Question Amitha g Art, Media & Literature

Impact of contemporary issues in the poem, "The Harp of India"

what impact has the prevailing conditions of the times made on india in the poem the harp of india/

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Answer Internal Staff

The Harp of India, published in 1923, when India was under British colonial rule, is a well known patriotic poem written by Henry Derozio, the first Indian poet to write in English.

The poem opens with the metaphor of India under British rule personified as an unstrung harp on a withered bough, this in comparison with the culturally rich past of the Indian Vedic period when ‘music once was sweet.’ However now, due to the cultural decline of India, nobody hears this music and silence binds the country.

Silence is personified as female, as Mother India too is personified as feminine, in chains that render her ‘neglected, mute and desolate’; a country whose riches lay inert and abandoned. The ‘ruined monument’ and ‘desert plain’ are imagistic symbols of the lost grandeur of India’s past and its ruination in British hands. Derozio references the many minstrels of the past that found fame and produced ‘harmonious chords’ that no longer exist, however, flowers still bloom on their graves. Here the extended use of metaphor once again points to the artistic and cultural heritage of a once great nation that has withered and died under the oppressive occupation of the British.

In conclusion, the poem uses metaphor and imagery to draw a comparison between the past and the present, between traditional India and India under British colonial rule. The withered bough; the unstrung harp; the ruined monument; the cold hand of dead poets, all images of a country in ruins. The poem expresses Derozio’s pride and identification with India’s past as he asserts his national identity and his role in its revival.

References

Iyer, N. Sharada. (2005) Musings on Indian Writing in English. New Delhi, Sarup & Sons.

Naik, M.K. (1984) Perspectives on Indian Poetry in English. New Delhi, Abhinav Publications.

Prasad, A.N. (2007) British and Indian English Literature: A Critical study. New Delhi, Sarup & Sons.

Ray, M.K. (ed.) (2008) Indian Writing in English. New Delhi, Atlantic Publishers.

Satchidanandan K. (ed.) (2001) Indian Poetry: Modernism and After: a seminar. New Delhi, Sahitya Akademi.