Budding and Blooming Patriotism in Henry Derozio’s Poems- Sanjit Sarkar, West Bengal

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Renaissance is the result of the impact of British rule, their exploitation and expansion of empire. It is the awakening of national consciousness of people with new light and new thought. It is a kind of socio-cultural change which is the result of the union between two cultures – the east and the west. The light of Renaissance ignited nationalism and secular humanism in human minds, encouraged people to learn Western literature and philosophy for the rediscovery the world with new outlook, urged Indians to fight against all social diseases, inspired us to develop intellectual vision and to seek Truth, and above all, stirred up us to rediscover our cultural heritage, cultural treasures and to understand the glory of our ancient civilization. This reawakening for Renaissance spread the seeds of patriotism for national movement and prepared people for national interest. To create this national interest or to awake patriotism in national minds poets and writers had there significant role. Slowly they sow the seeds of patriotism in the young minds of India. In this paper I would like to throw some light on some of the Henry Derozio’s poems in English where we feel the spirits of patriotism.

Derozio had his burning passion for freedom and intoxicating urge for liberation from all kinds of bondages. He was a powerful catalytic agent of massive socio-cultural changes that took place under the influence of Renaissance. If we understand Derozio and his poems, we can understand that there is reflection of patriotism in his every poetic expression. He is acknowledged as first Indo-Anglian poet. K. S. Ramamurti in his introduction of his anthology – ‘Twenty-five Indian Poets in English’ said, “Indian poetry in English is said to have begun with Henry Louis Vivian Derozio who was not only a poet but also a teacher of poet.” As a teacher of poet he infused in the minds of his young students the feelings of patriotism with his poems. His poems ‘The Fakir of Jungheera’ and ‘The Magnus Opus’ vitalized the new spirit of Renaissance and thus infused in young minds patriotic urge. He was really a moving spirit of patriotism.

To awake patriotism and nationalism in young Indians Derozio sang the glory and grandeur of the golden past of history in his poems which fired patriotic passions in young minds. ‘To India-My Native Land’, ‘The Harp of India’, ‘The Golden Vase’ are patriotic in passion and powerful to ignite patriotism in mind. M. K. Naik remarks in his book ‘A History of Indian English Literature’ “A noteworthy feature of Derozio’s poetry is its burning nationalistic zeal. Poems like ‘To India-My Native Land’, ‘The Harp of India’ and ‘To the Peoples of the Hindoo College’ have an unmistakable authenticity of patriotic utterance which stamps Derozio as an Indian English poet who in truly a son of the soil.”

‘The Harp of India’ is an address to the harp. Here Derozio grieves at the lost glory of India and desires to reclaim the golden glory. Patriotism is blended here with Byronic melancholy as his verse is the echo of the voice of Byron and Moore. Derozio‘s love for past glory is actually in-grained in his patriotic spirit. The octave tells the decadent and sorry condition of the harp, which lies unstrung on a lonely, withered bough, bound in the fatal chain of silence. In the sestet, the poet invokes the musicians of the past whose worthy hands once created many sweet melodies on the harps. Finally he wishes –

–but if thy notes divine

May be by mortal wakened once again,

Harp of my country, let me strike the strain! ”

So the poet is optimistic. The poem ends with hope of renewal. He wishes divine notes of the harp, “Harp of my country” can be revived once again. In the expression ‘my country’ we feel poet’s deep love and patriotism for our country.

Derozio was popular among his students for his patriotism, wisdom and deep knowledge. He is supposed to be the first poet in Bengal who wrote patriotic sonnet ‘To India – My Native Land’. This poem is included at first in his long poem ‘The Fakir of Jungheera’. In this poem Derozio again glorified Indian golden past. He imagines India as a goddess for her halo of glory. He utters –

My country, in thy days of glory past

A beauteous halo circled round thy brow

And worshipped as a deity”

Derozio desires to revive the past glory with patriotic devotion. He writes –

Well-let me dive into the depths of time

And bring from out the ages that have rolled

A few small fragments of those wrecks sublime

Which human eye may never more behold.”

R. K. Dasgupta has written that Derozio’s sonnet ‘To India-My Native Land’ is “….The poetical expression of our new patriotism….when Derozio wrote these lines, there was no patriotic song in the Bengali language and not many songs composed several decades later seemed to echo the sentiments of these first poems of our nationalist airs…. its significance in the history of Indian patriotism is that it is more than paean of our ancient glory; it is also a vow of service to the country.”

Derozio’s passions for liberty and patriotic inspiration are well expressed in his short poems. In the Hindu College he taught Greek history and the two epics of Homer. Greeks were his inspiration. Greece was a symbol of liberty, bravery and patriotism. In this glorious civilization emancipation was the only motto and patriotism was in there blood. Derozio’s short pomes – ‘The Greeks at Marathon’, ‘Address to the Greeks’, ‘Thermopylae’ and ‘Freedom to the Slave’ had the fire of patriotism.

