Dear Healing Harp of my Country

Thomas Moore’s Dear Harp of My Country carries a theme of healing throughout. Given via lecture and discussion that the harp itself is a symbol of Irish/Scottish/Celtic/Gaelic nationalism, Dear Harp of My Country can be read as an extended metaphor for rediscovering Irish pride and healing the Irish people through that same rediscovery.

Dear Harp of My Country begins with the lines:

“DEAR Harp of my Country! in darkness I found thee,

The cold chain of silence had hung o’er thee long,”

In so doing the poem brings immediately a sense of pain and suffering to the poem by using such phrases as, “darkness,” and  “cold chain of silence.” This contrasts strongly against the final pair of lines:

“I was but as the wind, passing heedlessly over,

And all the wild sweetness I wak’d was thy own.”

Following the thought-thread that the harp is a symbol of Irish pride, or in this case perhaps even the northern islands themselves, it seems as though the darkness and binding in the beginning of the poem has been healed, contrasting the “chains” of the beginning and the “wild sweetness,” brought upon by the newly freed harp.

So, this is where this interpretation becomes quite personal.

I once dated a harpist. She spoke extensively of the healing and therapeutic properties of the harp, and how the harp has been classically hailed as an instrument of healing. She even went so far as to become involved in a project to use the harp to heal the California redwoods.

Now, then, with these two concurrent thought strings, one of the harp as a symbol of Ireland and another with the harp as a symbol of healing, I see this poem as a rediscovery of two things. Firstly, the rediscovery and freeing of the harp is a rediscovery of Irish pride. Secondly, the rediscovery and freeing of the harp is a rediscovery of the power of healing.

This is a poem of healing, in more ways than one.

-Ross Koppel


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