To India My Native Land Summary

Extended Summary

A sonnet of fourteen lines divided between three quatrains and an ending couplet, "To India My Native Land" is a song of love and deep emotion from Henry Louis Vivian Derozio to his "fallen country," India. The poem was published before Derozio's untimely death at the age of twenty-two from cholera in 1831.

The abab abcc dede ff rhyme scheme employed by Derozio is most clearly identifiable as a variation of Edmund Spenser's Amoretti rhyme scheme. In Derozio's, there is Spenserian concatenation (rhyme and meaning linkage) at the cc couplet in the second quatrain. It is at this couplet that the poetic speaker hits the crescendo of his song and reveals the emotional motivation behind the story he tells and behind the resolution he will promise.

In an apostrophe addressing India, the poetic persona, who is tightly associated with Derozio himself, recounts India's "days of glory past" when glory, reverence, and deity were like a "beauteous halo circled round thy brow." These four short lines of iambic pentameter paint a vivid picture of the India that existed before British colonization. They also reveal the deep emotional ties the persona has to the memory of the true India, the free India, the India that commanded respect from other civilizations. 

The address to India continues in the second quatrain, but line 5 turns the topic from glory to misery. India's fallen estate under colonization is lamented and compared to a subdued eagle whose wings are chained, which renders the bird powerless as it grovels "in the lowly dust." In the cc couplet of the quatrain, the speaker exclaims over the loss of minstrel songs of victory since all that is left is India's story of "misery!" This is the high point of the poem and of the speaker's story of India's glory and fall. India's misery is the speaker's motivation and the reason for his forthcoming promise. 

Line 9 introduces a new tone to the third quatrain with "Well—let me dive." In a somber tone, the persona promises to reach into the past days of glory to salvage some memory of India's former position as a powerful civilization. This promise is couched in a metaphor of diving into the ocean of time and ages past where a "few small fragments" of recollected deeds and accomplishments might be salvaged for a "human eye" to see. This promise is analogous of Shakespearean promises to make the beloved immortal through the lines of his love sonnets. 

The resolution of the sonnet is unfolded in the ending couplet. The speaker declares that his reward for revealing a fraction of India's true past will be the "kind wish" that even one person may send India's way. When Derozio composed this work, India was still imprisoned by colonialism as an eagle is "imprisoned" by chained pinion feathers.