In the ‘Address to the Greeks’ he wrote –

The ground that ye tread, by your fathers was trod

Their bloodshed for freedom has hallowed the sod”

Here the Greeks are encouraged to go ahead, the heroism of the ancient Greeks is praised, urge for freedom is highlighted and their patriotic spirit is glorified. This poetic call is actually to ingrain patriotic urge in the minds of freedom lovers of any civilization. In the same poem the lines –

Strike, strike, as yours fathers of old would have done

Unite and the field with your liberty’s won!”- are inspiring and patriotic to the march of victories in war not only to the Greeks but also any freedom loving civilization.

In the poem ‘Greece’ Derozio recasts the glorious history of the Greeks to inspire them in the battle against Turkees. The European countries did not help the Greeks in their crises where Greece contributed much to European civilization. So Derozio writes –

Will Europe hear? Ah! No-ah! No-

She coldly turns from thee,

Thine own right arm, and battle-blade

Must win the victory.”

Here the song of ultimate victory is sung with patriotic passion which may inspire any chained country.

The Greeks at Marathon’ is written to celebrate the victory of the Greeks in the battle of Marathon. Patriotic heroes are glorified and deified here for winning freedom of their country. The poet writes –

This is freedoms hallowed earth,

Hallowed by a deed of worth;

Let another such be done

On this field of Marathon,

Seek we freedom? Greecian, on!

Freedom’s field is Marathon.”

Patriotic fervour also finds poetic revelation in his poem ‘Independence’. The flame of freedom in his heart may succumb to a stormy wind. The poet writes –

My heart and shall the little lamp

My glorious image be….”

The poem, ‘The Freedom to the Slave’ is also an echo of patriotic passion of fiercely freedom loving spirits. In this poem the poet pays attribute to all who are fighting for freedom. He writes –

And glory to the breast that bleeds

Bleeds nobly to be free !

Blest be the generous hand that breaks

The chain that a tyrant gave,

And feeling for degraded man

Gives freedom to the slave”

This poem is applicable not only to the slave but all the freedom loving people.

Derozio was out and out an Indian patriot. Patriotism is the main inspiration in every vein of his poem. He is the first to sing of freedom that lights the altar of soul with everlasting flame. His poetic outburst in light of renaissance was most remarkable part of his patriotic feelings. He planted the seeds of patriotism in the minds of his pupils and his countrymen. His poems are really pregnant with patriotism and nationalism.

Renaissance is the result of the impact of British rule, their exploitation and expansion of empire. It is the awakening of national consciousness of people with new light and new thought. It is a kind of socio-cultural change which is the result of the union between two cultures – the east and the west. The light of Renaissance ignited nationalism and secular humanism in human minds, encouraged people to learn Western literature and philosophy for the rediscovery the world with new outlook, urged Indians to fight against all social diseases, inspired us to develop intellectual vision and to seek Truth, and above all, stirred up us to rediscover our cultural heritage, cultural treasures and to understand the glory of our ancient civilization. This reawakening for Renaissance spread the seeds of patriotism for national movement and prepared people for national interest. To create this national interest or to awake patriotism in national minds poets and writers had there significant role. Slowly they sow the seeds of patriotism in the young minds of India. In this paper I would like to throw some light on some of the Henry Derozio’s poems in English where we feel the spirits of patriotism.

Derozio had his burning passion for freedom and intoxicating urge for liberation from all kinds of bondages. He was a powerful catalytic agent of massive socio-cultural changes that took place under the influence of Renaissance. If we understand Derozio and his poems, we can understand that there is reflection of patriotism in his every poetic expression. He is acknowledged as first Indo-Anglian poet. K. S. Ramamurti in his introduction of his anthology – ‘Twenty-five Indian Poets in English’ said, “Indian poetry in English is said to have begun with Henry Louis Vivian Derozio who was not only a poet but also a teacher of poet.” As a teacher of poet he infused in the minds of his young students the feelings of patriotism with his poems. His poems ‘The Fakir of Jungheera’ and ‘The Magnus Opus’ vitalized the new spirit of Renaissance and thus infused in young minds patriotic urge. He was really a moving spirit of patriotism.

To awake patriotism and nationalism in young Indians Derozio sang the glory and grandeur of the golden past of history in his poems which fired patriotic passions in young minds. ‘To India-My Native Land’, ‘The Harp of India’, ‘The Golden Vase’ are patriotic in passion and powerful to ignite patriotism in mind. M. K. Naik remarks in his book ‘A History of Indian English Literature’ “A noteworthy feature of Derozio’s poetry is its burning nationalistic zeal. Poems like ‘To India-My Native Land’, ‘The Harp of India’ and ‘To the Peoples of the Hindoo College’ have an unmistakable authenticity of patriotic utterance which stamps Derozio as an Indian English poet who in truly a son of the soil.”

