“Dear Harp of my Country” A Short Story Rendition

One day, Thomas Moore, a young Irishman, is crossing the marshes of his homeland when he comes across a copse of English elm trees. Entering the small forest, Thomas is immediately struck by the absolute silence and impenetrable darkness of the place. After stumbling his way through the first of the trees, he beholds a faint light behind a very large tree ahead of him. As young Tom approaches the light, he sees a chain wrapped tightly around the tree, and trapped by the chain is an old Irish harp. Though ages have passed since the shining harp was tied there, it remains beautiful, and Tom feels that if he could only free it from the chain, the most enchanting music in the world may come from the instrument. Kneeling down before the tree, Tom puts his hands on the chain, intending to break that which keeps the harp silent. As soon as he pulls the chain, the harp begins to shine brighter and brighter. Forced to close his eyes, Tom looks away. After a moment, he hears a lilting sigh, a cross between the sound of a summer breeze and the relieved sound of a mother who has found her lost child. Opening his eyes, Tom falls to his backside as he beholds the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. With eyes as green as the Irish hills and hair that flows down her back like wheat in a field, the woman stares into Tom’s eyes.

She speaks with the voice of a melody, “What is your name?”

The normally timid man feels unnatural strength within him as he looks at the woman, and replies firmly, “Thomas Moore ma’am, although most call me Tom.”

“I am Iré, daughter of Erin,” she replies, “Are you here to help me?”

Rising from his place on the ground, Tom realizes that this lady, Iré, is more disheveled than at first he perceived. Her dress, many years out of style, is covered in mud, and her hair is full of tangles and twigs. Feeling the strength of his own loneliness and the certainty that he is somehow connected to this woman, Tom responds,

“If you think I may be of some service, ask me for anything and I will deliver it to you, my lady Iré. My home is not far from this place. You are more than welcome to come refresh yourself there.”

With true excitement and gratitude in her voice, Ireland simply states, “Thank you Tom. I would love to see your home.”

This first meeting between Tom and the Irish harp-turned woman Iré sparked a joy within Tom that he could not understand. Whenever he was around the lady, he felt at home. After some time together, they journeyed together throughout the country of Ireland to make music and spread joy. Ireland’s voice when raised in song made all who heard her lose all of their worries, but something was always a little off when they performed. Tom did everything he could to complement the lovely Iré in their music, but he was never as skilled as she was, and no matter how beautiful their songs were, he knew that he wasn’t the right person to be Iré’s partner. She radiated happiness, but like the country she reflected, the despair of how long she was shackled to that English tree always peeked through her smiles and songs.

After making his decision, Tom tearfully turns to Iré one day while they are at home. He sings to her, “My one true love, dear Iré, you know I’ll always be true.

And this last song we weave as one will mark my love for you.

To sleep you must go now,

back to those trees, and you

must wait for one who will save you

From the tears you’ve shed anew.”

Iré joins in the song,

“The time for sleep has come to us,

oh Iré you must go.

But look for one whose song is right

for freedom you shall know.”

As the embodiment of Ireland returns to her tree, her shackles are gone, but still the English elm stands tall above her, and she knows that it will still be a long time before her music will be heard again. Tom leaves the place with the wind, and the harp again sits waiting for a lover, a soldier, or a patriot to set her song free forever.

Review:

Thomas Moore’s original “Dear Harp of my Country” is a short poem composed of moving lines about the suppression of the Irish. Speaking to the Irish harp, a symbol of Ireland and its people, Moore uses beautiful phrases that he would perform as a song to make the plight of his nation known. This short story rendition transforms the Irish harp into a woman embodiment of Ireland. The lyrical lines are gone, but in their place is a simple tale the likes of which a novel or a movie would contain. For a modern audience, such a story is better understood and more likely to spread than a poem. Using the character of the original author brings attention to the era the story addresses, and having the character Iré and Thomas Moore perform together connects the story to the reality of what Moore presented with his poem. The Irish harp indeed was a focus at the time of the poem’s publication, and its unpopularity was seen as a mark of sadness connected to English influences. Having the Irish harp/woman shackled to an English elm tree also brings this connection to light in the short story. The story is quick paced, resembling the original poem in the needless manner it addresses plot. There is no need to add superfluous scenes or nuances in the story because everyone at the time the poem was published would make the necessary connections. For a modern audience at all familiar with European history as well, added context is unnecessary to understand how the Irish perspective is presented in this story. The change in medium from a poem to a short story makes the presentation of this tale more modern, but music is still a present force in the final lines of the story. Moore’s poem begins Part II by calling the poem itself the last song woven by the narrator and the harp; likewise, this rendition calls to a final song before the harp goes to sleep again. The elements of the original “Dear Harp of my Country” are present in this short story, with the simplistic writing of the rendition adding to its ability to connect with a present-day audience.

