kill on behalf of his country, can only be considered a ‘thing’ without a ‘face’..A strong protest against Totalitarianism, a type of government where every aspect of public and private lives is dictated by the government, this poem and this stanza in particular, is a strong allegory against the world war. Yet despite the definitive historical period of time that it was written in, McNeice makes his plea universal by using the voice of an unborn child, innocent and frail, to convey his fear of the world, cruel and tyrannous.

Dramatic in intensity, the poem makes a sweeping statement on the deplorable state of the world. Living is a painful experience; being born is a terrifying one. The child’s plea is a representation of the poet’s anguish, grief and fear in a world that has steadily metamorphosed into a hell. The poet paints a picture of a world devoid of compassion, love and remorse through the haunting appeal of the unborn infant. The poem reflects the poet’s utter dejection and hopelessness expressing the thought that the world will not correct itself, but perpetuate its evils in an ever-ascending spiraling pattern of violence.

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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Analysis of Poems.

 

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Analysis: Mother in a Refugee Camp (Chinua Achebe)

Chinua Achebe’s Mother in a Refugee Camp, paints the pathetic picture of a mother holding her dying son in her hands for the last time, portraying both the inevitability of death and the pain of those whose loved ones have died yet they live on in a harsh light.

The poem starts with the poet comparing the scene of a mother holding her son in a refugee camp with the love and care which is usually depicted in all versions of Mary holding a ding Jesus in her arms. The poet state that none of the reputed depictions of tenderness could even come near the fragility and beauty of this scene of pathos and heartbreak. This foreshadows that the son in her arms is soon going to die, an idea which is confirmed by the third line which says that after laying her son beneath the earth, the mother would have to learn how to live life without him, and move on.

The next four lines describe the aura of disease, illness and death which surrounds the camp; describing the smells of the camp, and the ribs of the children protruding from sickness, painting a truly horrifying picture of sick infants and helpless people. Then Achebe goes on to say how other mothers no longer care, they can no longer cope with the struggle of surviving and now only await death. However this mother, who was mentioned earlier, do not fall into the same category. There is a remnant of a smile gracing her lips and she remembers her son in all his glory as she holds him for the last time. Her maternal pride had led her to clean him up before laying him to rest, and now she takes out a comb and with singing eyes, she arranges her son’s hair which is rust, a sign that he suffers from kwashiorkor; a protein deficiency. The relevant way in which she performs this act makes the poet reflect on how in normal day to day life, such an act holds no consequence to any mother; they do it before their sons leave for school. But the manner in which this mother does it has such an air of finality to it that it is akin to laying flowers on a tiny grave.

The poem is full of pathos and the agony of a mother who has to witness her child’s death in front of her eyes is made clear with the use of the initial comparison to the Holy mother Mary and Jesus. The finality of death is evident in this comparison even as the poet himself says that the tenderness of this scene in reality far outshines any that is depicted in all the versions of ‘Madonna and Child.’ Then the strong imagery which is used to describe the setting, the refugee camp, brings out the desolation surrounding the poem. Achebe evokes the sense of smell, sight and feeling to such an extent that tears spring to the reader’s eyes. The metaphor in the mother’s ‘humming eyes’ makes one sympathize with her plight.

No reason is given as to why the people are in a refugee camp. Perhaps there had been a war, or some sort of natural calamity, but Achebe has aptly described how such drastically the lives of those change who are forced to leave their home and take shelter, by focusing on one mother who is holding her dying child. The poem could also act as a testament to a mother’s love, who knows that the child is dead, yet continues to hold him with care and caution. She is not yet ready to let go and accept the fact that he is dead.

This poem touched my heart as it very delicately and subtly described the agony of losing a dead one which is I think the most difficult of struggles that people face in this world, especially those parents who have to see their young children die. It is sad, and depressing and heart breaking but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Analysis of Poems.

 

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Analysis: The Tyger (William Blake)

William Blake’s ‘The Tyger’ is a vastly popular and much quoted poem from his collection Songs Of Experience. It describes the creation of the tiger and in doing so, emphasizes the dichotomy of creation and marvels at the power of the creator.

