Harping on Symbolism

To Thomas Moore, the Irish symbol of the harp represented more than just nationalism and “Irishness”; to Moore, the harp was representative of hope, of hard work, of transcendence.

It is obvious that the symbol of the harp in Dear Harp of my Country is very close to the author’s heart; a sentiment made overtly apparent as the first two words of the title are literally “Dear Harp”. Throughout the course of the poem, Moore describes the harp as if it is some lost artifact, unearthed by him and ready to be handed down to “some hand less unworthy than mine”. This near-legendary status that the harp has been elevated to speaks volumes of Moore’s devotion to his country: the harp seems to be a source of pride and power, a deep sense of nationalism and ethics that Moore wields as a weapon (or, more fittingly, an instrument) against the evils of idleness and embitterment that plague those surrounding him.

Moreover, the poem concludes with Moore seeming to credit all of the “wild sweetness” that he describes in the middle portion of the poem to the harp. This cements the symbol of the harp as a literal instrument against melancholy and chaos, wielded by only those who are willing to put forth a great effort for themselves and their country.

-Shawn Pintor-Day

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