Try and think about a song that you loved when you were little… how did it make you feel? Now think about a song that reminds you of happy times…


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  • Try and think about a song that you 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…



Title: What predictions can you make about the poem from the title? What are your initial (first) thoughts about the poem? What might be the theme of the poem?

  • Title: What predictions can you make about the poem from the title? What are your initial (first) thoughts about the poem? What might be the theme of the poem?



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.

  • 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 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.



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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.



The poet/speaker hears a woman singing, which makes him vividly recall a childhood memory. He listened to his mother playing the piano, while sitting underneath the piano and touching her feet. He longs to be back in the cozy, happy home of his family, when he was a child. He is overcome by emotion and cries.

  • The poet/speaker hears a woman singing, which makes him vividly recall a childhood memory. He listened to his mother playing the piano, while sitting underneath the piano and touching her feet. He longs to be back in the cozy, happy home of his family, when he was a child. He is overcome by emotion and cries.



It seems like the author is saddened by a childhood memory.

  • It seems like the author is saddened by a childhood memory.

  • Maybe the theme is regret or nostalgia?

  • Paraphrase: Describe what happens in the poem, in your own words.





Connotation: What might the poem mean beyond the literal level? Find examples of imagery, metaphors, similes, personification, symbolism, idioms, hyperbole, alliteration, rhyme scheme, rhythm, etc. and think about their possible connotative meanings. Consider the emotional feelings that the words may give the reader.

  • Connotation: What might the poem mean beyond the literal level? Find examples of imagery, metaphors, similes, personification, symbolism, idioms, hyperbole, alliteration, rhyme scheme, rhythm, etc. and think about their possible connotative meanings. Consider the emotional feelings that the words may give the reader.



Vista appassionato

  • Vista appassionato

  • Poised

  • Insidious

  • Mastery

  • Betray

  • Parlour

  • Vain

  • clamour



The poem might mean that the author/speaker is unhappy with his current adult life. Things seemed to be quite loving and warm in his childhood.

  • The poem might mean that the author/speaker is unhappy with his current adult life. Things seemed to be quite loving and warm in his childhood.

  • There is a simple rhythm in the three-stanza, rhyming couplet structure, maybe related to his pleasant, more simple childhood. The piano itself is a symbol of rhythmic emotion.

  • Rich imagery created by use of such devices as onomatopoeia (boom, tingling, tinkling) and simile (weep like a child). The word “appassionato” suggests heightened emotions (passion).

  • “Manhood is cast down” suggests he is giving in to his longings for the past.







Nostalgia for childhood…but he feels some shame for that Nostalgia (Nostalgia is a strong emotional desire to connect with the past).

  • 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











Nostalgic/Sentimental – ‘Softly’ Line 1, ‘Smiles as she sings’ Line 4

  • 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’.





Poem is built up in rhyming couplets – these create a sense of harmony.

  • 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.



A single speaker but the point of view shifts between that of a child and that of an adult.

  • 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.



Music – Contrast between strong and weak sounds, like the struggle between the two singers. E.G ‘softly’ and ‘boom’.

  • 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.



The piano – Produces a flow of music, which sweeps like river of time.

  • 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.



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…

  • 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…




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