Childhood Memories: My Papa’s Waltz

“My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke and, “Piano” by D. H. Lawrence both recollect a childhood memory. The two poems are also different eventhough they are talking about a childhood memory. The poems have the same background, but in “My Papa’s Waltz” it is a boy and his father and in “Piano” it is a boy and his mother; one is positive and one is negative; and lastly the feeling of each poet is different in each poem. Eventhough the two speakers share a childhood memory with a parent, the gender of the parent is different in each poem. In “My Papa’s Waltz” a boy is supposedly dancing with his drunken father.
While in “Piano” a boy is listening to a lady play the piano and singing, and that reminds him of how his mother used to play the piano and sing to him when he was younger. In Roethke’s poem a little boy’s father comes home drunk one night, and the little boy clings to him while he stumbles off to bed. The poet refers to the man’s drunkenness and him trying to walk as the waltz. On the contrary, Lawrence’s poem is talking about a man listening to a lady playing the piano. As he listens, he is reminded of when he was a young boy and how he used to sit at his mother’s feet as she played the piano and sang to him.
Capps 2 Words and their connotation in these two poems illustrate their negative and positive aspects. Lawrence’s poem is more of a positive poem. The reader can tell that it is a positive memory because of the word usage. The word “smile” in line four of Lawrence’s poem is just one of of many positive words in the poem. The line, “And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings” (Lawrence Line 4), says the boy’s mother singing a song to him and smiling to him as he sits at her feet and looks up at her.

However, the poem “My Papa’s Waltz” is more of a negative memory because of the word choice used. The best example is the word “whiskey”. In the line, “The whiskey on your breath” (Roethke Line 1), whiskey paints a negative picture. It gives the reader a negative image of the father because he is drunk and around his child. Last, the speakers’ feelings are completely opposite. The poem, “Piano” uses nostalgia. The speaker in the poem wants to go back to the memory of his sitting at his mother’s feet while she plays the piano and sings to him. I weep like a child for the past” (Lawrence Line 12) is a great example of the poet using nostalgia in the poem. Although, he wants to go back in time, he also wants to stay in the present. On the other hand, in “My Papa’s Waltz” the speaker does not want to go back to that painful memory. Roethke says, “My mother’s countenance could not unfrown its self” (Lines 7-8). That is an example of the speaker’s negative feelings. That line basically says that the boy’s mother is frowning while the boy is clinging to his drunken father. Think about this, would you want to go back to a time where your father had Capps 3 ome home drunk and you could smell the whiskey on his breath where he had been drinking? That is not a very positive memory. In conclusion, “My Papa’s Waltz” and “Piano” are two different but alike poems at the same time. Both poems are recollecting a boy’s childhood memory, but that is the only thing they have in common. The two poems differ in the speaker’s feelings, the gender of the parent in each poem, and lastly the word connotation makes them differ in being negative and positive. That is why the poems are different in more ways than they are alike.

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