Derozio’s Political Harp

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, 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, 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.

It continues:

“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.  

-Isabel P

Harp of India

I found that Henry Derozio, “The Harp of India” was a very interesting take on the idea of the Harp and what its symbolism. The other two poems are written about the Harp in an Irish context, but Derozio’s is written in the context of the Harp being significant in India. The first part of the poem starts off in a very sad and melancholy tone basically talking about how the speaker laments that the Harp is no longer being played and how there is no one to hear it’s beautiful and “sweet music.” That even the wind cannot make it play, therefore it just sits there neglected and unused. However, the second part of the poem starts to become a bit more optimistic and ultimately ends in a positive and hopeful light. The speaker shifts from speaking about the actual Harp to those who play it and includes some contextual information regarding the history of the Harp. The speaker emphasizes how beautiful and worthy the songs the previous “poets” played on the Harp and how the speaker is not worthy of comparing. As well as how those songs are so important that they have become famous and will live on forever. The speaker ultimately ends with despite the poets being dead, their songs will continue to live on, and he will aspire to keep them alive and restore glory to his India.

This poem touches briefly on the history of the harp as well as the history of India and one interpretation of this poem can be that the harp symbolizes India and how it lays forgotten due to the colonization of India by Britain. And how it now lays forgotten because no one will remember it, but despite all of that, the poets who have written about India have kept it alive and kept it remembered and therefore is willing to keep “playing the harp” to keep the memory and importance of India alive and known, ultimately bringing the glory of India back.

-Laura Mateo Gallegos

“The Harp of India” Hybrid Experience

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

When you Pay Attention in Hatton’s Class and then Write a Blog Post that Night

First, thank you Nigel Hatton. As always, whenever I am stumped, all I ever have to do is look at my notes.

It is unlikely that a force much greater than yourself should appear, but in the event that it does, one would like (and hope) that this hypothetical monster is at the very least friendly. But how might a person identify themselves as friendly if there is not an other that exists to reaffirm your own beliefs? Everyone would like to think themselves to be the mighty protagonist, the undeniable hero that ultimately achieves glory, admiration, and a legacy that is favorable. Yet this cannot always be the case. The duality of knowing one another, oneself as the self, and another as the other is none other than a friend versus a stranger. To see this in the context of our class, one must not look any further than our most talked about text in the past two weeks in Rowlandson and the one currently being read, Gulliver’s Travels.

The one coming to a new land and the one who was already there creates a tension like no other. On one hand, someone or some people have made this land their home, their children run there, their friends are next door, and they are immersed in their community. On the other hand, those coming are large in numbers, have modern technology, are powerful, and have their best interests in mind. I look at Gulliver’s Travels as this, two strangers, the Lilliputians and Gulliver, untrusting, unaware of either’s existence until fate would bring the two together. In this case, it is extremely unlikely that Gulliver should find himself at the mercy of those the size of his finger, but equally as strange, the country of Lilliput could have never guessed they would encounter a man of this extreme size. Just like the colonizers to invade this “new world”, those already there had no idea of their existence or intentions. I could imagine how frightening that unknown was, and the questions that followed, but none more basic than where did they come from? On the fictional side of Gulliver, this question is hilariously answered as:

“For as to what we have heard you affirm, that there are other Kingdoms and States in the World, inhabited by human Creatures as large as yourself, our philosophers are in much doubt, and would rather conjecture that you dropped from the Moon, or one of the Stars; because it is certain, that an hundred Mortals of your Bulk would, in a short time, destroy all the fruits and Cattle of his Majesty’s Dominions” (47-48).

I tie this directly to what Rowlandson represented to the Algonquians that captured her. Though, obviously they were aware of the English at this point, it is a justified question to ask how could a group of people go around the world taking what is not theirs, being wasteful, destroying life, and creating a damning self-identity that would be looked upon unfavorably in a time such as ours today? How could we have many colonial powers doing this? This seems much more like a warning than a question as I read the last line of the quote again and again.

Though I do not believe that Gulliver came from outer space, in fact, I know he did not, but the point is clear. The real answer is directly given, but still represents an unknown to the country of Lilliput. They have never seen the lands Gulliver talks about. They probably never will. Now, I cannot relieve tensions of two unknowns, but I can answer how this satirical travel log breaks the barrier of stranger and friend. This actually is not all that strange of an answer because as surprising as it may sound, the very answer is also seen in Rowlandson’s narrative. Though initially strangers, Gulliver is awarded hospitality. They integrate him into their society, offer him their resources, honors, and teach him their culture. This becomes a relationship of commonality and mimesis; Gulliver finding himself one with Lilliput, striving for ubuntu, not vengeance. This, too, is seen in Rowlandson. She too becomes immersed in the Algonquian culture, works for a small wage, and goes as far as smoking with King Philip. Therefore, I argue that this scene and overall, this first stop in Gulliver’s Travels mirrors Rowlandson’s capture narrative and the overarching narrative of colonial England towards the native tribes they displaced. And, at the very least, to my amusement, Gulliver’s Travels makes the situation far more enjoyable and humorous.

