In discussing the Irish Rebellion and the Union act that followed, we were shown this image: So England is represented by a lion and Ireland is represented by a harp. The very first time I saw the image I couldn’t help but think England gets a lion… a freaking lion and all Ireland gets is a harp? But then I started thinking about what those two symbols really represent and I decided I would go with the harp over the lion any day.
Lions are not exactly peaceful animals. It ‘s not like you can walk up to one and pet it (people have tried and it hasn’t worked out very well). The lion symbolizes strength but also dominance. Lions are considered king of the jungle afterall. I’m not sure that a lion is such a great symbol, they are fierce and strong but they represent force and brute strength. In other words it might symbolize England as the bully of Europe, colonizing and conquering.
Ireland on the other hand is symbolized by the harp. The harp represents language and music and bueaty. Harps were often used to sing ballads that were political or historical (often both). Thus the harp celebrates the power of language and music, it promotes harmony and peace. In times of strife the harp is used to embody Ireland and the poems speak of the loss of this symbol, the loss of language and culture and freedom. In Thomas Moore’s “Dear Harp of my Country” he writes, “Dear Harp of my country! Farewell to thy numbers,/ This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twin!/” When their Rebellion failed and Ireland was forced into a union many people Spoke out and the harp was a simple for Ireland in paintings, poems and songs.
The harp represents beauty, language, and music, it seems to be a pretty peaceful symbol. On the other hand the lion could never be considered a symbol for peace. I found one more picture on line that I found interesting: An angelic harper who is part of the harp and lions all around. The lions look hungry and as if they are ready to attack. Where as the harper had angle wings and is one with the harp, this speaks to the idea of the harp peaceful symbol and the lion being one of war. So for me, if it were a choice between a lion or a harp, I’d go with the harp.