Strings Under Tension

When did this guitar of mine sleep?

When will this crocus bouquet bloom?

When, if there is no time to keep?

A song of cherished hope now spells out our concaving doom.

 

Such songs feel like lifetimes ago.

A collective sigh, one of mine

Cast down into the undertow.

A bittersweet collection of moss gathered overtime.

 

Without context, where is feeling?

Its origin is allusive

Yet our doubt is left in passing

Longing for a time that never existed is nestled within the impulsive.

 

A jest is made in the cold dark

So that it might not seem as bleak,

By proxy, nothing goes unmarked.

We are together laughing, sickened by the joy of grief

 

I cherish the ever-tranquil rain

So long as I’m not drenched by it

It recalls the absence of pain

Despite our separation, its presence dampens my windows, washing us both into the pit.

 

Through every nation this ran

Vicarious pipes of knowledge,

Which reach the sunken eyes of man

Every new experience brings us closer to an inviting edge.

 

Oh no, the stone sinks in deep waters

Somber, still, confused of its course

My guitar is damp and faltered

Dragged down by a stone so unclear in its source.

 

It sinks in a bland grey palette,

Of such a city-scape we dwell

Through rivers which run like faucets

In nature’s demented hell.

 

It falls into virtual planes

A social hub of loneliness,

Collective misery and rain

Within the dank depths comes the Loch Ness.

 

It sinks through silent moonlit nights

A bedroom drenched in a blue hue

Restless beds, stained in nurtured frights

Down the corridors of such streets, lined in blue.

 

Throughout the stone has fallen deep

No longer do I hear the song

No longer does my guitar weep

Instead I spin, tick an hour, and ask where it all went wrong.

 

How we feed that which we all give

Give what we repeat to ourselves

In bleeding sympathy, we live

From us who vicariously live in different realms.

 

My guitar is kept in storage

It gave me what I entrusted,

And now leaves me here to forage,

In this world which I feel is maladjusted.

 

Now I’m left with a droning tone,

That has found no place in any note

A dissonant tune, not alone.

It’s left under the table, covering our throats.

 

From darkness comes a crackling fire

Men and women of charred cinder

Guitars tossed into the pyre,

And our symphony of fire will not be hindered.

 

Review

I chose to reimagine Sydney Owenson’s “Why Sleeps the Harp of Erin’s Pride” because it initially spoke to me. I had initially read the poem as a song of perseverance through oppressive times and the fangs that perseverance has. Having connections to the oppression of the Irish people by the English, I still believe this interpretation to be the most probable. Yet stripping the historical context, I took something different from it. Mainly the effects an oppressive environment has on a group of individuals within their social circle. This oppression isn’t exclusively cornered to the type that the Irish faced, rather oppression as a general concept.

I applied this to my generation, as I’ve seen, purely on anecdotal evidence, that my generation is much more pessimistic than others. Specifically, pessimistic about our society and its structures, all the way up to the school system itself; which carries a level of irony considering this was an assignment. And I’ve always found it interesting how my generation vents this deeply rooted frustration with our world. Firstly, I replaced the symbol of the harp with a guitar. Mostly because I felt this instrument symbolized the birth of our generation through the rise of rock and pop which popularized the guitar. Secondly, I wrote mostly in iambic tetrameter, with deviations at the end of each stanza. I did this as the original poem also wrote in this meter but with some deviations within it. I chose to leave my deviations at the end because I wanted to make those particular lines feel uncomfortable.

I began with discussing jokes, or “jests” in my generation. Meme culture isn’t only concerned with comedy, but it is a contextualization of our world, as ridiculous as that sounds. My generation is in love with dark humor, and those concerned with the struggles of living in this world and making fun of them. Comedy is a coping mechanism and this generation leans on that.

I also touched on social media and how we vicariously suffer as a result because of our exposure to so much information. Often, this information isn’t positive, and our mental health suffers for it as well as our hope for a prosperous future.

I begin the poem with a sentiment of longing towards my youth. Where such dark realities weren’t confronting me as they are in this time and my life like many others my age. Yet by the end I express that the guitar has been retired, and much like the Irish in the original poem, through oppression comes a fire. Whether because of pessimism or not, there is no doubt that my generation is very vocal about their frustrations with this world with a fiery energy.

-Daniel R.

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“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

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

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

‘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 would Les Mis sound like with the Irish Harp?

