The Harp of India Summary, Themes, and Analysis: Henry Derozio

Read our complete notes on the poem “The Harp of India” by Henry Derozio. Our notes cover The Harp of India summary, themes, and critical analysis.

The Harp of India Introduction:

Henry Derozio is the first English Indian poet who also headed the Young Bengal Movement. Despite having little Indian blood in his veins, he loved India. He was a child of Indo-Portuguese father and a British mother.

The Poem The Harp of India is a nostalgic poem by Henry Derozio. It celebrates the magnificent Indian past and laments over the loss that is caused by the British Rule. The poem ends with a hope that one day India will regain its glory. The word Harp is used by the poet for the famous Indian poets who under the British Rule are now suffering.

The poem is an unconventional sonnet having a rhyming scheme ababbabcdcdcbb. The poem is divided into two main parts. In the first part, the poet laments on the magnificent past while in the second part, he hopes for the glory to be regained.

The Harp of India Summary:

Part 1

The speaker begins with the question of “Why hang’st thou lonely on yon withered bough?” The word “Thou” speaks of the “harp” and more specifically the people of India. The poet is wondering over the lonely hanging harp on the dry and dead bough and asks for the reason.

Hence, the poem begins with melancholy and a sad tone. The speaker, in the next line, suggests that it (the harp) will forever remain with a dead bough without strings. Just like the dead branch, the harp is also dead.

Furthermore, the speaker is nostalgic and refers to the past when the music of harp was quite meaningful and sweet. When it was not unstrung, it would have sweet melodies. Now the strings are removed, it cannot have any music and no one listens to it anymore. The harp is too old to be played now.

Moreover, the harp cannot wake up by the breeze or air that passes by it. Simply, in other words, the words are useless to play it. It is now dead by the silence or unmusicality. As a very old cenotaph in the desert, it is subdued, abandoned and ruined.

Part 2

The second part of the poem begins with a morning tone, yet end with hope. The speaker shifts his interest from the harp (musical instrument) to the one who used the harp to sung melodies (poets). The speaker points out the past poets before him whose poems were more worthy and melodious than his. He says that those poets produced outstanding poetry that would make the listeners enjoyable.

Though these poets are now dead, yet their works have kept them, alive and immortal. Because of their work, they are always honored and will be honored in the coming ages. Hence, even after their death, they are still alive just as the flowers still blossoms on their graves.

At the end of the poem, the poets refer to past poets and called the Cold Hands. However, the speaker desires to revive the past literary works of those poets and hopes that by reviving that work, the India glory will also be revived.

The Harp of India Themes:

Colonization:

The only reoccurring theme of the poem is colonization. The poem is written in the nineteenth century. During that Era, the world, particularly India was going through the period of colonization. The British Raj or Rule has drastic impacts on the people and literary developments. The poet in the poem refers to the instruments as withered (dead). He says that they are untouched for years resulting in its rusting.

Before the arrival of the British Empire, the poetry produced in India has an idealistic tone, making the music beautiful. Yet after they are empowered by “others”, the beauty is lost and the poets have stopped practicing due to the restrictions imposed on them. The poet highlights the importance of a culture that was lost because of colonization. With the loss of culture, the beauty and worth of those poets also diminished.

The development and modernization by the colonizers made the colonized to adopt their way of living and assimilate in their foreign culture. The natives have lost their identities and are oppressed.

 The Harp of India Critical Analysis:

Part 1

Harp in the port The Harp of India refers to that past, dead India poets who once sung the melodious and sweet poetry and then lost their magnificence in the tiring British Rule in India. Hence, they are unstrung poets and nobody wants to listen to their worthy and meaningful poems. This all is caused by the new developments and modernity by the British. According to pet, the past poets are so dead and silent that the little breeze (referring to the struggle) is not enough to put life in them.

The poet uses the word “Silence” that refers to the metaphorical death of the poetry of these poets. The British restricted them from writing that made them like the old, neglected, silenced and ruined monument in the desert.

Part 2

The word “hands” in the second part of the poem refers to the poets before the poet. Those poets wrote amazing poetry. Though these poets are now dead, yet their works have kept them, alive and immortal. Because of their work, they are always honored and will be honored in the coming ages. Hence, even after their death, they are still alive just as the flowers still blossoms on their graves. The poet desires to revive the past literary works of those poets and hopes that by reviving that work, the India glory will also be revived.

Literary Devices in “The Harp of India”

Why hang’st thou lonely on yon withered bough? (Personification)

Unstrung forever, must thou there remain; (personification)

Thy music once was sweet – who hears it now?

Why doth the breeze sigh over thee in vain? (Personification)

Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain; (personification)

Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,

Like ruined monument on the desert plain: (Simile)

O! many a hand more worthy far than mine (synecdoche)

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 (synecdoche)

Maybe by mortal wakened once again,

Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!