The first stanza describes the fiery tiger in the dark night forest. Blake wonders who had made the immaculate symmetry of the tiger’s body. The creation of the tiger’s eyes is described next. The poet questions where deep below the earth or high in the heavens did the wild fire which is now contained in the tiger’s eyes used to burn. He simultaneously marvels the agility of the Creator, God, who could fly to such a place and seize such scalding fire to make the tiger. The next two stanzas describe the creation of the heart and then the brain of the tiger. Blake is intimidated by the strength and art which must have been required to build the muscles of the tiger’s hard heart. It is now that the tiger comes to life after its heart is placed within its frame and the poet feels awe at the agile hands and feet of the tiger. The fourth stanza compares god to a blacksmith, who used a hammer, a chain and an anvil to furnish the brain of the tiger. After the brain was given shape the poet imagines that it was cooked in a blasting furnace which counts for the ferocity and ruthlessness of the tiger. With the brain and heart in place, the creation of the tiger is completed and this has such an impact on all the heavens that the stars surrender, their twinkling light nothing when compared to the bright flare of the tiger’s eyes. The skies open to let down torrents of rain as an expression of sorrow to see such a dangerous being given life. The last two lines of the fifth stanza are enough to summarize the entire central idea of the poem. The poet wonders whether the same creator who created the meek and docile lamb, was the one to create the ferocious and deadly tiger. The sixth and last stanza is a repetition of the first, with the exception of one crucial word. Where before Blake had been wondering who could create such a being, he now questions who dares to do so.

One of the main literary devices that Blake has put to effective use in the poem is symbolism. Throughout one notices that each of the tiger’s attributes is symbolized with some form of fire. It is ‘burning’ brightly in the night forest, its eyes contain fire, and its brain was made in a ‘furnace’. This constant comparison to something as consuming and deadly as fire makes the fierceness of the tiger clear. Also paradox has been used to highlight the hidden message behind the poem: the fact that God had to use his strength to ‘twist’ the muscles while making the tiger’s heart, which is supposed to be the most delicate and fragile organ of the body, compliments the question which is asked throughout. Why would the Maker who made a thing as sweet and innocent as the lamb, take pleasure in creating the tiger, which would devour and ravish it?

That is the potent theological debate, I think, which Blake has addressed in this poem. A bold suggestion, especially considering the time in which he lived, is made here that God, who created mankind also reveled in creating its own undoing, by creating evil. It is something that one sees in one’s day to day life. If god had created man, then why is there so much of poverty, bloodshed, disease and all other kinds of calamities that harms his creation?

Another interpretation of the poem could be the focus on the balance in the universe. If there is good, there is also bad; if there is life, there is also death; if there is light, there is also darkness. This is the dichotomy of creation; God has created the world in such a way that it balances itself, as can be gleaned from his creation of the tiger to balance the docile lamb.

Also, I think, the poem is a comment on society. As the power of creating both good and evil resided with God, the same power to do both good and bad resides with Man. If man choses he can a knife to carve and create, or to kill and destroy. Every coin has two sides, as every being has in itself the power to cause harmony or destruction; and this is proved in this poem. I enjoyed Blake’s Tyger immensely as it evoked in my mind several questions and debates that compelled me to think beyond the previous boundaries of my imagination.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Analysis of Poems.

 

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Analysis: War Photographer (Carol Ann Duffy)

Through her poem ‘War Photographer’, Carol Ann Duffy casts a harsh light on the destruction and bloodshed which results from war and how apathetic and uncaring the rest of the world, who is not directly affected by it, is.

The poem starts with a description of the war photographer standing alone in his dark room. All the photos that he had taken of the war are contained within the rolls which are organized into neat rows, making him feel like a priest who is about to lead a mass funeral. He thinks of all the places he has been to, places which had been torn apart by war, and remembering all the bloodshed he has witnessed he feels that everything has to in the end die and return to the earth. He then carries on with his works, but the ironical fact is that he who wasn’t afraid while amidst gunfire and death, now trembles in the safety and sanctuary of his home in Rural England, where the most troubling thing is the constantly changing weather and where he does not have to worry about the ground blowing up beneath his feet.

The third stanza starts off mysteriously, and the half developed photograph is described. The vague features of the man seem to the photographer, like the spirit of the soldier and he remembers the moment when he took that picture. He remembers the hopeless wailing of the soldier’s wife as he had silently sought her permission to take her dying husband’s photograph and he remembers clearly how the blood from his wound had seeped into the earth.

The final stanza takes on a detached tone, as the photographer thinks of how from the hundred photos that he has taken, each telling its own chilling tale of agony and pain, his editor will randomly select a handful to print in the newspaper. He knows that people back at home would glance at these, in the afternoons and feel sorrow for a minute before moving on with their lives. By the end of the poem, even he shrugs off all feelings towards his work and looks upon the war torn land from his high altitude in the plane, where such suffering happens on a day to day basis and the world doesn’t care.