-Meredith Leonardo

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Dear Ireland, You are Greatly Missed

Thomas Moore’s “Dear Harp of my Country” illustrates the feelings of loss, patriotism, and repression connected with Ireland and the Irish harp. The very first line, just the title repeated with an exclamation point followed by “in darkness I found thee,” conveys these feelings. The exclamation of those words convey both surprise and excitement that the harp still exists, but the reference to “darkness” reveals that Ireland and its harp have been repressed, with the spotlight of their people on things other than their beloved harp. This reflects the fact that after Ireland had been defeated by the Danes and then the English, many harpists had abandoned their home, and those who were left were very few. To find the Irish harp after its depressing history brings the narrator feelings of patriotism and joy that such a symbol of Ireland does yet exist. Similarly, in the second half of Part I., the narrator tells that the harp has played so many hymns of sadness that even in its joyful tunes the sadness rings through. This is how the Irish think about the harp. It is a symbol of their people, but harpists and Irishmen have suffered so much and had so much sadness to sing of that their past cannot be forgotten no matter how happy they are. Part II. shows how true these things are by relaying that the narrator must put away the harp with the hope that one day someone who can do it justice will find it again. The harp went in and out of style for hundreds of years after Ireland was defeated, and it was well known that the attempts to revive its popularity felt more like the last concerts that would ever be played with the instrument. The narrator’s own fervor for the instrument cannot keep him playing it. As he says in the final line, “all the sweetness I wak’d was thy own.” The artistry with which harpists of Ireland’s past played was legendary, but since that time, the beauty of the instrument had been overshadowed by the lack of interest in playing it. Ireland is a reflection of its harp since its defeat. Irish citizens were being overlooked by the rest of the world, and their own culture was being lost to that of England and the rest of Great Britain. “Dear Harp of my Country” is an homage to Ireland’s lost autonomy, a tribute that had been often sung before but lost to the dominion of England.

-Meredith Leonardo

Sacramento, 2019, A Rendition of Blake’s “London”

I walk along each bustling lane
Past Old Town and the Capitol
And watch the faces show disdain
Watch the beggars, watch the souls

In all the looks of people see
In all the eyes that cast away
In all the tones: in all the fears
The thoughts of poverty do stay

How the broken poor do long
All the world misunderstands,
And aid workers sing their song
For shelter they get just bans

But more I hear the protests boom
How offence has come to cry
About the woes of freedom
And scorns the lowly’s right to try


-Meredith Leonardo

A Variety and Similarity

The poem “The Thorn” by Wordsworth speaks of a secluded mountain area to which a lonely maiden goes at all times of day. Caspar David Friedrich’s “The Monk by the Sea” illustrates a scene similar to the one in the poem. Although the scene in this painting is lonesome, it’s beauty is clear. The sea, the fog, and the sky above speak to the audience of the vastness and beauty of the world. The lines “As if by hand of lady fair The work had woven been” present the same beauty in the poem’s mountain scene, and allude to the lone woman who visits the site. Despite all the beautiful colors and formations to be seen on the mountain, Martha Ray goes there to mourn. The monk in the painting, though not clearly mourning, is a serious figure. Far from blending into her environment as the monk does, however, Martha’s intentions are clear, as is her figure on the mountain. The scarlet cloak she wears and the drooping thorn she sits upon represent the blood and sadness of her situation. Her child, born alive or dead, is with her no longer, and Martha Ray can do nothing but cry out into the world, “O misery! O misery!” She is a single figure in a vast world, as the monk in the painting. Both present a mystery to the viewer. Why do these solitary beings seek out their own vast settings? The poem gives an answer that matches the dreary coloring of the painting. Death and abandonment have taken over Martha’s life for the past twenty two years, turning her from a “blithe and gay” young woman to one mad with grief. Perhaps she killed her baby, but perhaps not. Her setting, as that of the monk, is not one that bothers with such questions as why or what. Looking at the world, and appreciating the tree, the thorn, the pond, and the mound like a child’s grave is a simple reply to the rumors about Martha Ray. This poem, like the lonesome painting, can be read with a sadness, but it can also be seen as presenting a beautiful landscape. The purposes for nature are boundless, as are the ways to interpret a poem or a painting. The questions “The Thorn” and “The Monk by the Sea” leave in their audience’s minds will never be answered, but that is the point of art in the first place. Leaving the reader wondering and filled with a variety of emotions is a similarity these two works have. Those emotions and questions are so common in Romantic art, but nonetheless manage take hold of me whenever I witness them.

