Harp Of My Country

The Harp of India by Henry Derozio illustrates the cultural deprivation of the harp because of European colonization. The Irish harp represented the epitome of Gaelic aristocratic culture. However, the tradition was lost after the colonization of Ireland. In The Harp of India, Derozio uses the harp to represent similar absence of culture in India because of British colonialism.

“Why hang’st thou lonely on yon withered bough?” (1)

The first line demonstrates the deprivation of the harp tradition. The imagery of the “withered bough” emphasizes the absence of the tradition. Moreover, The narrator personifies the harp through referencing it with a question.

“Why doth the breeze sigh over thee in vain?

Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain;” (4-5)

In the fourth line, the narrator personifies the breeze, as it “sighs” because of the silence of the harp, representing the Indian audience. In the fifth line, the narrator personifies silence with “her fatal chains,” representing the British colonialism in India.

“Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,

Like ruined monument on desert plain:” (6-7)

The simile of the harp to a “ruined monument on desert plain,” illustrates the severity of the loss of the harp tradition, representing the loss of Indian culture from British colonialism.

“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! (12-14)

The narrator illustrates the possibility of the resurrection of the harp, “wakened once again,” and concludes with the narrators aspiration to “strike the strain,” and does through the creation of the poem. The narrator uses the poem to resurrect the “harp of my country.”

-Hongxi Su

Don’t Cry for Me, Harp India

This poem is a very powerful piece as it calls out to those that have been impacted by the never ending grasp of colonialism. The use of the harp within the piece signifies that the country of India, as described in the poem “The Harp of India” by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, interprets that the country, which was once one of the most beautiful things that the population could enjoy has now been neglected, that it is in tatters due to the mismanagement that it had endured. The poem talks about how how many of the pleasures the harp once brought are now mere memories and that it just stands as a testament to the follies of the imperialists that had resided in India up to that point.

However, there is some semblance of hope within this powerfully poetic piece. At the end of the poem, there is a moment where the speaker, despite his melancholia getting the better of them for most of the poem, has a moment of resolve in their want to improve the country, as is described in line 12-14: “but if thy notes divine/ May be by mortal wakened once again,/ Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!” Even though the reader finds himself to be unworthy of such a task, as he mentions in line 8, he yearns for an age in which he can finally live in a space that was once the strong and proud nation that was before the colonialists had arrived.

This piece was powerful in its message about being in the face of the adversity of colonialism and imperialism that, despite the neglect inflicted upon the population and the country itself, the people strive to claim back their country in any which way, which is exemplified by even just the poem itself.

Alejandro Joseph Serrano

If Coachella Only Had Harps

Harps are often synonymous with symbols of peace. We see them often in paintings and stained art pieces depicting angels, many whom are carrying these harps. So, when looking at The Harp Of India by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, we note that the harp comes to be representative of a nationalist agenda. In the first three lines it mentions how there is now silence, one that used to be filled with music which as we know, music has been a tool in bringing together people, a symbol of unity. If no one can no longer hear the strings then it must mean that there is no unity, thus no peace.  Even the breeze who could gently brush the strings to make a sound cannot since the strings are no longer there. This would mean that whoever wanted to destroy the peace did so intentionally as they have deliberately cut the strings, leaving the harp with just it’s body. Now mute, the harp can no longer bring people together, likening it to that of an image of a monument, thus trying to say that the scale in which this is impacting is country wide which we come to realize at the end of the poem. The poem then paints the speaker to be very patriotic of their country as they long for the unity that once was, feeling the need to have to take up the harp and lead their country to be the might that it used to be. This can be an allusion to the Indian empire and how it prospered in the past, showing how they have fallen where the speaker wishes to be like that again. Thus, the speaker embodies the nationalist perspective to try and unify their country as if they are the one to do it by being the “mortal wakened” one who will “strike the strain” and not just little by little but all at once if we are to focus on the specific punctuation that ends the poem (Jesus Christ much?).