—Joseph Michael Rojas

Facebook After Hours: Apess Attempt to Educate

A Facebook Friend of William Apess posts on their  Facebook wall what they consider a highly intellectual post at 8:53pm on a Wednesday in response to today’s political climate. William Apess’ friend, (a colleague he had for a few classes at a pre-dominantly upper class university) Bob writes:

“May God instill the same strength and might in the young children locked in cages as He did in the brave Mary Rowlandson. Although their fights may be quite different, Mary Rowlandson is an outstanding image of what a survivor of captivity and maintainer of Grace looks like.
I pray they find peace in the same ways Mary was able to do so while still holding a respectable image of the Indian Peoples.”

William Apess sees the post nearly minutes after his distant Facebook friend debuts his words. He is unable to simply look past it and keep scrolling. For a moment he is triggered, and decides to “quickly” respond in a respectable yet firm manner, here is what he writes:

Comment by William Apess at 12:02am

“Hello dear “friend” of mine, if that is even what you could still call yourself after the disgusting, ridiculous comparison you have made of a colonizer to innocent indigenous children to this land. While it is not my job to educate you on the history of this country, as the good person I am, I find it in my heart to pose a few learning questions for you today, in hopes you will re-evaluate the nature of your post. Is context not the most important thing to consider when making such bold posts? When discussing the “fight” of Rowlandson, should you not also discuss the fight of countless indigenous peoples who died, suffered at the hands of starvation, and whose women were raped and abandoned all because of a Puritan religion in which justified colonizers acts in doing so?

I pray to God too. I pray that in an era of foreseeable revolution, privileged men on Facebook will look to other revolutionary figures to inspire change, rather than a woman who was most notable for not detailing indigenous people as drunks.

If you have any questions, please feel free to not message me as it is not my job to educate people on their failure to acknowledge the ways in which they continue to disrespect the history and lives of the indigenous people of this land.”


-Angelica Costilla-Mancha

Dear Mrs. Rowlandson

Dear Mrs. Rowlandson,

It would seem that among the entirety of your people you were given the chance to experience the culture of your prey, that is to say, the courageous Indians your people so maliciously demoralized and demolished throughout your countless self-centered conquests. You had a chance to learn the error of your ways and shed new light on the wholesome lives of those scarred by years of unnecessary and excessive torment: Their unyielding compassion and hospitality towards you in your darkest hours, their unwavering tenacity against all odds. Yet here I lie with my mouth agape in disgust of your ignorance that harbored not a journey of trials and tribulations, but a wasted opportunity through your sheer lack of growth and willingness to understand a society foreign to your own. Instead of paving the way for a new future without the need for prejudice thoughts, you mercilessly overshadow every and any instance of the Indian’s humanity through savage language, constantly referring to them as beasts and animals that stoop below you. In turn, you cannot fathom to think of anything but your own well-being and faith as your transform your narrative as a story to serve nothing more than to add to you and your people’s inflated pride. Yet despite all of this, I would still like to thank you for your contribution to history, as your piece provides undeniable proof of my assertions that you and your people were indeed “the most mean, abject, miserable race of beings in the world”.
William Apess
–(Written by Jose Ramirez)

A Misguided Attempt to Unify

As I have just reading Mary Rowlandson’s History of Captivity I saw fit to offer my thoughts as I feel quite strongly about this conflict having to do with the relations of the white man and the Indians that have pre inhabited this land. I see myself thinking that Ms. Rowlandson offers a more genuine view of the Indians of this land at least more so than her fellow settlers which seems strange, does it not? Considering her capture. I see this narrative as both helpful and harmful to the relations of these two peoples. For one Ms. Rowlandson seems at times fond of her captors even thinking of their leader King Phillip as a friend, yet uses foul language toward them at other times. The endearing terms she voices may strike a chord with the white reader and shed light on the fact that their discriminations run quite contrary to the teachings of the Lord, while Rowlandson’s at times prejudice language may have a reverse effect whether intended or not. It is my belief that one should commit fully to their values. If Ms. Rowlandson truly views these natives as among her friends then she should write abut them as such and veer away from language that would only cause more unrest. Rowlandson views herself as a woman of the Lord yet seems to struggle to view the natives of America as among her equal, is this not in direct violation of her Puritan beliefs? Rowlandson truly had an opportunity here to change the way a broad group of people think for better, which would only help both sides to unify, as all of humanity should be, at least those who seek to properly follow the teachings of the Lord they claim to follow. Alas I have said my piece and leave it in the hearts of my kindly reader to decide if they will heed it.

  • Evan Klang (Writing as William Apess)

An Attempt to Alter History

The story of the colonization of Native Americans who once populated the land that is now the US has always been one full of bloodshed, torture, and displacement. Although the retelling of this history has mostly been a biased one – acting as if white Europeans never committed any evils – the truth about the mistreatment and crimes committed against Native Americans has found a way to present itself to many people in our day in age. It is no secret to us that colonizers did horrendous things to the natives like raping their women, killing their children and privatizing their food in order to starve them. Therefore, when I read “The History of the Captivity” by Mary Rowlandson I felt no remorse for the circumstance she found herself in nor did I think it complicated or contradicted the history of intolerance against indigenous people during the colonization period.

