The harp represents not only the musical prowess of Irish people but also their identity as a whole. The undying perseverance and courageous spirit of Ireland can be heard from the resonating melodies of the stringed instrument. The prominence of the harp is eminently displayed to characterize and emphasize the heart of the Irish people amongst the bitter discord between the Irish and the English people. England’s imperialistic disposition met fierce resistance against the disapproval of cultural and national unity of two starkly different national identities. The battle for independence was not only tainted and defined by bloodshed but also within political-addressing literature, specifically poetry.
Sydney Owenson embodied the spirit of the Irish and invigorated a movement against oppression in The Lay of an Irish Harp. As she discusses of the agony her people faced in the daunting aggression of the Act of Union of 1801, she dismissed the benefit of solidarity from being involved with the United Kingdom. Sydney remarks of how Ireland suffers from English involvement, and that oppression caused reminisence “That bask’d in Erin’s brighter day”.
‘Tis said opression taught the lay
To him–(of all the “sons of song”
That bask’d in Erin’s brighter day
The last of inspri’d throng;
Owenson reminds readers of the fallen souls that fought against English oppression, to unite her people, and to distinguish the separation of the two cultures.
‘Twas at some patriot hero’s tomb,
Or on the drear heath where he fell.
Towards the end of her inspiring rhetoric, Owenson continues to make a call to the Irish nation, and insists on the independence of the Ireland to the rest of the world.
For still he sung the ills that flow
From dire oppression’s ruthless fang,
And deepen’d every patriot woe,
And sharpen’d every patriot pang.
The harp possesses a power beyond auditory pleasure. Sydney Owenson sentimentalized the Irish harp and disseminated the heart of the Irish people for those interested in the plight of Ireland. She rallied her fellow Irish, and voiced the anguish and perseverance of her people in her poem The Lay of an Irish Harp. Owenson expresses the value of culture, interlaced with notions of femininity at a time of prominent strife. Her rhetoric would continue on to inspire not only the Irish, but of people all around the world.