Irish Harp as a Poetic Burden

Thomas Moore’s poem, “Dear Harp of my Country” sways between being proud of being Irish, but also nostalgic or melancholy for the situation the country is in. Thomas Moore tells in line two about the “cold chain of silence” that burdened the titular harp. In the same stanza, Moore talks about his own “Island Harp” as if to say the harp and his country are one in the same. The harp has taken on this epistemological identity of Irishness and with it, one can then relate the sound it makes to the connotation of the country of Ireland. Ironically, “the cold chain of silence” could be a clear indication of the English colonization that may have stripped the epistemology away from the Irish. This is where the nostalgia is evident because it seems to be lamenting over a time when Irishness was more solidified. To be under the thumb of England affected Ireland on a political level, but also on the level of intrahistory–that is, on a personal level, Irish people became subjected to being second class citizens in their own native home.

The Heart of the Harp

The harp represents not only the musical prowess of Irish people but also their identity as a whole. The undying perseverance and courageous spirit of Ireland can be heard from the resonating melodies of the stringed instrument. The prominence of the harp is eminently displayed to characterize and emphasize the heart of the Irish people amongst the bitter discord between the Irish and the English people. England’s imperialistic disposition met fierce resistance against the disapproval of cultural and national unity of two starkly different national identities. The battle for independence was not only tainted and defined by bloodshed but also within political-addressing literature, specifically poetry.

Sydney Owenson embodied the spirit of the Irish and invigorated a movement against oppression in The Lay of an Irish Harp. As she discusses of the agony her people faced in the daunting aggression of the Act of Union of 1801, she dismissed the benefit of solidarity from being involved with the United Kingdom. Sydney remarks of how Ireland suffers from English involvement, and that oppression caused reminisence “That bask’d in Erin’s brighter day”.

‘Tis said opression taught the lay

To him–(of all the “sons of song”

That bask’d in Erin’s brighter day

The last of inspri’d throng;

Owenson reminds readers of the fallen souls that fought against English oppression, to unite her people, and to distinguish the separation of the two cultures.

‘Twas at some patriot hero’s tomb,

Or on the drear heath where he fell.

Towards the end of her inspiring rhetoric, Owenson continues to make a call to the Irish nation, and insists on the independence of the Ireland to the rest of the world.

For still he sung the ills that flow
From dire oppression’s ruthless fang,
And deepen’d every patriot woe,
And sharpen’d every patriot pang.

The harp possesses a power beyond auditory pleasure. Sydney Owenson sentimentalized the Irish harp and disseminated the heart of the Irish people for those interested in the plight of Ireland. She rallied her fellow Irish, and voiced the anguish and perseverance of her people in her poem The Lay of an Irish Harp. Owenson expresses the value of culture, interlaced with notions of femininity at a time of prominent strife. Her rhetoric would continue on to inspire not only the Irish, but of people all around the world.

Thomas Pham

A Harp of Culture

Thomas Moore writes his poem “The Harp of my Country” is written with his patriotism fully present in a poem dedicated to his home country of Ireland. He uses the Harp as a tool throughout his work to represent Ireland as a country and as a cultural symbol. In doing this he represents Ireland’s rebellion and struggle for its loss of power after the passing of the Act of the Union.

Moore uses personification and diction of the Harp in the title and very first line where he addresses it calling it of his country giving it power and importance. He goes on to say in the next to lines of the stanza how “The cold chain of silence had hung o’er thee long,” and how he proudly unchains his “own Island Harp” (Moore, 2-3). The harp, being used for centuries in ireland in religious ceremonies very important to the irish people, holds strong roots in irish culture.  The harp is being used for its culture meaning to the Irish as it remained important and synonymous with Ireland. Thomas Moore is referring to the religious oppression faced by the Irish and culminating in the rebellion. The harp is referred to as being bound by ‘silence’ a contradiction of what a Harp is meant to do. Ireland was unable to fully represent and rule itself with the British parliament denying them right of religious representation in their government. In a country inhabited primarily by Catholics, the restrictions on Catholics in the government denied the majority of the countries people’s representation. Moore also refers to his own harp which represents the inner patriotism he posses. When awakening the harp of the country it in turn allowed the country to fully find itself and act on the silence.

The fourth stanza in the poem takes a turn from admiring the harp to a more somber tone where Moore bids the harp farewell. He says “Dear Harp of my Country! farewell to thy numbers,/ This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twine!” (Moore, 9-10). He’s acknowledging at this point the merger of the two countries upon the Act of Union. The harp that has been declared a symbol of the country of Ireland is playing its last song. In the coming together of the two countries the harp, or the country of ireland and its culture, is once again sealed up and silent. The people of Ireland were ready to gain their voice or music from the harp but it was quickly taken away.

