“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

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‘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

Dear Ireland, You are Greatly Missed

Thomas Moore’s “Dear Harp of my Country” illustrates the feelings of loss, patriotism, and repression connected with Ireland and the Irish harp. The very first line, just the title repeated with an exclamation point followed by “in darkness I found thee,” conveys these feelings. The exclamation of those words convey both surprise and excitement that the harp still exists, but the reference to “darkness” reveals that Ireland and its harp have been repressed, with the spotlight of their people on things other than their beloved harp. This reflects the fact that after Ireland had been defeated by the Danes and then the English, many harpists had abandoned their home, and those who were left were very few. To find the Irish harp after its depressing history brings the narrator feelings of patriotism and joy that such a symbol of Ireland does yet exist. Similarly, in the second half of Part I., the narrator tells that the harp has played so many hymns of sadness that even in its joyful tunes the sadness rings through. This is how the Irish think about the harp. It is a symbol of their people, but harpists and Irishmen have suffered so much and had so much sadness to sing of that their past cannot be forgotten no matter how happy they are. Part II. shows how true these things are by relaying that the narrator must put away the harp with the hope that one day someone who can do it justice will find it again. The harp went in and out of style for hundreds of years after Ireland was defeated, and it was well known that the attempts to revive its popularity felt more like the last concerts that would ever be played with the instrument. The narrator’s own fervor for the instrument cannot keep him playing it. As he says in the final line, “all the sweetness I wak’d was thy own.” The artistry with which harpists of Ireland’s past played was legendary, but since that time, the beauty of the instrument had been overshadowed by the lack of interest in playing it. Ireland is a reflection of its harp since its defeat. Irish citizens were being overlooked by the rest of the world, and their own culture was being lost to that of England and the rest of Great Britain. “Dear Harp of my Country” is an homage to Ireland’s lost autonomy, a tribute that had been often sung before but lost to the dominion of England.

-Meredith Leonardo

Redemption at it’s Finest

Thomas Moore’s “Dear Harp of My Country” beckons the the symbol of the harp as a means of praising it while also providing personal insight as the state of the political climate. Moreover, Moore views his own poetry as a means of rescuing the “harp” from its previous dejection. The poem, designed as an ode to his heritage, beckons to the harp as a symbol of suffering, as Thomas Moore writes:

“If the pulse of the patriot, soldier, or lover,/ Have throbb’d at our lay, ‘tis thy glory alone” (14-15).

The harp, as it was symbolic for Gaelic culture and its presence in court (through Bard-like intervention), became a symbol of intricate work and sophistication that evolved through time. It was, as Giraldus Cambrensis stated, “The sole redeeming characteristic of an otherwise barbaric race” (www.harspectrum.org). Moore elaborates on the refined aspect of this instrument, calling attention to the sweet music it projects. But instead of focusing on the player of the instrument (as the ones who gave the tune its redeeming grace) he calls attention to all the wrong committed towards the harp.

Moore begins the poem by claiming that he found the instrument in darkness, furthering this to claim that (through his poetry) “I unbound thee,/ And gave all thy chords to light, freedom, and song” (3-4). Though abused and neglected in a historical context, here Moore makes the claim that it were authors such as himself which salvaged the name and heritage of the Harp through literature.

While previously the harp only received recognition in court (as a result of its performance by a servant), here Moore exploits the fact that authors such as himself are utilizing it to bring praise to the culture it represents, giving voice to the speechless. And while Moore bids the Harp goodbye in a sad recognition of the dwindling number of harpists, he grants the harp entrance into a heaven filled with “the sunshine of Fame on thy shoulders” (12).

-Savie Luce

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

Dear Harp of my Country!

“Dear Harp of my Country! In darkness I found thee.” This is how the Irish poet and songwriter, Thomas Moore, begins his poem titled Dear Harp of my Country. According to harpspectrum.org, the topic of the harp and its history is “a story of a fight to survive through regeneration and adaptation in a changing society.”

Thomas Moore than anything describes the harp as a staple of Ireland and writes about its iconic stature and symbolism. “Go, sleep with the sunshine of Fame on thy slumbers.” This is a reference to the harp’s famous representation of Irish culture. During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Irish harp began to show up in a lot of different paintings and arts. Moore makes a nod to not just the iconic status of the harp, but how the harp is very representative of Ireland itself. “When proudly, my own Island Harp, I unbound thee.” Here, Moore is describing how when the harp is being played, hence the “unbound thee” line, you can tell it’s being played in a proud and pleased manner considering the harp means so much to Ireland.

Moore uses an interesting way of the cultural history of the harp to convey his message of loving his homeland. He mentions keywords such as freedom, soldier, patriot, and worthy. By doing this, Moore is extending history in a subtle way. He gives hints about honor and patriotism in the establishment and history of the harp. What’s interesting to note is how in the early decades of the nineteenth century, writers used the Irish harp as metaphors to address social injustices, specifically poverty of the many native Irish. Moore does this subtly by writing the line “Till touch’d by some hand less unworthy than mine.” This line could represent how Moore acknowledges that someone, possibly of lower status, will play the instrument due to how much importance the harp has on the Irish people. It’s subtle, like most of the poem, but an argument can be made.

-Abe Alvarez

The Final Chord in “Dear Harp of my Country”

Thomas Moore’s “Dear Harp of my Country” laments the English’s control over Ireland by paralleling it with the decline in prominence of the Irish harp. Starting in the eighteenth century, the “Irish harp tradition was increasingly regarded as a dying tradition” (O’ Donnell 1). Thus, when Moore says “farewell to thy [the harp] numbers/ This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twine” (Moore 146.10-1), he is speaking in literal terms and hints at the slow demise of the Irish harp as the number of harpers decreases. However, this is also a comment on the state of the Irish at the time that were being subjugated to English rule, considering that the harp is a prominent symbol of Irish nationalism. With the decline of the harp, whose songs maintain the pulse of the Irish, also comes the deterioration of the Irish people.