Duffy has used a number of literary devices to describe the horror and agony of war. The phrase ‘spools of suffering’ is a metaphor, along with containing alliteration, as it isn’t the spools which are suffering but the people pictured in the photographs they carry that are doing so. Also there is a paradox in how he has organized suffering, the chaos of pain and war, into neat ordered rows. Again ‘ordered rows’ could act as a metaphor, comparing the rolls to the coffins of the dead soldiers which are neatly organized neatly into rows. The red light is symbolic of the bloodshed that the photographer has witnessed, and also reminds him of a church, making him feel like a priest preparing for a mass funeral. The imagery of ‘blood stained into foreign dust’ compliments Duffy’s previous statement that ‘all flesh is grass.’ Also ambiguity has been used in a couple of places to portray more than one idea to the reader. In the third stanza the half-developed picture is described as a ‘half formed ghost’. This either implies that the image is vague and faint, or the fact that the photograph shows a dead man, whose spirit is somehow evoked by the developing photograph. The fourth stanza describes the photographs to be in ‘black and white.’ This could mean both the fact that the pictures are monochrome, without color; or the contrast between good and evil.

Duffy’s ‘War Photographer’ is an effective comment on society which shows both the agonies of war, as well as the apathy of mankind towards it. The persona of the war photographer is most apt as he is between these two realities: on one side he experiences a world which is torn apart by war, where innocent children die because of mine fields; and on the other side there is the rest of the world, which is full of people who do not have time in their busy lives to care about matters which do not directly affect them. He is therefore in such a state to compare these two worlds and he at first feels disgust towards the uncaring world, and guilt at being the one to exploit the suffering of the dying soldiers, but then he too assumes an impassive attitude, knowing that no matter how he feels, he cannot change the world, nor stop the war or bloodshed from happening. All he can do is his job: which he does. He can make them see what he sees by capturing the pain in photos, but he cannot make them feel what he feels, for there is no way he can show them his memories.

I found ‘War Photographer’ to be a chilling and disturbing poem, which evokes many conflicting feelings, a feat which is accomplished widely by Duffy’s use of strong yet simple words to say complex things.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Analysis of Poems.

 

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Analysis: Do Not Go Gentle Into The Good Night. (Dylan Thomas)

In ‘Do Not Go Gentle’ Dylan Thomas addresses the helpless state to which old people are rendered to, and encourages them to not give in quietly to death and fight against its approach.

In the first stanza Thomas says what he expects people who are close to death should do. He urges them to live life to its full extent even if they know that it is at an end. The next four stanzas go on to describe the kind of people who do not give in to death easily. It starts with wise men who, even though they know that death would, in the end conquer all, they still don’t cave in quietly as they know that things that they’ve said have not made any difference to the world. They need to make people see the truth of their words. This desire to be known, heard, and understood means that they are likely to fight death, perhaps because they feel there is yet more to do. Next comes the example of good men, who remained pious and righteous throughout their lives realize, on the nearing of death, that their good deeds are weak and could have been so much more, so they fight against death with a will to live on. Brave, adventurous men who did not know how short life is, and spent it all on wild expeditions, realize that soon life would be at an end, and so they fight to live on. Even old men who are on the brink of death view the world with a twinkle in their eyes, eager to see as much as they can before giving in to the darkness.

The last stanza takes on an intensely personal tone as the poet directly addresses his father. This is a separate stanza which shows that he does not see his father as part of any of the afore mentioned categories, but rather he is a whole different category in himself. He implores his father, who is nearing old age and death, to curse at him only so that he can see the passionate man he once used to be. He pleads him to not give in to death, to fight against it with every breath in his body.

The poem is in the form of a villanelle, six stanzas with a simple rhyming scheme that belies the complex message behind the poem. This message is made clear with a number of literary techniques, the most evident of which is repetition. The lines ‘do not go gentle’ and ‘rage rage against the dying of the light’ are repeated throughout the poem at the end of every stanza. These lines make use of an extended metaphor comparing death to the darkness of nightfall, and life to the bright day. Also a paradox is used in ‘good night’ where Thomas calls the uncertainty and inevitability of death, represented by nightfall, as good. Also the good deeds of the righteous men are personified as ‘dancing in the green bay’, which signifies life; as is the sun personified ‘as sun in flight.’ These used os personification also invoke a deep imagery which makes the reader imagine the sunset and the approach of nightfall, making the message behind the metaphor clear. Punning on ‘grave men’ Thomas uses a metaphor to again compare the brightness of their eyes to blazing meteors, showing the intensity of their will power to live on.