 

-Noel Nevarez

Harp of Ireland

Since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the harp became synonymous with Irishness, an association most notable today in the Guinness Beer Company’s trademark logo (est. 1759).  For next Friday (4/28), students will write a blog post on the symbolic significance of the Irish harp in ONE of the three assigned poems for that week: Thomas Moore, Sydney Owenson, or Henry Derozio.  How do these poets use the cultural history of the harp to convey their nationalist message?  Explain how their poems extend, rewrite, or complicate this history. To help you answer this question, I’ve inserted a link to a scholarly website that traces the long and complex history of the Irish harp in Britain:

 

 

The poem by Thomas Moore “Harp of my country” utilizes the Harp as a form of Nationalistic Pride. When there is darkness Moore states he found the harp and thats symbolic of the Irish that are now controlled by the English. And in a way Moore is expressing his reminiscent outlook on the drastic changes that have come about as well. The Harp is the pride and  Joy of the Irish and now he feels as though it has been tainted by the foreigners that don’t really appreciate it which he expresses when he states ” Til touch’d by some hand less unworthy than mine” . This extends history in that it is drawing attention to the changing of the times. Where once the Harp took on a message of freedom and joy it is now the thing that keeps the Irish people bound to the English as almost a form of slavery. It is not used to express freedom and Joy but to entertain the new foreigners diminishing the original feelings the Harp once brought.  The Harp is something that had been mastered and specialized by the Gaelic people for many generations and now it is being glorified in a sense for the wrong reasons. Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 11.10.32 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-04-28 at 11.10.21 AM.png

Stroke of Hope

Just as Ireland loathed the tight superficial embrace of the United Kingdom, India was also trying to pry off the greasy fish and chip fingers of the UK. While it is sometimes nice to think about the convenience and familiarity of something, over expanding can piss off a lot of people. I like to think about McDonalds or Walmart. Almost anywhere in the United States that we visit, we can be sure to find one and our anxieties are soothed because we know generally what the store is going to sell. This of course kills culture. It kills the culture in the community, it kill the moral, the creativeness, the distinction in which a region has over time, identified with.

The same goes for colonization in India. The intrusiveness that Britain patrols the world with has oppressed the people in India. What is more concerning is that if people are not willing to express their dislike, they will simply mold to that of which the commanding entity wishes for the country. “He who will not reason is a bigot, he who cannot reason is a fool, and he who does not reason is a slave” was said by Derozio. A sentence as such shows that many people tend to fall in the last portion of that. People essentially become slaves to that of which is in the best interest of the highest authorities. Wanting the UK would seem more advantageous. Of course, Roy would argue that the English was needed to modernize and advance the old ways of India, but it is still not taken lightly that the UK is how the US is now by trying to have their nose In everything.

I sense that Derozio reminisces in his poem by addressing times that were better prior “Once thy harmonious chords to sweetness gave” (line 9). Some people, easily give up and just reflect on past times. But we know that the harp stands for more. “The harp symbolizes a fight to survive through regeneration and adaptation in a changing society” (Harp Spectrum). For these reasons there is flare and passion in Derozio’s lines of rekindling the strength of a society. The rhyme pattern line by line does not follow a normal pattern. Rather, enlightened in class, the rhyme scheme in the poem follows the pattern as that of a harp being played. The music tends to be harmonious from that of a harp. I feel a punch however when reading “Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!” (line 14) of Derozio’s finishing poem. This shows that India will not go down easy and stand up and join together.

 

-Daniel Estrada

What the Harp Represented

The poem I chose to analyze is “The Irish Harp” written by Sydney Owneson. This poem really extends the history of the harp and of the Irish regarding their oppression and anguish. Owenson begins the poem by sadly questioning why the harp doesn’t play music anymore, “Why has that song of sweetness died” (Line 3). Owenson continues to lament about the beauty the harp emits and then the harp seems to take on a different tone “’Twas doubtful still if bliss or sorrow From its melting lapses fell” (Lines 11-12). The poem takes a turn to the oppression of a “him” and the doubtful journey that is beginning “Oh no! for he, opprest, pursued, Wild, wand’ring, doubtful of his course With tears his silent Harp bedew’d, That drew from Erin’s woes their source” (Lines 25-8). The “he” in this poem is crying on his “silent Harp” because the Harp is in distress. This can go deeper and show that the man in this poem is sadden by the Harp, which can represent the Irish population, due to the massive mistreatment and cruelty done on a society. The poem continues and turns to the people of Erin and of their hurt “How many bleeding hearts around, In suff’ring sympathy enwreath’d, Hung desponding o’er the sound!” (Lines 50-53). The poem comes to an end explaining that although a lot of hurt and mistreatment has happened and there has been great lose, “The deeo-ton’d music of his lyre, And Erin go brach he boldly sung” (Lines 59-60). Tragedies may happen but there will still be people, who fight and carry on; although people may be changed drastically after such a colonizing atrocity, there are still survivors that support old traditions that the new colonizing power can never halt.

