Thomas Moore’s poem about the harp is short and to the point. It talks about a harp that once was a symbol of nationalism now being left unused and “mute” (3). This clearly is a metaphor for better “former days” (5), now that “glory’s thrill is o’er” (6). The past glory is personified by referring to its now unfelt “pulse” (8). This poem takes that image further, referring to Freedom that is barely moving anymore either.

An important component of this poem is the personification. Freedom is personified as a person or animal as is doesn’t wake often, is referred to as a she with a heart, and is referred to as living. This referral to Freedom as living is important to an understanding of the poem. The poet is not only talking about the past, he is talking about a present that has hope, that there is still a small amount of life to be found. Glory, of course, is personified and so are former days, whose pride now “sleeps” (5). The personification changes these ideas from the abstract to the physical world. The reader is presented with an image of a heart that is literally beating.

This poem’s rhyming structure is as follows: ababcdcd etc. Its meter is 8/6/8/6. These patterns are consistent throughout the poem. Thus the poem has a very rhythmic structure to it. This rhythm adds to our understanding of the old nationalism in that it appears there is a regularity to it. The heart beating in the present only occasionally at one point held the very “soul of music” (2).

Overall, there are several clear observations that can be made about the nationalism this is talking about. It is clearly alive, it is now dead, and rhythm and structure is the way of nationalism.

-Joshua Jolly

The Harp as a Memento of a Failed Relationship

Thomas Moore’s poem comes across as a breakup/it’s not you it’s me/I love you but please forget I ever existed, letter between the speaker and the personified instrument of the harp. The end rhyme consists of the pattern ABAB, CDCD, etc. which we know as the alternate rhyme scheme. What this suggests of the speaker is they are indecisive with their feelings toward the harp, and knowing the symbolic meaning of the harp, the rhyme scheme alone can be interpreted as Irish’s extreme doubt on whether uniting with England was the right decision. This is kind of like leaving your spouse to go play with your friends, who aren’t actually your friends but people who pretend to be in order to manipulate you.

The first stanza describes the narrator’s return to the harp, who they find with “The cold chain of silence” (2). This is the first step in realizing that neglecting the harp was their biggest mistake. Below the surface is their neglect on their Irishness. It’s like forgetting what the harp stood for and remembering after it is too late. Line four, “And gave all thy chords to light, freedom, and song!” is trying to bring the spark back into the relationship. Strumming chords is often associated with the heart and we often hear the term heartstrings used to represent emotions. Stanza two describes the beauty of the harp, but then “hast thou echoed the deep sigh of sadness” (7). The speaker sees they have broken the harp’s heart. We hear it only as an echo, so although the songs may still sound beautiful, there is a hint of sorrow, which is a perfect way to describe the sound of the harp. Stanza three is the speaker’s way of saying they are unworthy of the harp’s love and saying, “Till touch’d by some hand less unworthy than mine” (12). The physical and the literal representation of the harp no long holds any significance. This has been true ever since Ireland has decided to put their faith into someone else’s hands and leaving their identity behind. Leaving the harp behind is like leaving a legacy behind. What is left is all in the mind and all that matters is they keep the harp in their mind. Stanza four is the speaker asking the harp to forget the speaker ever existed saying, “I was but the wind, passing heedlessly over” (15).

Thomas Moore uses the concept of a relationship as a microcosm of the current event of his time. Those who do not know this particular history of Ireland can get a sense of how the people felt toward their home during the French Revolution. Moore’s poem shows that among the many things Ireland lost was their identity, and when they realized that, it was too late to turn back. This was when the revival of the harp occurred and used as a symbol of Irish identity. Therefore, the harp stands as a symbol of Ireland because of the music the harp produces. That music being an indeterminable emotion, a blend of happiness and sorrow.

-Van Vang

The Harp of India

In “The Harp of India,” Derozio expresses his love for his country and the sadness he feels having it be colonized through the sonnet he writes. Derozio uses a harp to represent his country, in the first couple of lines, he says:

“Why hang’st thou lonely on you withered bough?

Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain;

Thy music once was sweet– who hears it now?”

He speaks of India here as a “withered bough” that is being isolated from its own culture and being pushed aside to be forgotten. In saying the music was sweet, Derozio is saying that their culture and country was once so great, but ever since they were colonized it has disappeared.

It is interesting to note how Derozio decided to use inclusive language to prove that India is not the only country going through colonialism. The title suggests that the poem is about or inspired by India’s colonization. However, he never actually states that this poem is about India because he uses “my country” rather than simply saying India, this way it is more relatable to those who were also colonized by the British. Also when he says “harp of my country, let me strike the strain,” he uses the harp to represent the culture of the country. He wants to be able to regain his country with all the culture they once had. The only way to reestablish their country as their own is by resisting to change and not submitting to the culture others bring, like the British.