-Xotchitl Marisol Garibay

Another Stringy Blog Post

     Henry Derozio’s “The Harp of India” reiterates the symbolism of the Irish harp to a similar cultural dividend occurring in India in order to not only convey the significance on why he harp is such an ubiquitous and culturally significant symbol in Irish culture, but also to illustrate that culture can be degraded in any country. “Of flowers still blooming on the minstrel’s grave:

Those hands are cold” pays homage to the tradition of Irish bards that carried on the traditions behind a Gaelic harp by evolving their stylistic use of the harp in order to adapt to a changing cultural and musical style preferred by clients. The final line “Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!” is integral to this interpretation as the nonspecific “my country” can be reassigned to refer to any nation that wishes to demonstrate nationalistic pride through a cultural rebirth, the symbolic culture here being the traditional Irish harp. It’s very firmly ingrained significance returning is both a provocative emulation of a formerly thought extinct and later revitalized culture and a unique antiquity that sets Ireland apart from other nations and survived in spite of colonialist rule against all odds. The title alone makes the clarification as to what nation the poem is referring to, but the ambiguity in the poem itself also mirrors the ambiguous nature of the harp itself. It begs the question as to why the harp is used specifically as opposed to a more traditionally Indian symbol, and it may be the post-colonial British rule that affected both countries is being referenced as an oppositional force, because it is both a subjugating affect and a diluter of tradition via intermingled colonialist adoption and appropriation of culture. The reason it is the harp specifically however is because it exemplifies both something artistic and beautiful, but able, like the nation itself, to persevere in spite of insurmountable odds.

-Kevin Martinez

The Harp and A Call to Action

Henry Louis Vivioan Derozio’s “The Harp of India,”  uses the illustration of the harp as a means to comment on and explore colonialism and Irish history. The poem reflects Derozio’s personal position of being mixed race through his idealization of the harp’s beauty and his own reflection of his identity. This reflection parallels the symbolism of the harp in that, historically Irish peoples were labeled as uncivilized by the English and held bad reputations. On this note, the Irish people related their experiences and identities to that of the beauty and elegance of this instrument. Derozio is essentially speaking out against the impact English politics, imperialism, and colonialism had on not only the Irish, but the entire world.

Derozio writes:

“Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain;

Thy music once was sweet- who hears it now?”

In these lines the harp is used to symbolize Irish culture; what was, yet what is now impacted by English influence. The harp becomes a political weapon that not only exemplifies grace but serves as a reminder to fight against and speak up against all forms of oppression that destroyed/ tried to destroy what they found to be, such beauty.

Derozio continues to write:

“Once thy harmonious chords to sweetness gave,

And many a wreath for them did Fame entwine

Of Flowers still blooming on the minstrel’s grave:

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!”

The ending of this poem proves to be an affirmation for the push for political reform as a means to return to original Irish Culture. Derozio speaks to the past, but provides a call of action to his people in the last line to fight for and maintain a sense of national pride.

-Angelica Costilla

‘Too precious to say goodbye’


The harp was once recognized as a symbol of Irish pride and later an emblem of resistance. This once beautiful and powerful instrument has now declined in value and tradition by the end of the 18th century. Due to the colonization of the Irish people it became an instrument of hope and resistance to the crown. The Irish tried any way possible to keep the tradition alive, the use of the, “hybrid musical” became a way to remember the instrument. This is created by humming.  The harp produces a soft and delicate sound which I think can be angelic. This is a perfect representation for the Irish people because it is soft yet very powerful.

According to Thomas Moore he feels uneasy to the idea that the role of the harp is dying. He loves his country and does not want a piece of his culture to die. He can sense that its time is coming to an end, “This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twine”. The meaning of the harp is fading but I think it is the value that people hold in their hearts is what should be important. He has accepts that the harp is no longer as symbolic as it once was and he makes sure to say his goodbyes.

By: Maricruz Solano

What Are We Harping On About?

Overtime certain items become symbolic of an idea and the Harp is just that. It is tied to the Irish identity and has been for hundreds of years. Considering how the English people have always viewed themselves as a people superior to those that live in the rest of the isles, it makes sense that the Irish identity had to tie itself to some symbol. “Why Sleeps the Harp of Erin’s Pride” by Sydney Owenson paints a very desolate picture that is still verh lyrical and beautiful. The words are crafted very movingly so the reader is more than aware that the speaker has a way with words. Harpists were known for their talents and praised for it because it was such an intricate art. The idea that the Irish could pull off such beautiful music went against what the Englush would consider to be right. This poem channels that same talented energy that was questioned. It not only channels it but also gives the reader almost the other side of the coin which is an almost but not quite sadness that stems from a lack of recognition. Owenson exposes this underlying sadness in the following lines:

“And yet its sadness seemed to borrow

From love, joy, a mystic spell;

T’was doubtful still if bliss or sorrow

From its melting lapses fell.” (Owenson 3)

The idea that sadness “[seems] to borrow from love” suggests that perhaps sadness and love are more interconnected than one would ordinarily believe. Love is generally seen as a positive emotion so seeing this obvious attempt to tie it to sadness is interesting. It implies that perhaps love isn’t as positive as people would be led to believe or perhaps that sadness isn’t as negative as people generslly assume that it is.