Thus does Thomas, with the use of simple words, evoke strong emotions in the reader through this poem. A bold defiance is shown towards death, and he encourages those who are faced with it to share his passion for life. He pleads them to fight against its approach, even though he is well aware that in the end everyone has to cave in. No matter how worthless this fight against such an inevitable thing as death may seem one cannot help but commend the ferocity and fierceness of the poet, who has such a will to live on.
It is an extremely encouraging poem, despite the fact that it repeatedly emphasizes the approach of death, as it simultaneously defies what it itself proves; that death is the conqueror of all. It ignites in one an intense passion for life and living, and no matter what problems one is facing in life, they seem insignificant when one thinks of the fact that it will all soon end and death will take over.

People, especially the youth of today, have become so weak willed that the slightest difficulty in life bends them towards thoughts of death and suicide. They see in death, not an ending, but an easy way out. Thomas shows in this poem, not just asking for death, but even waiting for it to overcome one quietly is according to him, dishonorable and unjust. People should have an active will to live on, no matter their circumstances or age, as surrendering is cowardly and weak.

The full extent of enjoying this poem lies in understanding and appreciating the message that Thomas conveys through the use of simple yet strong words.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Analysis of Poems.

 

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Analysis: Sonnet 116: (W. Shakespeare)

Through this sonnet, Shakespeare tries to define what the phenomenon of Love is all about, by first stating what it isn’t, then asserting what it is.

He starts with rejecting the marriage done for logical and sensible reasons stating that there are too many obstructions in the path of such relationships. He then condemns the love which changes with the changing circumstances of life, or ends with death, claiming that that isn’t true love. Comparing it to the North Star and using nautical terms, Shakespeare then designate love as a solid constant remainder. He describes the intensity and ferocity of the emotion as such that people who are in love do not back down from whatever challenges and difficulties life throws at them, but face them with the resolution and perseverance to overcome and conquer. Just as no one can guess how high exactly the North Star is in the sky, yet everyone knows that it is very important and useful, similarly can no man ever hope to put a monetary label on Love, but there is none in this world who is unaware of its absolute beauty and power.
Shakespeare then emphasizes the everlasting quality of love saying that it isn’t something which time can play with, thus effectively casting all the other emotions that one experiences in a frivolous light when compared with the majesty of Love. Even though beauty does play a significant role in making people fall in love, it isn’t a temporary or brief passion which can die out or change over a short period of time. Even if one fell in love with another because of that person’s physical beauty, if the love is pure, it will last far longer than said beauty. Those lovers won’t part even when they are old and their previous youthful appearances have faded away, leaving them as husks of the people they once were. Thus will Love last till the end of time, perpetual and eternal.
The end couplet poses a bold challenge from Shakespeare to any cynic who does not believe in his words. He states that if anyone proves that what he has said was wrong and that Love doesn’t exist then it would be like saying that he, William Shakespeare, master playwright and poet, had never in his life written a word. Thus he is right about the existence of love as proof of his writing already exists in the form of this sonnet, in which he poses this challenge.

As ever, Shakespeare makes use of numerous literary devices to drive home his message. The first of these is alliteration which is immediately clear in the first line itself: the repetition of the letter “m” and “t” in “me not to the marriage of true minds” gives the line an internal rhythm. Love is personified several times throughout the sonnet: it isn’t something which can change or end, it is constant and solid, it faces “tempests” and is “never shaken.” All these instances of attributing the qualities of a person to a mere emotion, serve their purpose in making the Bard’s message clear, that love is never ending. One also finds Time to be personified “Love is not Time’s fool.” This description paints Time as a puppeteer who plays around with everything, controlling everyone, and changing things on a whim, which is a repeating idea in many of Shakespeare’s other sonnets plays and poems. Yet love is set apart from the rest of all the emotions that one feels: it is something which Time can exercise no right over, as it is independent of all sorts of manipulations. Visual imagery is then evoked to further emphasize this point and the picture of Old Keen Time shuffles on wielding a huge sickle, yet Love continues to evade its grasp, appears in the mind.
This sonnet is set apart by the rest of them because of the fact that it isn’t about the state of one in love, or how Love changes life, but rather it is a bold and exemplary attempt to define Love itself. Such a broad emotion, which brings to mind so many various unrefined things, can be outlined and set into words in such a restricted, formal format; that of the Shakespearean sonnet is commendable indeed. Yet the poem appeals to me not because of apt style, nothing less could be expected from Shakespeare, but because of its intricate content. In a series of comparisons does Shakespeare set the limitless boundaries of love, first stating what it isn’t: fickle and momentary; then asserting what it is: resolute and everlasting.
I enjoyed the poem immensely for both the clarity of its matter and the eloquence of its language.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Analysis of Poems.