-Meredith Leonardo

Not Romanticizing the Maiden

Iron Maiden’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is but a rendition of Coleridge’s poem of the same name. The Romantic essence presented in the original poem is convoluted, if not lost completely, in the heavy metal rendition. Iron Maiden tells the story of the mariner using their characteristic metal music, full of the sounds of electric guitars and screaming. These additions to the story of the mariner take great liberties with Coleridge’s poem. When looking at art of the Romantic era, particularly poems such as those found in the Lyrical Ballads, Romanticism is presented in a relaxing form of phrases and images. Though the subjects may be quite Gothic and macabre indeed, truly terrifying images like those found in the demons presented in the music video for this song are not seen. The connection with nature found in Romantic poetry and art brings a much more realistic and peaceful articulation of tragedy than Iron Maiden does with this piece. Looking at Coleridge’s poem, the reader is brought back from the mariner’s story at multiple points to the present scene with the wedding guest. This generally happens when the wedding guest confesses fear of the mariner in response to each terrifying image he adds to his story. It was not the goal of the Romantics or this poem to tell a tale of terror, rather, Romanticism is a way to bring one back to themselves. At the end of the poem, the reader witnesses the wedding guest’s change in outlook on life; it is this that Romantic poetry strives to create. Iron Maiden, on the other hand, appear to revel in the ideas of Death, Life in Death, a dead crew, and a cursed mariner. The entire song focuses on the macabre and terror. Using pictures made on a computer, detached from nature far more than paintings, and instruments that do nothing to recall the sounds heard in times of peaceful reflection, Iron Maiden is extremely different from what one would expect from an artist inspired by the Romantic period. In only one respect “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” resembles Romantic poetry, and that is in its lyrics. The goal of the poet, according to Wordsworth, is to do away with the verse and unusable language of poetry used before him. Iron Maiden’s rendition of Coleridge’s poem does not use the unclear and stuffy language favored by the author. Instead, they summarize the poem with more modern words in the way of Wordsworth.

-Meredith Leonardo

Stereotypes and Suffering

In The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, the author engages with Image #2’s anti-slavery sentiments by showing his own intelligence and religiosity as proof of the human nature of slaves. Image #2 is satirizing the ways in which those people who are pro-slavery disregard and misinterpret both the literature written on the subject of anti-slavery and the obvious fact that slavery is abuse of the worst kind on other human beings. Engaging with the stereotypes of the animalistic African slave and the hard-working British citizen, the cartoon presents an image of a downtrodden English family whose head feels like a beast having to push a plow all day(which was a common way of viewing the slaves, as beasts) and a slave family whose words are lacking finesse but who appear jovial, as do the slaves dancing in the background. The iterations of these families in the picture is to show that slaves, if given the chance of freedom, have the ability to build a happy family and be successful, more so than their owners who despair at the prospect of having to work for themselves. Equiano goes further than this cartoon by actively challenging the stereotype of the unlettered African, instead of only depicting that it exists as Image #2 does. On page 135, Equiano describes an instance in Savannah in which he was visiting a friend with a light on past nine o’clock and the patrol enters, shares drinks with them, then arrests the narrator. This story shows the abuse of African people by the law enforcers when it state that “these ruffians” beat two others they had in custody, and intended to beat Equiano, but he was saved by one who was more humane than the rest. This memory also shows how easy it was for white men with power to abuse the hospitality of Equiano and his friend, then turn against them immediately afterwards. Such a law as one that targets blacks for simply having a light on at night goes along with what the cartoon’s main speaker is saying about slaves knowing nothing of the trifling things of life. They are not permitted to relax for a moment with all of the laws pinned against them in these places. Not only does this memory present the ways in which discrimination of free and slave African takes place, it shows how ridiculous such actions are. Equiano and his companion did nothing to disrupt anyone else, and they even shared drinks and limes with the patrol, but in return they were threatened and Equiano taken away. In the same way, Image #2 shows the purest of familial relationships in the African family, but that is still degraded by the stereotype of unintelligent language.

