Thomas Moore’s “Dear Harp of my Country” laments the English’s control over Ireland by paralleling it with the decline in prominence of the Irish harp. Starting in the eighteenth century, the “Irish harp tradition was increasingly regarded as a dying tradition” (O’ Donnell 1). Thus, when Moore says “farewell to thy [the harp] numbers/ This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twine” (Moore 146.10-1), he is speaking in literal terms and hints at the slow demise of the Irish harp as the number of harpers decreases. However, this is also a comment on the state of the Irish at the time that were being subjugated to English rule, considering that the harp is a prominent symbol of Irish nationalism. With the decline of the harp, whose songs maintain the pulse of the Irish, also comes the deterioration of the Irish people.
Moore seems to equate the harp with a beating heart that sustains life. When he declares, “Dear Harp of my Country! in darkness I found thee” (Moore 145.1), he does not just refer to the physical harp but also the sounds of the instrument, which is representative of the voices of his countrymen. Just as the soft music of the harp would be able direct Moore in literal darkness, the sound also helps him and his people persist through the gloom English conquest has brought onto their land. Moore goes on to further elevate the harp by saying, “If the pulse of the patriot, soldier, or lover,/ Have throbb’d at our lay, ‘tis thy glory alone;/ I was but as the wind, passing heedlessly over,/ And all the wild sweetness I wak’d was thy own (156. 14-7). The determination of “the patriot, soldier, or lover” do not occur naturally, neither are these people what create the “wild sweetness” of the harp strums or preserve Ireland. It is the empowerment the Irish receive from the harp, which holds powerful associations, that keeps their nationalism and hope for a better Ireland alive. If the harping tradition is silenced, the Irish will lose a major remnant of an old Ireland, separate from Great Britain, and will not have the strength to fight for the autonomy of their country.