Harping in India


The significance of the harp contains a duality within itself. On one hand, it is a symbol of aristocracy and Refined taste. However, in writing about it as something that acts as a savior from barbaric costumes or a molder of status, the poem becomes a harp, a verb meaning that this is a long rant to defeat the ignorant understanding of their nations people. In Henry Derozio`s poem, “The Harp of India” he highlights the turmoil of a colonized nation without a voice. Like Ireland, “after the conquest of the country by the Normans, identified the skill of the Irish harpers as the sole redeeming characteristic of an otherwise barbaric race.” This poem gives a voice to India, as the poem reverses the harps meaning of creating a higher class individual from a barbarous culture, to showing how their beautiful culture had been destroyed. In this viewpoint, Derozio is sharing the view of the colonized public. He is expressing how they have been wronged by people who thought that taking over their land would make things better.

The poem seems to personify England colonization of a fatal mistress of some kind. In the line “Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain” silence is portrayed as the aforementioned sinister entity, however, it is clear that this silenced is caused by the imperialist tendencies of England. India is bound by this colonization and they have no choice but to adapt to their conquerors language. Thus, the song of the harp is silenced by the boundaries set by the English. The poem serves as a harp to bear the speakers grievances with the overtaking of their land but also an ode to the beauty that once occupied the region when the speaker says “Once thy harmonious chords to sweetness gave.” Considering the political cartoons that we have examined in the past, many people pictured unconquered and exotic lands pure and beautiful, although still considering its residents barbaric. However, colonialist viewed the land as a vessel of untapped potential, where they can help through technological advancement. Of course pollution, war and politics was the result of this, leaving the residents poor, sick and miserable. The land is from then on, marked as one with the delusion of liberty in a desolate land. The real freedom, in fact comes from the joy that was once there, existing in the natural beauty of the land and its people.

Therefore, overall the poem spears to be a way for the author to let the public know that the harp, as a symbol of aristocracy or high class, is not representative of the colonized nation. It is not the colonizers that allow the nations beauty to shine through and, in a sense, polish the harps bow. It is in fact, the pure and untainted beauty of the land and its people that deserves to be represented by the harp. It is the natural radiance of the land that allows the song to flow joyously. It is only when the land is taken over and turned into an industrial waste land where the native people are chained to this belief that this English standard of beauty and correctness, which is what the harp seems to represent for the colonist, is when the strings are plucked from the bow and the music ceases.

-Kamani Morrow


One thought on “Harping in India

  1. I think the most original part of this post was the personification of silence and the focusing on that in your blog post. I think as an improvement I would like to see more on the boundaries set by the english. Was there really a law against harp playing?


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