What would annotations of Derozio's "The Harp of India" and "To India- My Native Land" look like?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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If there are specific elements for which you must annotate in both poems, these would be the first annotations to make.  Some teachers ask for specific items in poems to be annotated or noted.  Upon these being done, I think that it might be interesting to develop annotations where shared ideas in both poems are evident.  Derozio was an important thinker in the Indian consciousness.  He emerged at a time before independence, but was willing to articulate the mindset that would facilitate the eventual separation from England.  He was indigenous, but also embodied Western ideas.  I think that annotations can be made in both poems that reflects his representation of the "Young Bengal" movement and the demand for change.

Derozio was not shy about his insistence on change in India.  Animated  by freedom of thought and absence of any type of restraint, Derozio and his followers were insistent on wanting change and wanting it now:

The Young Bengal movement was like a mighty storm that tried to sweep away everything before it. It was a storm that lashed society with violence causing some good, and perhaps naturally, some discomfort and distress.

This aspect of change can form the basis of annotations in "The Harp of India." The poem's exposition speaks to a harp that has experienced alienation and neglect:

 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:

This opening articulates how Derozio sees the condition of India in real time. There is a greatness within it.  However, such "music once was sweet" is now "neglected, mute and desolate."  Derozio offsets this condition with an articulation of what can be.  The "storm" of transformation that shifts everything in its path is evident in how Derozio describes "notes divine" and how the harp "May be by mortal wakened once again."  In making annotations for this poem, I think that it's important to anotate how Derozio suggests that the images of decay and isolation can be temporary ones.  Individuals have the capacity to impact change in their world.  The emphasis on human agency and freedom is evident in the poem's closing line of "Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!"  Derozio's emphasis on what can be in the face of what is might be a good thematic starting point in terms of making annotations.  This would allow the reader to contrast the condition of the harp, the condition of India, with what might be in the future, a world of what India could be with human action. 

This same capacity for transformation is evident in "To India- My Native Land." Just as annotations in "The Harp of India" sought to illuminate the paradigm shift between what is and what can be, the same level of change within Derozio's thought processes can form the basis of annotations in "To India- My Native Land."  Within the first four lines of the poem, Derozio challenges the reader to envision what can be from what is:

A beauteous halo circled round thy brow,
And worshipped as a deity thou wast.
Where is that glory, where that reverence now ?

Similar to Derozio's sense of longing in describing the "muted" harp, Derozio activates the same level of questioning in asking "Where is that glory, where that reverence now?" The subsequent images of "chained", "grovelling", "lowly dust" evoke the condition of India as is.  These are challenged with Derozio's affirmation of "Well–let me dive into the depths of time," a line that is very similar to "let me strike the strain" in the previous poem  One can annotate for the same level of human agency in both poems.  Derozio suggests that the Indian predicament is not a permanent condition.  It is something that can be overcome with individual action and a commitment to change.  The "labor" in one poem can parallel the "wakened once again" in the other.  It is in this regard where annotations can be made in both poem.  One can annotate for the images of decay and suffering that linger in both and then annotate for the images of restoration and regeneration.  This dynamic is reflective of Derozio's thought, a demand for "storm"- like change from what is into what can be. Such an intellectual reality can be the basis for some solid annotations in both poems.

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