Henry Louis Vivian Derozio “The Harp of India” demonstrates colonialism and Irish influence through the diction used to illustrate the beauty and mysticism of then Harp through the Derezio’s viewpoint of it. The significance of him writing the poem is that of him being mixed race; so essentially him seeing it differently then that of other poets. With how sononimous the harp was to Irish culture in the twelfth and late nineteenth century (O’Donnell, harpspectrum.org) the notoriety of the instrument is fundamental to understand due to the fact of the Irish being characterized by being uncivilized by the English this making the instrument more significant in the way the Irish saw themselves due to the beauty and elegance of the instrument. The instrument eventually playing a big role in politics and Irish culture as a whole. For example, Sydney Owenson characterizing the harp in such a way politically to speak out on social justice in the form of using it to discuss poverty in Irish society (O’Donnell, harpspectrum.org) What can be inferred by Derozio’s poem is that it’s a poem speaking against colonial influences that the English had with the use of the Harp as a vessel to point out the political shambles that is the English’s political influence, and imperialism and colonial influence around the world.
The poem opens with:
“ 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?”
The harp in this sense is used to speak for what once was an unimpacted land that once was free to be what it was supposed to be; this can infer that the reasoning being due to colonization. The instrument being used as a political form of protest to show this. The withering of a nation and a culture being shown through the harp.
“Why doth the breeze sigh over thee in vain?
Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain;
Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,
Like ruined monument on desert plain:
O! many a hand more worthy far than mine”
Derozio continues the poem in this way to show how colonial influences have chained India while disallowing the country to grow by the harp being characterized as “Neglected, mute, and desolate (6)” At the end of this chunk of the poem it can be seen how the harp’s presumed owner doesn’t see themselves worthy of the instrument. This characterizing the unworthiness colonization has left people with such an invoked feeling of not being worth of such beauty due to the injustices that come with colonization and imperialism.
“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 last chunk demonstrates a resurgence in belief of political reform to fix that of what once was; a “pre-colonial” mindset to a “post-colonial” future. This is Derozio’s form of protesting is by speaking of what once was in the stanza “Once thy harmonious chords to sweetness gave….(9)”, but his political thought can be seen at the end of the poem. This being due to him saying “Harp of my country, let me strike the strain! (14)” This can be seen as a promise that a resurgence in political justice for these countries, and peoples, affected by colonialism will happen.