Striking the Right Chords: Irish Harp

The Irish harp is a symbol of hope, strength, and good ol’ perseverance. To Thomas Moore, it stood for all of that and more. For centuries, the harp stood as a beacon and homage to a proud and independent people. Though it faced treacherous times and eras of doubt and waning appreciation, the Irish harp emerged victorious through history’s cruel evolution. Every line of Moore’s poem is dripping with an undying loyalty to the harp’s image of freedom and beauty. The fondness of his words bring up the memories of an instrument strung into history much like its own wired cords. The harp was Ireland’s ode to patriotism. It was a source of power and dignity, even in the darkest times when the tradition seemed to be lost.

Though the harp died out for some time in the 17th Century, its prestige returned with a bang. In the time of sorrow, Moore wrote:

Dear Harp of my Country! farewell to thy numbers

This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twine,

Go, sleep with the sunshine of Fame on thy slumbers,

Till touch’d by some hand less unworthy than mine.

It was this sentiment that made the revival possible. The mid-late 19th century brought back the harp with a new sense of pride. The harpists, now fighting for tradition and life of the instrument as a whole, were self-taught and prepared to tackle the slim odds, even if their craft was a dying sentiment. Still, it is clear that much like Moore wrote about the gentry and unbound spirit of the harp, it is clear that it remains an icon and symbol for freedom to this day. This symbol of nationalism brought a spark of power and strength in the time of its prime and reignited a powerful source of nostalgia and tradition during its revival. Next to the humble potato, the harp icon is one of the most recognized symbols of Irish culture, represented in the fine arts and paintings and even as the logo for their signature beer.

-Asia Reyna

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