The Harp of India’ is an address to the harp. Here Derozio grieves at the lost glory of India and desires to reclaim the golden glory. Patriotism is blended here with Byronic melancholy as his verse is the echo of the voice of Byron and Moore. Derozio‘s love for past glory is actually in-grained in his patriotic spirit. The octave tells the decadent and sorry condition of the harp, which lies unstrung on a lonely, withered bough, bound in the fatal chain of silence. In the sestet, the poet invokes the musicians of the past whose worthy hands once created many sweet melodies on the harps. Finally he wishes –

–but if thy notes divine

May be by mortal wakened once again,

Harp of my country, let me strike the strain! ”

So the poet is optimistic. The poem ends with hope of renewal. He wishes divine notes of the harp, “Harp of my country” can be revived once again. In the expression ‘my country’ we feel poet’s deep love and patriotism for our country.

Derozio was popular among his students for his patriotism, wisdom and deep knowledge. He is supposed to be the first poet in Bengal who wrote patriotic sonnet ‘To India – My Native Land’. This poem is included at first in his long poem ‘The Fakir of Jungheera’. In this poem Derozio again glorified Indian golden past. He imagines India as a goddess for her halo of glory. He utters –

My country, in thy days of glory past

A beauteous halo circled round thy brow

And worshipped as a deity”

Derozio desires to revive the past glory with patriotic devotion. He writes –

Well-let me dive into the depths of time

And bring from out the ages that have rolled

A few small fragments of those wrecks sublime

Which human eye may never more behold.”

R. K. Dasgupta has written that Derozio’s sonnet ‘To India-My Native Land’ is “….The poetical expression of our new patriotism….when Derozio wrote these lines, there was no patriotic song in the Bengali language and not many songs composed several decades later seemed to echo the sentiments of these first poems of our nationalist airs…. its significance in the history of Indian patriotism is that it is more than paean of our ancient glory; it is also a vow of service to the country.”

Derozio’s passions for liberty and patriotic inspiration are well expressed in his short poems. In the Hindu College he taught Greek history and the two epics of Homer. Greeks were his inspiration. Greece was a symbol of liberty, bravery and patriotism. In this glorious civilization emancipation was the only motto and patriotism was in there blood. Derozio’s short pomes – ‘The Greeks at Marathon’, ‘Address to the Greeks’, ‘Thermopylae’ and ‘Freedom to the Slave’ had the fire of patriotism.

In the ‘Address to the Greeks’ he wrote –

The ground that ye tread, by your fathers was trod

Their bloodshed for freedom has hallowed the sod”

Here the Greeks are encouraged to go ahead, the heroism of the ancient Greeks is praised, urge for freedom is highlighted and their patriotic spirit is glorified. This poetic call is actually to ingrain patriotic urge in the minds of freedom lovers of any civilization. In the same poem the lines –

Strike, strike, as yours fathers of old would have done

Unite and the field with your liberty’s won!”- are inspiring and patriotic to the march of victories in war not only to the Greeks but also any freedom loving civilization.

In the poem ‘Greece’ Derozio recasts the glorious history of the Greeks to inspire them in the battle against Turkees. The European countries did not help the Greeks in their crises where Greece contributed much to European civilization. So Derozio writes –

Will Europe hear? Ah! No-ah! No-

She coldly turns from thee,

Thine own right arm, and battle-blade

Must win the victory.”

Here the song of ultimate victory is sung with patriotic passion which may inspire any chained country.

The Greeks at Marathon’ is written to celebrate the victory of the Greeks in the battle of Marathon. Patriotic heroes are glorified and deified here for winning freedom of their country. The poet writes –

This is freedoms hallowed earth,

Hallowed by a deed of worth;

Let another such be done

On this field of Marathon,

Seek we freedom? Greecian, on!

Freedom’s field is Marathon.”

Patriotic fervour also finds poetic revelation in his poem ‘Independence’. The flame of freedom in his heart may succumb to a stormy wind. The poet writes –

My heart and shall the little lamp

My glorious image be….”

The poem, ‘The Freedom to the Slave’ is also an echo of patriotic passion of fiercely freedom loving spirits. In this poem the poet pays attribute to all who are fighting for freedom. He writes –

And glory to the breast that bleeds

Bleeds nobly to be free !

Blest be the generous hand that breaks

The chain that a tyrant gave,

And feeling for degraded man

Gives freedom to the slave”

This poem is applicable not only to the slave but all the freedom loving people.

Derozio was out and out an Indian patriot. Patriotism is the main inspiration in every vein of his poem. He is the first to sing of freedom that lights the altar of soul with everlasting flame. His poetic outburst in light of renaissance was most remarkable part of his patriotic feelings. He planted the seeds of patriotism in the minds of his pupils and his countrymen. His poems are really pregnant with patriotism and nationalism.

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