So the relationship between the Irish and the harp is obvious. Beyond that it makes sense because it’s a great way of tying together how the Irish feel as a people and exposing it through beautiful music.

By Diana Lara

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

Borrowing the Harp

The Irish harp is a symbol of Irish nationalism and a beacon of independence and the Irish futile fight against cultural disintegration. In Henry Louis Vivian Derozio’s “The Harp of India” the symbol of the harp is appropriated for Indian nationalism. What is interesting about this utilization of the harp is that, although the harp is a symbol of peace, it does not hold the same historical significance to India as it does in Ireland. While Derozio takes the symbol and much of the same phrases from Irish poets, the meaning is ultimately less profound. This is largely due to the fact that Derozio does not use an Indian instrument to make his political point; he relies on a symbol used for another. The message however is not lost; in fact, it underscores a more poignant issue—Derozio must rely on Western symbols in order for the British to attach all the implications of the harp to India. This of course is made evident in the content of the poem. Derozio writes in effusive emotional imagery that India’s harp is “neglected, mute, and desolate”. While Derozio mimics many of the same themes of the forlorn harp that has been personified and silenced by an oppressive force, what separates Derozio’s piece from that of English poets is that Derozio recognizes the futile effort India’s culture and autonomy stands in the face of Industrial England: “Those hands are cold”. The majority of the poem laments this cause, but in the third to last line, an important vaulta appears: “but if thy notes divine, / May be by mortal wakened once again, / Harp of my country, let me strike the strain”. This notable phrase is an allusion to Thomas Moore’s “Dear Harp of my Country”, which like “Harp of India” features a vaulta a the conclusion in which the speaker claims that they have “wak’d” the harp. Likewise, Derozio has a call-to-arms in which he awakens the harp. This is not the only similarity between the two poems. It appears as though Derozio also used Moore’s lack of a set rhyme scheme, although unlike Moore, Derozio did use iambic pentameter, as opposed to iambic hexameter like Moore. Ultimately, Derozio appropriated many of the same themes, and the symbol of the poet Moore. This rather than speak to a lack of creativity speaks to the difficulty of being equated to other Western cultures. That is to say that rather than use an instrument of India’s own, Derozio had to ride on the coattails of another’s symbol (a Western symbol) in order to be taken seriously.

  • Sara Nuila-Chae

The Getaway

Unfortunately, the Irish Harp had only been appreciated for a short period of time. It was typically played for those of a higher class and for the elite who were granted special privileges. Harp playing would even be accompanied with poetry and other types of high-class singing. Harp playing had become very popular until the high-class, kings, and noblemen no longer desired to have them around, leading harpist to travel which also lead to the near extinction of harp playing. The harp had also been known as an instrument used to resist the crown and England, then leading the harp to be banned.

The poem that had stood out to me most as I was reading up on the history of the harp had been Dear Harp of My Country by Thomas Moore.

Dear Harp of my Country! farewell to thy numbers,

This sweet wreath song is the last we shall twine;

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

As I read this small portion of the poem, what had instantly come to mind had been how harp playing was coming to an end and dying out, how it had no longer been valued although it has a major symbol to it in Ireland.

I was but as the wind, passing heedlessly over,

And all the wild sweetness I wak’d was thy own.

As I continuously read through the poem, I read it in a soft, smooth, calming tempo. Which also reminds me of how a harp is played. The sounds of a harp are soft, calming, slow tempo. These lines of the poem and all throughout this poem also sound as if a person had been in a depressed state and that harp playing had brought them out of that. In the lines above where it states how the speaker is like the wind just passing buy until the had been awakened by the harp is a sign of happiness perhaps, but now that harp playing is dying out so is the speaker of the poem. The harp had been the getaway.

But, so oft hast thou echoed the deep sigh of sadness,

That ev’n in thy mirth it will steal from thee still.