In comparing and contrasting the poems, "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke and "Piano" by D. H. Lawrence, the reader could also compare and contrast the childhood lives of the poets themselves. Roethke's father, Otto Roethke, was a drunk and a figure of terror to his son (Seager 26). His mother was an angry woman and Theodore was a desperate child consistently in the middle of his parent's opposition (Seager 28). D.H. Lawrence's father was a drunk, almost illiterate miner (Squires and Talbot 34). His mother; however, was educated, refined, and pious, ruling the lives of her sons (Squires and Talbot 42). Reviewing the form, tone, and imagery of both poems, the attitude of the boy towards his father in Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz" allows the reader to observe the poet's ironic tone contrasting with the attitude of the boy towards his childhood in Lawrence's "Piano", allowing us to sense a more melancholy tone.
The poems are similar in form. Roethke uses closed form in "My Papa's Waltz" (Seager 165). The work has a distinct structure and rhyme scheme. There are four stanzas within the poem and each stanza consists of four lines (435). The lines of the poem are either six or seven syllables and create a concise meter for the work. The quatrains of "My Papa's Waltz" are an alternating rhyme pattern of a b a b. For example:
We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself. (5-8)
Lawrence also uses closed form in "Piano" (Squires and Talbot 329) with a distinct structure and rhyme scheme. There are three stanzas within this poem and each stanza consists of four lines (520) creating a concise meter for the work. The quatrains of "Piano" have line rhymes as couplets: a a b b. For example:
Softly in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vistas of years, til 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. (1-4)
The reflection of each poet's childhood is displayed within these lines helping to build a tone for the memories of each narrator.
The tone of "My Papa's Waltz" differs from the tone in "Piano." The ironic tone of the first poem is one of a young man looking back in fear of his father. "But I hung on like death.../The hand that held my wrist.../You beat time on my head..." (3-13). The reader senses a painful scene, which the father appears to hurt and demean his son. On the other hand, the tone of "Piano" is more melancholy. "In spite of myself.../Betrays me back.../To the old Sunday evenings at home..." (5-7). The reader can feel the lyrical and longing tone in the narrator's description of a man who wishes he could go back in time to his childhood...