What is the structure of the poem "To India My Native Land" by Henry L. V. Derozio?   

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Henry Louis Vivian Derozio's poem "To My Native Land" is a sonnet in 14 lines with 3 quatrains and an ending couplet. The rhyme scheme abab abcc dede ff is a variation on the Shakespearean sonnet (same as English sonnet) rhyme scheme abab cdcd efef gg.

Derozio varies the rhyme scheme in the second quatrain. Instead of the Shakespearean cdcd, he uses abcc in which he repeats the ab opening of the first quatrain then adds a cc couplet.

This variation is reminiscent of, but not the same thing as, a Spenserian cc couplet concatenating (i.e., chaining together) the second and third quatrains in the Spenserian rhyme scheme ababbcbccdcd ee.

Derozio's rhyme scheme variation creates a second couplet, so there are two couplets cc ff. This is also reminiscent of, but not the same as, a Spenserian scheme, which actually has three couplets, bb cc ee.

The variation in the second quatrain allows for two voltas (i.e., Italian for turn) at lines 5 and 9, as do both the English/Shakespearean and Spenserian sonnets. The first volta is connected to the topic in the first quatrain, yet presents a different idea on the overall subject of India. The first quatrain, opening with an apostrophe to "My Country!",  tells of "glory past" and the "beauteous halo" on the country's personified brow.

The second quatrain line 5 volta turns and contrasts India’s past glory with the implied metaphor of an eagle chained "And grovelling in the lowly dust." The cc couplet refers back to the "reverence" during the days of glory and proclaims that there is no "minstrel" to sing of India--only of "the sad story of thy misery."

The second volta at line 9, "Well—let me dive into the depths of time," is the major turn where the poet declares he will salvage "A few small fragments of these wrecks sublime." The resolution to the problem of India's lost glory and present misery comes in the ending couplet. The poet takes upon himself to ease the pain of "My country!" by writing sonnets to offer "One kind wish for thee."

This couplet resolution is reminiscent of various love sonnets written most notably by Shakespeare (Sonnet 18: "So long lives this and this gives life to thee") and Spenser (Sonnet 75: "My verse your virtues rare shall eternize") that claim to make their love eternal through their immortal lines of poetry. Similarly, Derozio's resolution states that the "guerdon" (i.e., reward or recompense) of his "labour" to salvage from the "depths of time" some glory of old will be that "one kind wish" is offered for India.