The misfortunes that happened to Rowlandson were some that I can admit were horrible and unfortunate but looking past the sorrow I was also able to see that her story was similar to what millions of other natives faced every day at the hands of Mary’s European counterparts. Her story/circumstance to me was one fueled by desperateness from her Algonquian captors and that is when I realized there was nothing in Rowlandson’s story that could contradict history. Aside from the fact that her circumstances were similar to what the Natives were facing, I also could not ignore the initial biased that existed around Rowlandson’s narrative. Because she was a white, Puritan woman in a time of colonization the complication of her credibility and truthfulness can be questioned and that is another factor which enables me to alter my view on the history and encounter between Europeans and Native Americans. The reason why I question her credibility is because in order for her to be a published woman there can be a possibility that she had to alter truths, embellish her actual circumstances, or even leave her actual emotions and actions out of her captive novel.

The complicated nature between the natives and the Europeans is a story that was strengthened nonetheless by Mary Rowlandson’s narrative but it was not a story gruesome enough to alter or complicate the real history that is already known about Native Americans and European colonizers. She was held captive and saw acts of murder from the Natives but it was during a time when Natives were starving, displaced and her circumstance was one that arose due to the Natives desperate attempt to take their land back and their struggle for survival. Although she might not have actively participated in the mass murder of Native Americans, she was still on foreign land and inhabiting their territory along with thousands of other Puritans and she was still an accomplice in the removal of millions of Natives which disallow me to feel like her misfortune could alter the gruesome reality Natives faced and therefore, I see no complication or alteration in the history I knew.  

  • Beverly Miranda-Galindo

Set Free

As Rowlandson begins to recount this story as a chronicle, she tended to make the focal point of the narrative on the occurrences and personal encounters that she’s experienced. I felt that Rowlandson’s storytelling wasn’t necessarily influenced by her own personal feelings, but instead it also does not signify that her narrative was objective. The style in which she writes this narrative seems to be in a perspective where she illustrates incidents given from an outside spectator. From an outside perception one could only assume that the storyteller does not share the same sentiments as the main character experiencing this torture. Much of history is told this way. She shares the narrative of her imprisonment after being set free. The tone throughout her story seems to be a bit informative as she makes this experience be taken as a lesson in life. Most cross cultural, cross linguistic, and cross-religious exchange between Rowlandson and her native Algonquin captors confirm, contradict, or complicate the history of intolerance against indigenous people during the English colonization of America is very intricate to answer.

During her captivity her captors treat her as dirt as the colonizers treated the natives. Upon colonizing Native American lands, Europeans viewed this movement and action of war to be something that would change the history of migration and its people. They had no resentment towards the men, women, and children that were slaughtered and sexually abused during their colonization. At this point in the narrative, the natives want revenge or at least they seek it. When the natives held her in captivity, colonizers viewed this to be an act of terrorism even though they themselves had done the same to the Native American people. In Dryden’s play we see the European attack towards the natives and their prejudice to forcefully become superior to Native American Indians. They were not only forced to fall under their Kings rule, but they were also forced to give up their lands in exchange for their lives.

On the other hand, you can see how standoffish Rowlandson was towards the indigenous people after they had killed her own. Again this narrative was written through an outside perspective, so I feel that even the narrator was unaware or at least biased towards the relationship of between Europeans and the Indigenous people. All in all, it would further add much more complexity to the history of intolerance as wars are often now fought for living rather than a battle stemmed from purpose.

-Rosalinda Flores

Incompatible from the Start

While I think that there is a case to be made that the narrative of Mary Rowlandson implies a complicated relationship between the English colonists and the Native Americans, I believe that her writing does more to confirm a relationship of intolerance between the two groups. Going back to John Winthrop, we can see that his goal for the “City upon a Hill” was to create a new and more perfect Christian society in this newly discovered world. The decision to form this new society was above all else religiously motivated, and Winthrop didn’t lead the only group of Puritans to the new world out of a desire to spread Puritan ideals as can be seen in part of the Mayflower Compact from the Plymouth Colony that says, “Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith,”. Despite having been persecuted for their faith back in Europe, the Puritans were not seeking to create a new society built upon ideals of tolerance, but upon strict adherence to what they saw as the proper form of practicing Christianity. It seems unlikely that there could have been a friendly relationship between the two because of how incompatible both the Native American’s religion and lifestyle would have been to the goal of creating the “City upon a Hill.” Places like the Massachusetts Bay Colony had many regulations regarding interactions and deals with Native Americans to keep the two groups apart, and I think that Rowlandson’s writing reflects the social pressure to stay away from the Native Americans. She may describe them in a better image than other writing from the time, but she still details the brutality that they are capable of showing and portrays them as being different and partaking in a heretical lifestyle. Regardless of her true experience or feelings, she still tries to convince the reader that the Natives are demons sent by God to not only test her, but the colonies as well and that the lifestyle wouldn’t be good for true Christians. But after all, how many colonists might reconsider the strict and demanding lifestyle required by the Puritans if they knew what the Native American’s lifestyle was really like for anyone willing to join them?

-Ryan Bucher