The following sonnet “The Harp of India” by Henry Derozio illustrates a particular cultural significance between the harp and his Indian homeland. The harp itself has been previously associated with Ireland’s culture, but in this following sonnet, the poet utilizes the harp to tell of his hybrid experience living as an Indian and British during a time India lost its ownership to British ruling. The poet although, living within the in-between experience, mourns a loss greater than life. His words bring emotions of nostalgia and grief:
“Why hang’st thou lonely on yon withered bough?
Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain;
Thy music once was sweet — who hears it now?(Derozio,1923)”
The poet describes a loss of sweet music and infers a particular loneliness experienced while just listening. Music is a symbol in itself as it symbolizes harmony and balance within our spirits. Music heals our spirit and brings divine alignment especially when it is played from instruments such as a piano or a harp. These instruments hold purity and divinity, that is why they are incorporated in the churches we know today. The harp was also honored by Alexander the Great and by many other cultures. When the poet says “Thy music once was sweet…” honors a change that occurred that caused the music to stop sounding so sweet. These illustrations reflect a loss of pure hearts left to listen. India’s loss to British ruling affected the energy of the land, causing the poet to mourn and grieve the colonization of India’s land and their original culture. The poet ends the sonnet with:
“Those hands are cold — but if thy notes divine
May be by mortal wakened once again,
Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!(Derozio, 1923)”
The poet hopes that the notes will sound divine again, “Harp of my country… strike the strain”. This language illustrates the poet as the alchemist. Henry introduces the emotion of hope and faith to meet his current state of grief and loss. “Harp of my country” infers he is proud of his Indian homeland and wishes to restore its purity.
- Brianna Barajas