 

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Analysis: Piano. (D.H.Lawrence)

D. H. Lawrence’s Piano shows a man experiencing nostalgia as he listens to a woman singing which reminds him of his childhood.

The poem starts with the man hearing the soft singing of a woman which takes him on a mental journey down memory lane and he sees visions of his childhood flashing in front of him. The memory he focuses on is that of a small child who is sitting beneath a grand piano as his mother plays it, taking his mother’s elegant feet into his small hands and listening to the loud chords of music.
The man is reluctant to remember those days and be affected by them, but the song which the woman is singing seems to have a slow subtle impact on him and despite his hesitance he gives in to his emotions and yearns for the days of childhood: the cold Sunday evenings in winter when it used to now outside and they, mother and son used to sit in the warm comfortable indoors and sing melodious hymns with the help of the piano.
The man who was listening to the lady singing now thinks that it would be useless for her to continue on as he is already so affected by his memories that he is just physically present, his mind elsewhere. Without any thought of his adulthood, he bursts into tears remembering the blissful ignorance and innocence of his infant years. He starts weeping, thus bridging the gap between his past and his present.

Lawrence uses words in such an intricate manner throughout the poem that they end up creating vivid and delightful imagery. By using the word ‘vista’ he propels the images of the reader’s own childhood in front of his eyes so that one experiences the same thing that man experienced.  These images ‘take him back down’ into the memories of his childhood. This immediately brings to mind the image that growing up is similar to climbing some difficult mountain and in his adulthood, the man is right at the top, and from there he falls into his childhood again. Onomatopoeia used in describing the ‘boom’ of the ‘tingling’ strings of the piano indicates that the man in the poem is none other but Lawrence himself, as the tiny detail that the piano would sound loud to a small child and consequently would be described as booming when later remembered even as an adult is so simply portrayed and thus removes all doubts that Lawrence is writing from personal experience. Further, the man remembers that his mother’s feet were ‘poised’ betraying the respect and awe a little child has for its parents. Even at that tender age, the child identifies dignified elegance with his other.
The words ‘in spite of myself’ and ‘betrays me back’ show the immense struggle that the man goes through with his own warring desires. The need to remain solidly footed in his adulthood and the yearning to give that up for the innocence and joys of childhood tear him apart and he goes against his own desires by giving in to the latter. Again the words used are so simple yet effective in describing the evenings spent by the fire that they paint a vivid image in the readers mind: one of comfort, warmth and unlimited acceptance. This scene casts a melancholy shadow over the poem, as the man remembering these simple moments from his past suggest that he no longer has the comfort of a family or home to lean upon, and that his life is riddled with difficulties and worries for him to long for the dull and boring adolescent years.

This poem achieves that delicate balance between being cliché, sentimental and being full of self-pity; and expressing empathy. This is done because though the overview of the poem is simple and direct, there are some strong words which are sprinkled throughout with such apt accuracy that they intensify the powerful feelings that a man experiences when he is torn between his past and present lives.
The title of the poem, ‘Piano’ is quite suiting as music is proven to be the strongest trigger of memories. Also it implies that playing the piano, and subsequently music, played a large role in the man’s life: his mother used to play and sing hymns on the piano in his childhood, and even as an adult he finds the time to escape the responsibilities for a few hours by attending musical concerts as the woman singing and playing the piano could be seen as such. The piano was their guide in his childhood, and it still continues to show him the way through life.
Nostalgia is the central idea behind the poem but one would not be wrong to say that it also throws light on the pains of growing up. The man in the poem has traveled the road of life and has reached his adulthood, a phase of life which is associated with freedom of will and power of right. But he still contemplates giving all that up; his heart ‘weeps to belong’ and his ‘manhood is cast down a flood of remembrance’ as the ‘glamor of childish days’ overcomes him emotionally. He throws away the confines of his ‘manhood’, breaking the unspoken rule that men aren’t supposed to show emotions by crying for his childhood. When does a person experience such contrasting emotions? It is only when the responsibilities and burdens of adulthood become too much to bear that one starts wishing that one could somehow go back to one’s immature and ignorant days of being a child, free of worries and still holding the limitless possibilities of growing up in its hand, head full of unbroken dreams and untarnished ideals and principles.

Thus is ‘Piano’ another one of Lawrence’s masterpieces, as he once again portrays the complex workings and dealings of the human heart in such a refined, elegant yet simple manner that he pulls at all the right heartstrings and one finds oneself tearing up while remembering one’s own childhood days.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Analysis of Poems.

 

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