Piano – D. H. Lawrence – Analysis

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.
D. H. Lawrence (1885 – 1930)

The poem consists of rhyming across each double line. And much thought has gone into the choice of words … some key words …

appassionato is an Italian term used in music … telling the musician to perform with a great amount of emotion. A love duet in an opera is an example of music that is sung appassionato.

insidious – proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with very harmful effects.

vain – too proud of your own appearance, abilities, achievements

vista – sweeping view

cast – to form a particular shape by pouring ‘it’ = life, into a mold

Occasionally something happens in daily life to take us back in time to our childhood. Something that triggers a memory. In this poem it is a woman singing and her singing is the start of a trigger that leads to the piano. This is the object of childhood reflection and hence the title of the poem.

S1 … The memory comes at dusk in the fading of light. And here DHL is focusing on a different time, bringing light from the mind. The vista of the years is recalled. We do not know where the singing emanates but this is immaterial. We might assume that DHL is alone with his thoughts. And then we have that personal image of a small child at the foot of his mother while she plays the piano. The mother is happy and unperturbed by the pressing at her feet.

S2 … It is insidious how the singing and the music penetrates DHL. He cannot avoid owning up to his past. He would like to avoid this, but he is betrayed by the continuance of song and piano, so he succumbs to recollections of his childhood. The warmth of a convivial home life in winter is emphasised against the cold outside. And the strong personal link with his mother is evident, both physical and spiritual. And he weeps as his mind and heart relive the past. Tinkling and tingling are onomatopoeia.

S3 … DHL is overcome and weeps again and is so swamped by emotion that he has no regard for the singer and the presentation; vain for her to try. The great black piano appassionato is translated into a great black emotional recollection. Black because there can be no return. And the poem ends in this emotional state; DHL crying like a child – a pointless cry.

The present happenings in life can betray who we are and where we come from based on our own background. The past completes us as we drop away each day creating new dimensions and aiding and abetting the reshaping of the mold. DHL poses the question of how to deal with the past in on-going life. There may be times when we should allow the past to return with all the related emotion?

D. H. Lawrence on Wikipedia – D. H. Lawrence – Wikipedia

Football – Kate Llewellyn – Comments


I found myself wishing this persona… to be brave and strong and to tell me
about anything else;
art, football, ice hockey, plasma physics, philosophy… anything but love…

It's a game
I saw it once or twice
when I was twelve
standing by a fence in a coat and scarf
with my best friend
local farmers leapt and ran
thuds and clouts and kicks
made the noise of drums and blood
in the dark part of the heart
goals were signalled
with a cheer
and a man waved two white flags
as if he wanted peace
men ran out with oranges
the players sucked them
and began again
it got cold
and we went home
I forget who won
my Mother's pinafore was green
it had red berries on it
we made toast on a fork
in the kitchen stove
it tasted of smoke and butter
my Father didn't play football
I don't think he knew how
the ball seemed an odd shape

Kate Llewellyn (1936 –

The story of going to a football game with a friend at the age of twelve, so it must have been just after the war in 1948. It looks like winter weather as a coat and scarf is involved. And it looks like a local event where the farming community come in to town to play. And it seeds as though Kate is a little sensitive to all the supporting uproar – made the noise of drums and blood / in the dark part of the heart.

Why the waving of white flags? An understanding of the game seems to be in question later in the poem. But the next thing of note was the half-time break and the distributing of cut oranges to the players. But then it got cold so you had the feeling it was not really very pleasant to be standing around.

The main memory then is the after game warmth of being home again and having toast and being with her mother to the extend of remembering colours in her mother’s pinafore.

Her father did not play football. If he had been involved she may have been educated in the game at a much earlier age. This gives force that she just went along with another girl for an introduction. One thing that obviously struck her was the strange perverse shape of the ball – balls should be round, so why this shape!

You must remember at that time sport was more male than female. And that this girl had little understanding and involvement with the game. And maybe her girl friend had more knowledge of ‘football’ and had asked her if she would like to come along for company. This poem is a statement of a view of the game from this perspective.

Our appreciation and involvement of sport is highly influenced by family and friends. Parents often get their children involved when very young. This can be a positive or negative. I am still interested to see how Southampton Football Club in the UK are going; at a great distance of course. This is purely because of going to see games with my father when I was about the same age as Kate in the above poem.

