The Harp of India by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio

The Harp of India by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio

The Harp of India by Henry Derozio 

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?
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
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!

About Henry Derozio:

Henry Louis Vivian Derozio(1809-1831) is the first modern Indian English poet. He was influenced by the English Romantic poets like Lord Byron, PB Shelley and Keats. His other poems include – ‘The Fakir of Janghira’, ‘To India – My Native Land’, and ‘Song of the Hindoostani Ministrel’. 

To know more about him visit:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Louis_Vivian_Derozio

Short Summary of ‘The Harp of India’ by Henry Derozio

‘The Poem mourns India’s loss of freedom to the British and hopes it would regain its past glory’. The harp is simply a musical stringed instrument, that Derozio uses to represent as India’s loss of art and literature. The harp is left unplayed, possibly because its strings are broken. Even when there is a breeze that touches the instrument, it has no motion. The ultimate use of an instrument is lost, there is no sound from it. The instrument has been been used by several poets in the past but now it lays there like a statue, abandoned in a desert. The poets have become famous using the harp in the past. The fame still exists through their artwork(poem) like fresh flowers that bloom in the poets’ grave. Derozio ends the poem exclaiming that the one with the skill should awaken the music, and to choose him to do the job.

Analysis of ‘The Harp of India’ by Henry Derozio 

 The poem ‘The Harp of India’ is written as a Petrarchan sonnet – a poem consisting of fourteen lines. A Petrarchan sonnet consists of an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The poem is written in the first-person point of view. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ‘ababbabcdcdcbb’.

The poem is pretty straight forward, simple and elegant. The ‘harp’ is the main symbol used in this poem. The harp represents India’s poets, culture, tradition, art and literature. The loss of these elements in India forms the outline of the poem. There are mainly two parts to the poem. The octave describes the abandoned harp, a metaphor the loss of art and literature and sestet describes the poets’ art and how the fame exists even after the death of artwork’s author. 

There is a political background to this poem. It was written in the 19th Century, and very much reflects colonization and how it reflected in India’s literary work.

Why hang’st thou lonely on yon withered bough?
Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain;

Why do you hang on a broken branch? The word ‘thou’ refers to the harp. The ‘unstrung’ means that the harp hasn’t been played, possibly because the strings are broken. Should the harp remain like that? 

The first two lines evoke a sense of sadness. The harp refers to the art, that is not being used or created. The poet questions, if the culture of art should remain like this. 

Thy music once was sweet – who hears it now?
Why doth the breeze sigh over thee in vain?

The music or the sounds produced by the harp was once very melodious. But now, since nobody plays it, nobody hears the sounds anymore. Even the winds can stir music within harp and is useless.

Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain;
Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,

The harp is silenced, as it does not produce any music or sound. That makes the harp close to being dead as it defeats the purpose of an instrument. It is abandoned and dumb and cannot make any music. 

Like ruined monument on desert plain:
O! many a hand more worthy far than mine

Thus the harp is like a ruined statue on a desert-useless. There are many poets better than the narrator. The word ‘hand’ refers to the other talented poets.


Once thy harmonious chords to sweetness gave,
And many a wreath for them did Fame entwine

when the harp did make melodious music and entertained, it gave fame to the poets. The word ‘wreath’ suggests that the posts are dead, also refers to the flowers on the poets’ grave. 


Of flowers still blooming on the minstrel’s grave:
Those hands are cold – but if thy notes divine

the flowers still bloom on the poets’ graves. ‘flower’ can also be compared to fame. Even when the poets remain dead, the artwork they produced is celebrated even after the death of poets.


May be by mortal wakened once again,
Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!

Let the harp be played again, to revive art and literature again and let him- the narrator be the one to begin it. 

Literary Devices

The major literary devices used in ‘The Harp of India’ are personification, simile and synecdoche. Throughout the poem, the ‘harp’ is personified. It is given the importance as if it is a living being. It perhaps enhances the value of art in India. Words like ‘thou’ and ‘her’ are used to personify the harp. The simile used in this poem is “Like ruined monument on desert plain:”. This simile compares the broken harp to an abandoned statue in the desert. One synecdoche used here is “hands” that refer to the poets. 

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Mercy Hapsiba

Freelance Writer~Blogger~Learner

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Gourikrishna
Gourikrishna
1 month ago

👍👍👍💜💜

Miley
21 days ago

thanks for the information