To India – My Native Land by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio

My country! In thy days of glory past
A beauteous halo circled round thy brow
and worshipped as a deity thou wast—
Where is thy glory, where the reverence now?
Thy eagle pinion is chained down at last,
And grovelling in the lowly dust art thou,
Thy minstrel hath no wreath to weave for thee
Save the sad story of thy misery!
Well—let me dive into the depths of time
And bring from out the ages, that have rolled
A few small fragments of these wrecks sublime
Which human eye may never more behold
And let the guerdon of my labour be,
My fallen country! One kind wish for thee!

Summary and Analysis

In the poem To India – My Native Land, Derozio epitomizes India and addresses her in a monologue. Derozio talks about the glorious past of India and also reminds her how, in her days of splendor and fame, she used to be looked upon highly, worshipped with sanctity and was considered sacrosanct. But then, when the poem was written, the poet felt that all its grandeur and sacredness that was hers has been lost. Derozio personifies India as a Divine Goddess; India is considered a female figure as usually a country is addressed as ‘mother‘ and India is even referred to as ‘Bharat Mata‘ (or Mother India). In the past, India had a rich cultural, divine and legendary facet – she was full of grandeur and was admired and respected all over the world. India was regarded highly by all but now (during the framing of the poem), because of her subjugation to the British power, she has lost all her brilliance and grandeur. Like a deity or a goddess, with a halo at the back, she was worshipped and admired everywhere in the world.

The poem laments the deprivation and depreciation of India because of her slavery to the British and seeks to regain India‘s lost glory and reverence.The poem very clearly indicates the discontent of the author with the British rule in India and this pain and agony is reflected in the ‘eagle pinion is chained down at last‘. Here ‘eagle‘ refers to India as it is believed that in the early years of the British rule, India was referred to as the Golden Eagle or Golden Bird as it was one of the largest producers of gold, diamonds and rare stones. Foreign visitors were impressed by the treasures and generosity that India offered. The poem begins with a grief-stricken declaration ‘My country!‘ that reverberates throughout the poem. The poet, with a heart crammed with distress, mourns over the deplorable and nightmare scenario of present India which is crushed under the British feet.

But later the British domination and the internal weakness brought the country into the chains of slavery and knocked down its pride and personality. This thought is very beautifully expressed in ‘And groveling in the lowly dust art thou.‘ Due to lack of liberty and stagnation in the standards of living, there is an acute sense of desperation not just in the country but in the heart of the poet as well and this is conveyed wonderfully in the poem: ‘no wreath to weave for thee, save the sad story of thy misery.‘ The condition that the country was in during the time of the British rule is miserably heartbreaking and its pain is felt in the words of the poet. The poet uses rhetorical questions at times (like ‘Can we forget those happy days?‘), the intention being to find a solution in the question itself as well as to involve the readers in the drift of the poem. The poet makes use of the images of death – dust and wreath – to communicate to the readers the insignificant, hollow and demoralised situation of India under the British supremacy. The writing of a poem is contrasted, using a concealed metaphor, to the ‘weaving of a wreath‘. In the earlier years, the poets used to compose and sing songs of praise, glorifying the enormity of the country. Now, the poets can no more write these tributes as India is in a wretched condition having lost all its glory and divine status of the past.

Derozio‘s wish is to bring back and write about the past of India. As the ‘ages have rolled by‘ it is only by ‘diving into the depths of time‘ that he can bring back its lost glory. His wish is to collect all ‘small fragments of those wrecks sublime‘ and present it in front of the reader‘s eyes. He feels that the people with the passing of time might have forgotten the glorious past and may never have the opportunity to see or read about it again: ‘which human eyes may never more behold.‘ So the author believes that he should become the instrument of connecting the glorious past to the sublime present. By this means, Derozio hopes to introduce to the present and future generations the distinguished status and glorious grandeur that his country once enjoyed. By making the men and women of now and coming days aware of the bygone grandeur and greatness of India, Derozio expects to resume and reinstate India‘s glory and reverence. His poems of glory, dedicated to his dearest motherland, will always motivate the young Indians to shatter the shackles of slavery under the British supremacy. The poet compares India to a shipwreck, as a diver plunges into the depths of the sea in search of treasures from a wrecked ship and retrieves them, the poet studies India‘s past and writes poems about those treasured moments in Indian history. Finally as a recompense for his efforts Derozio prays to his country to grant his wish of returning to the past splendor and pride. Demonstrating his selfless patriotic feelings, he seeks to attain only loving blessings from his Mother country.

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