My father finished work at mid-day on a Saturday. And if ‘The Saints’ were playing at home I would sit with my brother in the back seat of the Morris Isis for the drive to Southampton. We did not go straight to the ground, there was always a stop at ‘The Sun’ pub where we waited in the back of the car with a soft drink and ‘Smiths’ crisps. It was dark and cold at the end of the day when we got back home so I can relate to Kate’s warm home words in her poem. Such pleasant memories wrap around me when I think of those times. And of course the ball was round!

Kate Llewellyn is is an award-winning Australian poet, author, diarist and travel writer. A link to Wikipedia.

The Poor, Poor Country – John Shaw Neilson

The Poor, Poor Country

Oh ’twas a poor country, in Autumn it was bare,
The only green was the cutting grass and the sheep found little there.
Oh, the thin wheat and the brown oats were never two foot high,
But down in the poor country no pauper was I.

My wealth it was the glow that lives forever in the young,
‘Twas on the brown water, in the green leaves it hung.
The blue cranes fed their young all day – how far in a tall tree!
And the poor, poor country made no pauper of me.

I waded out to the swan’s nest – at night I heard them sing,
I stood amazed at the Pelican, and crowned him for a king;
I saw the black duck in the reeds, and the spoonbill on the sky,
And in that poor country no pauper was I.

The mountain-ducks down in the dark made many a hollow sound,
I saw in sleep the Bunyip creep from the waters underground.
I found the plovers’ island home, and they fought right valiantly,
Poor was the country, but it made no pauper of me.

My riches all went into dreams that never yet came home,
They touched upon the wild cherries and the slabs of honeycomb,
They were not of the desolate brood that men can sell or buy,
Down in that poor country no pauper was I.

* * * * *

The New Year came with heat and thirst and the little lakes were low,
The blue cranes were my nearest friends and I mourned to see them go;
I watched their wings so long until I only saw the sky,
Down in that poor country no pauper was I.

John Shaw Neilson (1872 – 1942)

Pauper = impoverished person
Bunyip = legendary Australian monster

JSN did not have a formal education. He attended his local school for less than two years and as a small child worked as a farm-labourer for his father. Much of his life was spent labouring.

His Scottish family migrated to Australia and they took up a selection to clear and farm in the poor scrub covered Mallee of Victoria. It was a continual struggle trying to develop this harsh environment. It was aptly named as ‘poor country’.

JSN must have heard his father curse his predicament. The land was only seen in economic terms to escape poverty. But JSN saw the land as a boy discovering Nature without the dictate of financial gain. He was observant to all that this ‘poor country’ had to offer and unlike the improvised land he recognised the great wealth of his surroundings. And perhaps given the task to labour the land without siblings or children to play with he welcomed the birdlife as his friends. He saw the land from a different perspective and although without education gave his contrast voice to it in this poem.

The story of his life as a labourer and how he became recognised  as a poet is set out in this Australian Dictionary of Biography linkhttp://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/neilson-john-shaw-764

Perhaps his most well-known poem is ‘The Orange Tree’http://richard-outoftheblue.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/orange-tree-john-shaw-neilson.html

I remember, I remember – Philip Larkin – Analysis

I Remember, I Remember

Coming up England by a different line
For once, early in the cold new year,
We stopped, and, watching men with number plates
Sprint down the platform to familiar gates,
“Why, Coventry!” I exclaimed. “I was born here.”

I leant far out, and squinnied for a sign
That this was still the town that had been ‘mine’
So long, but found I wasn’t even clear
Which side was which. From where those cycle-crates
Were standing, had we annually departed

For all those family hols? . . . A whistle went:
Things moved. I sat back, staring at my boots.
‘Was that,’ my friend smiled, ‘where you “have your roots”?’
No, only where my childhood was unspent,
I wanted to retort, just where I started:

By now I’ve got the whole place clearly charted.
Our garden, first: where I did not invent
Blinding theologies of flowers and fruits,
And wasn’t spoken to by an old hat.
And here we have that splendid family

I never ran to when I got depressed,
The boys all biceps and the girls all chest,
Their comic Ford, their farm where I could be
‘Really myself’. I’ll show you, come to that,
The bracken where I never trembling sat,

Determined to go through with it; where she
Lay back, and ‘all became a burning mist’.
And, in those offices, my doggerel
Was not set up in blunt ten-point, nor read
By a distinguished cousin of the mayor,

Who didn’t call and tell my father There
Before us, had we the gift to see ahead –
‘You look as though you wished the place in Hell,’
My friend said, ‘judging from your face.’ ‘Oh well,
I suppose it’s not the place’s fault,’ I said.