By Christopher Ingle

Sydney Owenson wrote “The Irish Harp” in response to the Irish and British uniting as one “United Kingdom”. It would seem this is her topic since the United Kingdom was formed just six years before this poem was published. The interesting thing in the subject of her poem is that she is referring to her nations’ loss of rights at the hands of the British. The speaker of the poem makes the claim that the Irish will stand up for freedom once again. I will focus on stanzas eight ten and eleven.

In stanza eight of her poem Owenson outlines where the loss of freedom happened “Twas at some patriot hero’s tomb/Or on the drear heath where he fell” (31-32). Before Ireland and Great Britain unified, the land of Ireland had enjoyed a short time of independence only for the House of Lords of both countries to agree that the two should become one. In line 31, the poem is making the claim that no true patriot of Ireland would have let this happen. In this line, the speaker is making the claim that the ruling body of Ireland do not concern themselves with the Irish public. The use of the pronoun “he” in line 32 makes the claim that freedom is a masculine thing. The French assign liberty the same gender. By assigning freedom the same gender as the French do liberty, the speaker is drawing a connection between what the French are doing globally and what governing bodies of Ireland are doing to their people.

Stanza ten sets up a scene of darkness that tyranny brings. The speaker claims that “through night’s most spectral hours is /When reigns the spirit of dismay, /And terror views demoniac pow’rs” (37-39) in this the claim is being made that darkness and fear are cast over a land that is not free. The “demoniac” powers referenced are the suffocating powers of tyranny that the government has implemented on it’s people.

Overall, stanza ten simply acts as a foreshadowing for the prophesied events of stanza eleven. “Such was the time, and such the place,/The bard respir’d his song of woe,/To those, who had of Erin’s race/Surviv’d their freedom’s vital blow” (41-44). Here the speaker is stating that it is in the times of tyrannical rule mentioned in stanza ten that the people will rise. The “bard” will work to remind the people of their former heroes and patriots. The speaker claims that the bard, in reminding these people, will ignite the fire of the people to fight for their freedom once again. The speaker is making this claim in certainty. This stanza almost acts as a warning, either there will be liberation granted or there will be liberation taken.

Where does the harp come in? The harp is the instrument of the Irish. It is the symbol of the Irish. When Prince John came to Ireland in the 12th century he called the harp the sole redeeming characteristic if an otherwise barbaric race. It became the symbol of how Ireland was thought of by the English. It was even the symbol of Ireland under British rule for many years. Irish Harpests were some of the most skilled in the world, and were highly sought after. In essence the British took something that wasn’t theirs and used it as a stereotype to define a people. What Owenson is suggesting is for the people to become the bard and use that instrument that has been made the symbol of Ireland and remind the people how strong they can be, and to fight for freedom. It may be a stereotype, but it is one that the Irish gladly claimed as their own, and use it as a symbol of pride. Take the harp and fight British rule.

A Hopeful Harp

While looking at Dear Harp of My Country by Thomas Moore we can see how Moore creates a strong bond between the speaker and the harp showing the importance it held not only to himself but the symbol it held to his country. Moore twice states in his work “Dear harp of my country…” allowing readers to really grasp the idea that the harp held an important significance to those in his country.

Dear Harp of my Country! in darkness I found thee...”

The first time around this phrase is used it is showing readers the beauty of the harp and its significance to those who which played it as well as heard its song. Not only that but it gives the harp the light at the end of the tunnel feeling. Moore gives the harp in this first line alone a feeling of salvation of hope.

Dear Harp of my Country! farewell to thy numbers

The second time around it feels like a final farewell, almost like an obituary towards a loved one. By creating this Moore shows the emotions and pride the harp brings to his people as well as the sadness it brings to see that the harp is not once seen as how it used to be. And being that his history is one of a musician, we can see how musicians hold certain instruments dear to their harps as they were a part of the creation of some of their pieces. And even though Moore shows and makes the harp feel like a loved one we lost he also manages to show readers how the harp was a symbol of hope to those who played and those who listened.

-Diana Moreno

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, 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.

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.

Lastly:

“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

A Symbol of Hope

The writer of Dear Harp of my Country, Thomas Moore, uses strong emphasis on the harp on order to bring attention to the hope that it symbolizes for himself and for his country, and even delves into the harp’s background connecting to Ireland;

“The warm lay of love and the light note of gladness; Have waken’d thy fondest, thy liveliest thrill”

This quote from the poem embodies the affect that the harp has had in Moore’s home country, focusing on how the harp uplifts those in their darkest times, and how the harp acts as a conductor for happiness with its tune.

-Jody Omlin