Now and again, I like to share a poem with my friends. Recently, while researching the life and works of D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) for our World’s Best Reading series, I came upon this lyrical short poem by Lawrence that evokes childhood memories of his beloved mother, Lydia. Lawrence, author of the powerful classic of autobiographical fiction, Sons and Lovers (1913), was very attached to his hardworking mother who doted on her fourth child, whom she called “Bert,” and who encouraged his gift for learning. “She is my first, great love,” Lawrence once wrote in a letter. “She was a wonderful, rare woman . . . as strong, and steadfast, and generous as the sun.” "The Piano" (1918) is a tribute not only to that love, but also to the bittersweet power of nostalgic memory.
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.