‘Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.’

Philip Larkin

What a different poem from the poem with the same title as that by Thomas Hood. I can’t help thinking that Larkin chose the title with Hood’s poem in mind to give an honest statement of his unhappy childhood experience. Coming up England by a different line – a very clever way of saying his lines are markedly different from the ideal country exprience exressed in Hood’s nostalgic escapist lines.

Men with number plates an intersting way of saying they owned a car – perhaps it was their pride and joy in running down the platform to make contact – or perhaps congestion was a problem in the parking area.

Well his childhood was a disappointment – where my childhood was unspent – time is equated to money and money value. And in replying to a fellow traveller makes synical comment – wasn’t spoken to by an old hat – (by adults who should have given explanation), I never ran to when I got depressed – (no emotional connection with family). Larkin concentrates on the things that didn’t happen that he thought would be common in other families.

Their Comic Ford, their farm – the other children created their own imitation reality – which to Larkin was comic and I think he was being synical by saying he could be ‘really himself”. And laments no sexual contact with the girls who were all chest, the boys all biceps. Perhap he had a different emphasis – his doggerel was not set up – like that of other children who had recognition nor read By a distinguished cousin of the mayor and given feedback that they were gifted.

And that great last line – ‘Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.’ The place itself, Coventry, is not at fault.

Apart from the clever word play slant the pentameter and rhyming construct shows that Larkin put a lot of work into this expression of his childhood – ensuring that his experience will be remembered by the many who treasure Larkin as a top poet.

Fern Hill – Dylan Thomas – Analysis

‘Fern Hill’ is one of Dylan Thomas’s most read poems. Dylan Thomas happens to be a favourite poet of The Prince of Wales (Prince Charles that is, and how appropriate). Prince Charles visited the poet’s birthplace in Swansea in September 2013. The following is a YouTube video of his reading of ‘Fern Hill’ …

Here are the words of the poem, my commentary appears after each stanza  …

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

(lilting house – a touch of music and song in the house, dingle = a small wooded valley or dell … this reflects to the green apple days of his youth – nice that when young ‘time let him climb golden in the heydays of his eyes’ – wonderful expression of how time lets the young stretch to the sky … and the young are always honoured by those older as he rode on the wagons and he himself lord of his rural environment invoked by easy movement as he went his merry way – another great line ‘down the rivers of the windfall light’- again linking with apples and movement)

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

(Invokes a very joyous outside childhood … I too can remember time spent as a child playing with friends on a farm … wonderful environment so many things to explore … so I can identify strongly with this stanza … here we have time again … time gives such a lot to the young – very merciful … the Sabbath rang slowly … the holy day distant, and defined in terms of the outside and nature – his holy place … the sound of water on pebbles his Sabbath bell)

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

(the haystacks as high as a house – the sound of wind in the chimney and the fireplace empty for this is summer his mind is fired by rich green grass … and as he falls asleep the farm is still much within his soul … the sound of owls fall away – what a great line ‘as I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away’ … the movement of the night farm sleeps within him as he rides to sleep)

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

(the farm is personified in white dew … a religious reference to the first garden … and it was as though everything was reborn for him as the simple light defined the environment anew … the fields in praise for the gift of light and sun) 

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace,

(I can imagine the trophies of pheasants and foxes and he equally honoured … and the endless days of happy sun-rich care free wanderings – that is before time starts to diminish and ‘follow him out of grace’)

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

(in the days of childhood there were no cares on how time would swallow and leave forever the days of innocent joy – he was ‘young and easy in the mercy of his means’ – we are all chained if you like, like the sea is chained by land – but it’s great to sing in our chains whether in childhood or a little older – nice that in childhood the chains are well hidden)