It is also important to note the rhyme scheme ABAB throughout the poem mirrors certain words like: pride and died, flow and woe, borrow and sorrow, languish and anguish, gloom and tomb, dismay and array, among the many. Specific words coupled together in this rhyme scheme emphasize either synonym words or antonym words that come together to portray the despair and misery that the harp stands for but also for the happiness in which it once represented.

— Alison Vining

The Irish Harp: History, Politics, and Art

Image result for guinness beer harp logo

Since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the harp became synonymous with Irishness, an association most notable today in the Guinness Beer Company’s trademark logo (est. 1759).  For next Friday (4/28), students will write a blog post on the symbolic significance of the Irish harp in ONE of the three assigned poems for that week: Thomas Moore, Sydney Owenson, or Henry Derozio.  How do these poets use the cultural history of the harp to convey their nationalist message?  Explain how their poems extend, rewrite, or complicate this history. To help you answer this question, I’ve inserted a link to a scholarly website that traces the long and complex history of the Irish harp in Britain:

http://www.harpspectrum.org/historical/Irelands%20Harp%20A%20Story%20of%20Survival%20and%20the%20Shaping%20of%20Irish%20Identity.shtml

Please explain your answer through a CLOSE READING of the poem, paying careful attention to rhyme, tone, diction, imagery, and form.

Please categorize your post under “The French Revolution” and don’t forget to create specific and relevant tags.  The post is due by Friday (4/28) 1pm, but students have the option to revise it until 6pm that day.  And please sign your posts so that your TA, Hannah, and I know who wrote what.  Warning: blank or filler “placeholder” posts submitted after the deadline will not receive a grade!

The bigger Picture in Equiano’s narrative

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 12.35.09 PM.png

In the picture above the first thing that catches the reader’s eye is the quaker looking man holding a picture directly into the telescope which is directed at a merry black tribe. Beneath that picture is a man that seems to be in charge of picking out the pictures for ‘Negro Slavery’. The contradictory nature  of a quaker holding a picture of slaves being between paralleled with a nice calm looking village (even the weather is calmers and brighter over there), demonstrates a pro-slavery propaganda type of picture. As the quakers are holding their anti-slavery posters (they disagree with slavery) there are poor Irishmen and children on the streets. This Quaker holding the large sign in the middle saying “buy only West India Company Sugar” but also has a ‘East India Company’ tag in his back pocket also indicates he may be payed off and dishonest. The point of this picture may be to demonstrate that those who are against slavery are a bunch of hypocrites because as they preach to have anti-slavery they have white men on the streets (although Irish) and their children signing forms probably against their will. This relates to Olaudah Equiano’s narrative when ‘Equiano’ states

“ I was so enraged with the Governor, that I could have wished to have seen him tied fast to a tree and flogged for his behaviour; but I had not people enough to cope with his party. I therefore thought of a stratagem to appease the riot. Recollecting a passage I had read in the life of Columbus, when he was amongst the Indians in Mexico or Peru, where, on some occasion, he frightened them, by telling them of certain events in the heavens, I had recourse to the same expedient; and it succeeded beyond my most sanguine expectations. When I had formed my determination, I went in the midst of them; and, taking hold of the Governor, I pointed up to the heavens. I menaced him and the rest: I told them God lived there, and that he was angry with them, and they must not quarrel so; that they were all brothers, and if they did not leave off, and go away quietly, I would take the book (pointing to the Bible), read, and tell God to make them dead. This was something like magic. The clamour immediately ceased, and I gave them some rum and a few other things; after which they went away peaceably; and the Governor afterwards gave our neighbour, who was called Captain Plasmyah, his hat again.” (Equiano 2875).

This demonstrates that while Equiano may be scrutinizing the whites for their position on slavery and they treat him, he too also is focusing too much on the smaller picture than the larger one. In this case Equiano is trying so hard to be like the British (mentioning someone they would know of and talking sophisticatedly while tricking people)  that he fails to see he too does everything he hates. Right before this passage he went to help pick out slaves from his village, choosing the ones from his village because they ‘would’ be the best workers, although he just sentenced them to be slaves. The point being in both of these scenarios the person being depicted is failing to see their part in helping the encourage slavery and not abolish it.

 

-Haley H.