-Natalia Alvarado

The Harp of India

Colonization is a continuous theme that reoccurs around the world and India going through colonization was another issue that occurred within the poem “The Harp of India” by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio. The first line poses the question “Why hang’st thou lonely on yon withered bough?” The question describes a harp as “withered” something that has been untouched for days and has slowly become dilapidated.

Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain;

Thy music once was sweet – who hears it now?

It just shows that there was once this idealistic tone that made the music sound like a beauty. The beauty that was before the arrival of others who wanted to take control of them. They started to feel as if lost by the oppressor and stopped practicing their ideals. It kind of highlights the importance of culture before the arrival of the oppressor. They have their ideals that many people find foreign and different.

Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain;

Thy music once was sweet – who hears it now?

Why doth the breeze sigh over thee in vain?

Their culture has been lost and all they can do is adapt to the ways that the settler have brought up to them in order to assimilate. There is nothing left to do but allow themselves to go and strip their identities into that which others are forcing them into. They will become like the oppressor in the sense that they are no longer who they said they were.

Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain;

Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,

Like ruined monument on desert plain:

The “neglected” and “mute” help to highlight the stop the Indian people were unable to regain their lost identity. Instead they are being slowly trained and kept away from the truth that they told themselves. They were saved and transitioned into that type of salvation however they knew they were being brought to ruin. They were starting to become nothing but shells of the things they are trying to contain.

-Alexis Blanco


Irish Harp as a Poetic Burden

Thomas Moore’s poem, “Dear Harp of my Country” sways between being proud of being Irish, but also nostalgic or melancholy for the situation the country is in. Thomas Moore tells in line two about the “cold chain of silence” that burdened the titular harp. In the same stanza, Moore talks about his own “Island Harp” as if to say the harp and his country are one in the same. The harp has taken on this epistemological identity of Irishness and with it, one can then relate the sound it makes to the connotation of the country of Ireland. Ironically, “the cold chain of silence” could be a clear indication of the English colonization that may have stripped the epistemology away from the Irish. This is where the nostalgia is evident because it seems to be lamenting over a time when Irishness was more solidified. To be under the thumb of England affected Ireland on a political level, but also on the level of intrahistory–that is, on a personal level, Irish people became subjected to being second class citizens in their own native home.

The Heart of the Harp

The harp represents not only the musical prowess of Irish people but also their identity as a whole. The undying perseverance and courageous spirit of Ireland can be heard from the resonating melodies of the stringed instrument. The prominence of the harp is eminently displayed to characterize and emphasize the heart of the Irish people amongst the bitter discord between the Irish and the English people. England’s imperialistic disposition met fierce resistance against the disapproval of cultural and national unity of two starkly different national identities. The battle for independence was not only tainted and defined by bloodshed but also within political-addressing literature, specifically poetry.

Sydney Owenson embodied the spirit of the Irish and invigorated a movement against oppression in The Lay of an Irish Harp. As she discusses of the agony her people faced in the daunting aggression of the Act of Union of 1801, she dismissed the benefit of solidarity from being involved with the United Kingdom. Sydney remarks of how Ireland suffers from English involvement, and that oppression caused reminisence “That bask’d in Erin’s brighter day”.

‘Tis said opression taught the lay

To him–(of all the “sons of song”

That bask’d in Erin’s brighter day

The last of inspri’d throng;

Owenson reminds readers of the fallen souls that fought against English oppression, to unite her people, and to distinguish the separation of the two cultures.

‘Twas at some patriot hero’s tomb,

Or on the drear heath where he fell.

Towards the end of her inspiring rhetoric, Owenson continues to make a call to the Irish nation, and insists on the independence of the Ireland to the rest of the world.

For still he sung the ills that flow
From dire oppression’s ruthless fang,
And deepen’d every patriot woe,
And sharpen’d every patriot pang.

The harp possesses a power beyond auditory pleasure. Sydney Owenson sentimentalized the Irish harp and disseminated the heart of the Irish people for those interested in the plight of Ireland. She rallied her fellow Irish, and voiced the anguish and perseverance of her people in her poem The Lay of an Irish Harp. Owenson expresses the value of culture, interlaced with notions of femininity at a time of prominent strife. Her rhetoric would continue on to inspire not only the Irish, but of people all around the world.

Thomas Pham

“Silence is not Golden”

The poem “The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls” written by Thomas Moore evokes emotional appeal as it personifies the harp -giving it human attributes- specifically that of Ireland’s.

Referring to the Ireland’s nationalism, Moore, on the third line of the first stanza, says:

“Now hangs as mute on Tara’s walls.”

The use of the word mute, technically meaning silent, is making reference to Ireland’s inability to express cultural pride any longer.  During a time when the Irish people were under oppression by British society, it makes sense that their culture evolution would be in a state of non-progression, “as if that soul were fled” (first stanza, line 4).

Moore, so far, in the poem, has extended the Irish history, setting the tone of grief and loss.

