India’s Harp

The poem “The Harp of India” by Henry Derozio blooms the theme of post colonization in India. When I first read this poem it was about a harp that has been left silenced.

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


Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,

Like ruined monument on desert plain:”

I feel that Derozio is metaphorically symbolizing the condition of India during the British rule. The condition of the harp is the state that India is in during England’s influence. I find it interesting that Derozio used the harp to make this comparison, maybe as a way to incorporate his origins of India and Portugal.


One interesting thing to point out is the rhyme scheme chosen. The poem is a sonnet with rhyme scheme of the following pattern ‘a-b-a-b-b-a-b-c-d-c-b-b’. The use of an unconventional rhyme scheme portrays a sort of rebellion. Even though India was under British oppression, Derozio has pride in his heritage and background, part of it being from a country that protest for their freedom.

There is also a slight shift in tone from the first half of the poem to the second half. The first half makes a statement that ‘there is nothing’ and ‘everything is silent/ gone’ whereas the second half is more about ‘there is hope to bring things back to life’.

First half

“Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain;

Why doth the breeze sigh over thee in vain?

Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain;”


Second half

“O! many a hand more worthy far than mine

Once thy harmonious chords to sweetness gave,


Of flowers still blooming on the minstrel’s grave:”

Derozio’s portrayal of the harp “silenced and muted” parallels with the weakened political power of his country over the British rule, the loss of native culture by colonialism. But in the second half he is trying to reinstate the belief in the Indians, by implying that this is something they can overcome.

-Ravneet Dhillon


One thought on “India’s Harp

  1. I think the most original part of this post was its close reading of the poem (looking at rhyme scheme, etc.). I think as an improvement I would like to see more about the condition of india in the close reading you did. What is he really saying is happening to the country?


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