Short Biography of Henry Louis Derozio

Derozio was undoubtedly influenced by the Romantics, particularly by Byron, Scott, Shelley and Keats. As E.F. Oaten has observed, in both Keats and Derozio “there was a passionate temperament combined with unbounded sympathy with nature. Both died when their powers were not yet fully developed”. One of the most famous of his poems was “The Fakir of Jangheera”, a narrative poem which tells us the story of how the Brahmin widow Nuleeni was given a fresh lease of life when rescued from being burnt on the funeral pyre. He had also to his credit a number of sonnets and short lyrics, the best known of which is perhaps the one in which he calls Death his “best friend” and proclaims his victory over fate.

Î tyrant fate! Thus shall I vanquish thee,

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for out of suffering shall I gather pleasure.

“The Harp of India” is again one of his best sonnets. His dear India which he has apostrophized in another sonnet as a deity worshipped by everyone is presented here in t of a harp which now lies lonely and abandoned, bound by silence in her fatal silence. In a series of images the harp is pictured as one whose music had been brought out by many worthy hands but which now lies abandoned for want of talent. Those who had plucked its strings in the past had won many laurels but they are no more. If poor mortal hands such as his own can awaken the divine music which lies in it dormant, he would indeed be happy to strike the chords.

The harp refers here to India, the great country whose riches and potentialities lie inert and undiscovered under a foreign rule. It also perhaps refers to India’s poetic or artistic genius which, after centuries of glorious manifestation, now lies dormant.

Derozio has written another poem under the title, “Song of the Hindustanee Minstrel” which is again a passionate and sensuous apostrophe made to a beautiful “Cashmerian girl”.

The Harp of India:

Why hang’st thou lonely on yon withered bough?

Unstrung forever, must thou there remain;

Thy music once was sweet — who hears it now?

Why doth the breeze sigh over thee in vain?

5 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,

10 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!