-Meredith Leonardo

To the Dunces, From Pope

“Dropping with Infant’s blood, and Mother’s tears.

O’er ev’ry vein a shudd’ring horror runs;

Eton and Winton shake thro’ all their Sons.

All Flesh is humbled, Westminster’s bold race

Shrink, and confess the Genius of the place:

The pale Boy-Senator yet tingling stands,

And holds his breeches close with both his hands.” (Pope, The Dunciad)

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/7/7a/Pope-Alexander.png/1024px-Pope-Alexander.png

This quote from Pope’s Dunciad is a response to images like the one above; images that are slanderous, cowardly, and vulgar in their angry critiques of the author himself. Pope refers to blood dripping and tears being shed by mothers with horror at the current generation. Those who resort to lies and petty attacks, such as depictions of a satirical author as a lowly rat, with an ass for a master, are of the generation to which Pope is referring. Those who would respond to his honest criticisms with public shaming and bullying instead of taking his words with the respect and value they do those of their ancestors like Shakespeare and Milton are being addressed most plainly with these words. The English, “Westminster’s bold race,” is crumbling. They are becoming those who would shame a man for his religion, as pictured with the rat version of Pope with the papal tiara, and those who tell others to know themselves without acknowledging their own faults. It is Pope’s calling to point out the flaws of his generation, and to respond to their petty attacks on his physical disabilities and intellect with actual critiques of their cowardice and vice. The image above strengthens the understanding of the Dunciad because it gives a clear face to the kinds of things and people Pope is criticizing. He is saying that if they want to fight with him, they shouldn’t be the “pale boy-Senator” who “holds his breeches close with both hands.” Pope is an opponent who does not hide behind pictures and blatant insults like calling his rivals rats or trash. With the Dunciad, he is showing his own strength and intellect in the face of all the rude, privileged, and cowardly Englishmen who dare to challenge him.

-Meredith Leonardo

Narrow Principles: A Critique of England

In Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the narrator goes through captivity by royalty multiple times, and his narrative is one of awe for both Lilliput and Brobdingnag. On page 125, Gulliver describes an episode during which he expects that the “Opinion of the English Reader” will be lessened in regards to the King of Brobdingnag. This very scene is a harsh criticism upon the human race in Europe for delighting in machines of war and injury. Gulliver, in offering to make gunpowder for the king, is refused in what he calls his “nice unnecessary scruple” that would have made the king the “Master of the Lives, the Liberties, and the Fortunes of his People.” Although the character of Gulliver is aghast at this refusal and believes that any European would never have turned down such an offering, the author in no way believes such a refusal to be the result of “narrow Principles and short Views.” Swift is pointing out the cruel bloodlust and thirst for power that the monarch and nobles of Europe have at this time. Unlike the utopian fiction of the time, Gulliver’s Travels at face value presents England as an utopia in comparison to these fantastical lands, but this interpretation is completely misleading. The complete surprise and disgust of Gulliver when he realizes that the king is faithful to his people and does not wish to have complete power over them is total irony intended to show that Swift is not criticizing the made up country of Brobdingnag, but England itself. When he describes the small minded principles of the king and criticizes his preference of swift justice and mercy opposed to drawn out political scandals, a very clear picture of England’s political problems is presented. Using the ideas of utopian fiction and captivity narratives, Swift completely turns these works of literature upside down and points to the flaws of those in England being awed and upset by the images of so-called savages and barbarians. Describing an, albeit fictional, foreign society in which political games and power plays appear to be crimes is Swift’s way of presenting his readers with a society that is better than their own. Gulliver is the exact type of Englishman Swift despises, and it is his criticisms and small mindedness that our author is warning to be detrimental to society in this passage.

