In “The Harp of India”, Henry Derozio uses the cultural history of the harp to convey how England has conquered India. However, I find it interesting that he chooses to use the symbol of the harp which is considered to be Irish, rather than using a well known Indian instrument. It seems that Derozio knows how to speak to his audience in a manner that allows others to sympathize and understand what they [India] are going through. Here, Derozio is targeting Ireland and is attempting to gain the solidarity of other nations going through the same thing by writing in English that has permeated other nations as well. For instance, with British imperialism, there is also the imperialism of language. In India the English language was being taught as a prestigious language. Even Derozio himself taught English. So who is to say that the same wouldn’t happen to Ireland.
In his poem, Derozio makes his poem vague enough that others who are suffering from British conquest can sympathize and read this as if it was meant for them. He is garnering sympathy from others, specifically Ireland, just by using the image of the harp in his poem. We can see vagueness of Derozio’s poem that is applicable to others in the last line where the speaker says, “Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!” (Derozio). Here, Derozio does not say, “Harp of India”, he specifically uses “my country”, which gives the reader the opportunity to think about their own country. But, by naming it “Harp of India”, Derozio reminds the reader that India too is a victim of British imperialism. India alone can’t overcome British imperialism, but maybe Ireland and India can?
Furthermore, if we take the title away, I feel that we could have easily concluded that this poem was written by an Irish writer, phrases such as ” thy music once was sweet-who hears it now?” seems to be applicable to the Irish. As we discusses in class, the harp was considered to be a prestigious instrument and after unification, many harpist were left without patrons and thus had to look for new ones.