Henry Derozio’s Symbol of Freedom: The Harp of Ireland and India

Serving as a symbol of freedom and a representation of life before British rule, Henry Derozio draws a connection between Ireland and India in his poem, The Harp of India. The poem presents British rule of India in a negative fashion due to a repression of Indian art and culture through its imagery of the harp. With the British in control, the poem presents the harp as lonely and unstrung, saying that, “Thy music once was sweet – who hears it now?” (3) and indicating that not only are Indian art forms not being taught and passed on, but that people are forgetting what they were. While the poem does lament the loss of culture due to the British, part of the poem could be interpreted as being critical of the Indians for not doing more to resist British rule and for not fighting for their culture when the poem says, “Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain; Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,” (5, 6). The poem presents the authors hope that one day other people will restore and play the harp again in a metaphorical sense by restoring Indian art and culture.

Similarly to other Irish poems about the harp, Derozio represents culture through the harp, writing about how its beautiful sounds were silenced and the loss that has occurred as a result. There is however a hope, just like many other writers, that freedom will be obtained one day and they will no longer have to remain silent to practice their culture and present its art. The harp may be a symbol of Irish culture and a free Irish state, but Derozio’s poem works to transform the harp into a larger symbol of independence and freedom for those under foreign rule. Though this poem may be referring to India and its loss, the lack of direct mention outside of the title means that the words of the poem could be applicable to other lands such as Ireland or anyone else who has seen a loss of their culture due to the rule of another.

-Ryan Bucher

9 thoughts on “Henry Derozio’s Symbol of Freedom: The Harp of Ireland and India

  1. I chose this poem as well, but I did not think of it this way. You are right, India could have done more to resist British rule. They could have done so by keeping their culture’s art alive. However, we must also think about how hard and scary it could have been for the Indians to keep their culture alive in fear of getting caught and reprimanded by the British.


  2. I really like how your blog post goes into the ‘why?’ of the history instead of stopping short of the ‘what’. A lot of posts seem to be really good about saying what the harp represents but fail to mention why it is actually important. Your use of quotes truly helps the clarity of the post. It’s interesting to see how both India and Ireland use the harp as a powerful symbol despite the delicate nature of the instrument. Really good job capturing it.


  3. I believe the main thesis is the use of the harp as a symbolization of independence and freedom. Those that are being ruled are losing their culture and having hope to get their culture back is the harp that is being symbolized. The only improvement I would make is trying to make the thesis more clear, there is a lot of interpretations going on.


  4. The thesis in this post seems to be that Derozio in “The Harp of India” is attempting to change the harp from being simply a symbol of Ireland into a symbol of freedom, particularly from the British. Not only does the author interpret the poem, he also goes into why Derozio chooses to use the harp as a symbol for Indian freedom. This post could be improved by expanding on how India is being affected by the British and how this poem will be taken by its international audience.


  5. While looking at this post I enjoyed reading and seeing the use of quotes. Not only that but to see how the main thesis is actually focused and locked in on the reason as to which why the harp served an important role shows the writer’s was tuned in on the finer part details that perhaps some of us missed on the first read. Although the thesis is clear it could be clearer as it is surrounded by quotes and the interpretations.


  6. I loved the author’s provision of quotations to support her argument. The most original point of the post is the author’s examination of the representation of the harp and its meaning to the Indian state. However, my advice would be to elaborate on your thesis because there is an abundance of intellectual interpretations.

    – Hongxi Su


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