Moore seems to equate the harp with a beating heart that sustains life. When he declares, “Dear Harp of my Country! in darkness I found thee” (Moore 145.1), he does not just refer to the physical harp but also the sounds of the instrument, which is representative of the voices of his countrymen. Just as the soft music of the harp would be able direct Moore in literal darkness, the sound also helps him and his people persist through the gloom English conquest has brought onto their land. Moore goes on to further elevate the harp by saying, “If the pulse of the patriot, soldier, or lover,/ Have throbb’d at our lay, ‘tis thy glory alone;/ I was but as the wind, passing heedlessly over,/ And all the wild sweetness I wak’d was thy own (156. 14-7). The determination of “the patriot, soldier, or lover” do not occur naturally, neither are these people what create the “wild sweetness” of the harp strums or preserve Ireland. It is the empowerment the Irish receive from the harp, which holds powerful associations, that keeps their nationalism and hope for a better Ireland alive. If the harping tradition is silenced, the Irish will lose a major remnant of an old Ireland, separate from Great Britain, and will not have the strength to fight for the autonomy of their country.

-Wendy Gutierrez

Striking the Right Chords: Irish Harp

The Irish harp is a symbol of hope, strength, and good ol’ perseverance. To Thomas Moore, it stood for all of that and more. For centuries, the harp stood as a beacon and homage to a proud and independent people. Though it faced treacherous times and eras of doubt and waning appreciation, the Irish harp emerged victorious through history’s cruel evolution. Every line of Moore’s poem is dripping with an undying loyalty to the harp’s image of freedom and beauty. The fondness of his words bring up the memories of an instrument strung into history much like its own wired cords. The harp was Ireland’s ode to patriotism. It was a source of power and dignity, even in the darkest times when the tradition seemed to be lost.

Though the harp died out for some time in the 17th Century, its prestige returned with a bang. In the time of sorrow, Moore wrote:

Dear Harp of my Country! farewell to thy numbers

This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twine,

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

Till touch’d by some hand less unworthy than mine.

It was this sentiment that made the revival possible. The mid-late 19th century brought back the harp with a new sense of pride. The harpists, now fighting for tradition and life of the instrument as a whole, were self-taught and prepared to tackle the slim odds, even if their craft was a dying sentiment. Still, it is clear that much like Moore wrote about the gentry and unbound spirit of the harp, it is clear that it remains an icon and symbol for freedom to this day. This symbol of nationalism brought a spark of power and strength in the time of its prime and reignited a powerful source of nostalgia and tradition during its revival. Next to the humble potato, the harp icon is one of the most recognized symbols of Irish culture, represented in the fine arts and paintings and even as the logo for their signature beer.

-Asia Reyna

Don’t Ask About the Harp, the Irish will Go on for Ages

Esther Quintanilla

Historically, the harp has been an important object to the Irish. Many believe the harp to be connected to their so-called “Irishness”. I think that this idolization of the harp in Ireland is valid because it saved the Irish from being considered barbarians. It was regarded as a symbol of status for musicians. As a musician myself, the respect of any instrument allows for my interests and passions to be taken seriously, especially as a great influencer of culture and society.

The poem “Dear Harp of my Country” by Thomas Moore focuses greatly on the harp as a symbol for Ireland and Irish culture. The name alone makes the poem appear as an ode to the country through the appreciation of the harp. In the first line of the poem, Moore compares the harp to a light found in the darkness. With this harp, the speaker is able to create light, freedom, and song, creating a major correlation between these three concepts and the harp. This is important to the identity of the harp because it allowed people to see the importance of having such an instrument being used in their country. Mirroring the idea of freedom, which was almost infeasible to the Irish because of their religious identities, was significant because it was able to give the hope of freedom to those who were in bondage.

Overall, the harp is a pretty cool instrument that was (and still is) very important to the Irish.

Coming to an End

The harp itself is a symbol for an ancient, pure, prestigious Ireland. Prior to the oppression that the Irish community faced , the harp symbolized high class honor. In the poem The Harp that Once Through Tara’s Halls by Thomas Moore, is about Irish Nationalism. Moore lets Tara symbolize the seat of Irish government, and the rule of Ireland. The harp, the traditional musical instrument known, as the Irish symbol, symbolizes the Irish people, culture, and spirit. This poem to put it bluntly is also about how things that are famous and important at one point, will eventually lose value or worth. It is the idea that no matter what oblivion or death is inevitable. The poem demonstrates how the harp loses, its high class value. The beginning of this ballad talks about the joy that this instrument brought to the lives of people. “ So glory’s thrill is o’er, And hearts, that once beat high for praise,” This is discussing the joy that the harp had brought to the people. After the devastations of the Irish community, the harps symbol of high status, had the reminder of suffering attached to it. “The harp that once through Tara’s halls The soul of music shed, Now hangs as mute on Tara’s walls, As if that soul were fled” What lines 1 through 4 mean from this poem is that ever since harp was no longer played as much as it used to, the spirit of the Irish community ceased with it. It is sad, knowing that something that these people seeked joy and happiness through had gained a negative symbol with it. The second part of the poem talks about the pain that people got from playing the harp, ever since the Irish were viewed as “barbaric’ people.

-Dariana Lara