-Meredith Leonardo

An Email to the Author

Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

Re: Her Narrative of Captivity and Restoration

Mrs. Rowlandson,

Upon viewing your narrative, I am much aggrieved to encounter many of the statements which are oft used to degrade my brethren, the Indians. Abounding from the start are those terms “savage” and “barbarian,” which despite their common usage, contain no truth-telling, and, most fortunately, fail to have any such fruition that their meanings infer in your further writing. Those of my brethren which you have described in this most unfortunate of circumstances, in which you came to know them, appear to be fleeing for their very lives, the likes of which we have seen far too many a time in Massachusetts and elsewhere throughout the Union. It is common practice it seems, that a white man, or woman such as yourself, shall come into contact with an Indian only to see nothing more than they have expected from the very beginning. Indeed, for a portion of your narrative, it is plain to see your own prejudice and lack of principle regarding my brethren; whereupon meeting the esteemed King Philip you begin to settle in among those you had named “heathens.” Such an unworthy term this is, for in your own mission to convert the Indians, you put them to shame with unfeeling insults; you pronounce them unworthy of the faith we share in God, and provide only more distance between yourself and them. Now you having seen the honest and generous nature of my brethren, the Indians, I implore you to do them no more disservice in the spreading of your narrative. For your capture and safe return, though harrowing they are, have shown you further the mercy and favor of Christ, our savior. A friend you may find in an Indian, and an honest man in one of color, but the white man has condemned him, has forced him to do to you as was done to him. He practices not to “love your neighbor as yourself,” for the gesture of the white man is to put him in shackles and put him until his bones may break and his spirit may fail. No longer should you condemn the Indians for their skin color, for it is of your own that they have become what you have seen. Repressed is their generosity, which you yourself have yet seen, and out the mania of King Philip’s War has come, though in no way to match that of the slaughter of my brethren. Peace, that the Lord has promised, is at hand; Mrs. Rowlandson you may yet redeem your people, all of our people, in their hatred and greed. No longer shall the Indians be exploited and discriminated and pushed down, for you can lift them up with your words, you can bring to the light of day to fruition in the equality of all people. For your narrative shows the world the home of Indians, daily becoming smaller and smaller, the struggle of the Indian people to find food, to fight for justice in the court of the white man. Make known the goodness of King Philip, of your master, and any such squaw who took pity upon you-for your reward shall be great through the grace of God.

Your most humble friend,

William Apess

-Meredith Leonardo

A Narrative of Complex History

Mary Rowlandson’s narrative exposes many truths difficult for the modern reader to sympathize with or understand. Elements of racism, genocide, sexism, and intolerance, added to the beliefs she holds about God’s plan, make interpreting Rowlandson’s narrative in any one way impossible. While it is easy, and maybe even best, to pass judgment on Mary Rowlandson and the people of her time for their extreme ignorance, unnecessary violence, and uncalled for hostility, there are more emotions at play here than simple negativity. Mary Rowlandson comes from England and is filled with the beliefs of Puritanism, just like John Winthrop was not too long before her. The difference between the two, however, is that Rowlandson does not appear to place herself above the Native Americans as being an example of purity and perfection. In fact, Mary Rowlandson sees her many flaws and believes that it is God’s plan for her to suffer, placing no blame upon the tribe even in the face of the deaths of her young daughter, sister, and nephew. She does not cause suffering among the Native Americans or act as though that is what she wishes for them. John Winthrop’s “City Upon a Hill” had no space for anyone but the purest Puritans. He dreamed of a city of white supremacist patriarchal preaching elitists whose only concern was for themselves and their own profits. Rowlandson’s view of her world is not the same as his. Challenging the ideas that Native Americans are less than the English, Rowlandson shows respect to both her master and King Philip. She is not ashamed to beg for charity from those who are different from her, and she trusts that they will not kill her or the other prisoners when they tell her they won’t. Even though she is revolted by their bloodlust and celebration after murdering many Englishmen, Mary Rowlandson does not confront the Natives with her beliefs. She seems to understand their position and how her own captivity is not what they want either. An ongoing struggle she acknowledges is the shifting between kindness and hostility of the tribe who holds her captive. Though this frightens her, bringing up such a thing to her readers reveals a truth that many during her time would rather not acknowledge: the Native Americans are not savages. In their fear and starvation, they are still grateful to Mary for her help in clothing their children, for she is paid for her services and treated far better than a slave would be at this time. The bigger picture in this case is not one of purely genocide and sexism displayed in King Philip’s War and English Puritan society. Respect, trade, and sympathy are possible between two different peoples as shown by the Native American who gives Mary a bible, the starving squaws who feed her, and the men such as Mary’s husband who work for peaceful resolutions to land disputes rather than bloodshed. In comparison to the ideal of the “City on a Hill” and Dryden’s retelling of the conquest of Mexico, Mary Rowlandson’s narrative shows the real disparity that exists still today between every difference in opinion. Rowlandson’s narrative is one of many pieces of history that make the past not as clear cut as some would have us believe.

-Meredith Leonardo