According to: “Harp Spectrum’s: Exploring the World -’Ireland’s Harp: A Story of Survival and the Shaping of Irish Identity,’” the history behind the harp is a “story of a fight to survive…”

That fight is in regards to the Irish crucially attempting to hold on to their identities as they were forced to assimilate into the British government.  

First stanza, lines 5 and 6, “So sleeps the pride of former days/so glory’s thrill is o’er” truly indicates the depression the Irish were feeling. While the poem is using sleep as a metaphor to indicate that there is no longer any pride, and “glory,” it could also be taken literally as sleep is a common reaction to feeling sad, or with lack of hope.  

Moore, moves through the poem, as if moving through the body of the Irish, mentioning the word “heart,” stating that there is “pulse no more”(first stanza, line 8) and “the only throb she gives/is when some heart indignant breaks/to show that she still lives”(second stanza, lines 6-8).  This heart that Moore speaks of is the Heart of the Irish, alluding to the notion that, despite their state of oppression, and that their pride may have been in a state of slumber, there is still hope that lies within the beat of their harp.

-Maricela (Marcy) Martinez

A Harp of Culture

Thomas Moore writes his poem “The Harp of my Country” is written with his patriotism fully present in a poem dedicated to his home country of Ireland. He uses the Harp as a tool throughout his work to represent Ireland as a country and as a cultural symbol. In doing this he represents Ireland’s rebellion and struggle for its loss of power after the passing of the Act of the Union.

Moore uses personification and diction of the Harp in the title and very first line where he addresses it calling it of his country giving it power and importance. He goes on to say in the next to lines of the stanza how “The cold chain of silence had hung o’er thee long,” and how he proudly unchains his “own Island Harp” (Moore, 2-3). The harp, being used for centuries in ireland in religious ceremonies very important to the irish people, holds strong roots in irish culture.  The harp is being used for its culture meaning to the Irish as it remained important and synonymous with Ireland. Thomas Moore is referring to the religious oppression faced by the Irish and culminating in the rebellion. The harp is referred to as being bound by ‘silence’ a contradiction of what a Harp is meant to do. Ireland was unable to fully represent and rule itself with the British parliament denying them right of religious representation in their government. In a country inhabited primarily by Catholics, the restrictions on Catholics in the government denied the majority of the countries people’s representation. Moore also refers to his own harp which represents the inner patriotism he posses. When awakening the harp of the country it in turn allowed the country to fully find itself and act on the silence.

The fourth stanza in the poem takes a turn from admiring the harp to a more somber tone where Moore bids the harp farewell. He says “Dear Harp of my Country! farewell to thy numbers,/ This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twine!” (Moore, 9-10). He’s acknowledging at this point the merger of the two countries upon the Act of Union. The harp that has been declared a symbol of the country of Ireland is playing its last song. In the coming together of the two countries the harp, or the country of ireland and its culture, is once again sealed up and silent. The people of Ireland were ready to gain their voice or music from the harp but it was quickly taken away.


-Noel Nevarez

The Sound of Life

As we’ve looked at the history of the harp, it has been an influence not only musically but  has also made an impact in the political world. As stated in its history “The harp was employed as a symbol of English rule in Ireland”, which makes me perceive it as an intruder. The harp ultimately was forced on the Irish by those who weren’t Irish. It is represented as a western intrusion.

There is the same concept illustrated in The Harp Of India, now it can be easy to dismiss  this as having no relation to the Irish community, yet it still resonates with it. In just the title, India is the location the poem is directed towards. India is by far very cultured centered, the foods, the spices, the oils, and so forth is under attack from a foreign nation.

“Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,

Like ruined monument on desert plain:”

India is described as being treated from a “neglected”, “mute”, and “desolate” harp.  The harp no longer has its sweet melodies but rather has its “mute” sound, a sound that no longer moves those who hear it. The harp is the corruption brought into the nation, where those who are near its sound will be corrupted by it.

The harp is political. It is the westernization of a nation. Just as the British did to the Irish Nation.


-Viviana Ojeda


Hopeful Harps

The association of the harp with Irish history bares the mark of a strong identity. The harp was once used to mark social status, or rather a high social rank, and was the tool used in comparing the pain Ireland faced from being colonized. The harp creates an easy comparison to the darkness the Irish faced and the beauty that came from making such sweet music. In Henry Derozio’s poem, “The Harp of India”, the harp’s importance is used to portray how England’s colonization drastically affects the way the harp was used.

For example the lines,  “Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain; / Thy music once was sweet — who hears it now?” can be used to link Ireland’s inability to have belonging in England’s colonies. Times prior to being colonized, life was This is further supported with the lines, “Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain; / Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,”. These lines mimic the Harp of Erin painting we looked at in discussion. A painting of a woman who cannot speak, and even if she could, she is chained to a place where no one could hear her.

However, what I do find interesting is the last lines tone of hope, “but if thy notes divine May be by mortal wakened once again, / Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!” The narrator creates this notion that the harp’s presence, regardless of the problems outside of the instrument, is enough to create hope in one person.

  • Elizabeth Dominguez