‘To India – My Native Land’ by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio is a patriotic poem written during the period of the Indian Renaissance. When India was under British rule, deteriorating and suffering. Educated men like Derozio, Raja Ram Mohan, Vidyasagar, and Rishi Bankim were earnestly trying to make Indians aware of their past heritage and glory. They tried to infuse “cultural consciousness” into the common men of India to destabilize the British hegemony in their minds. In this poem, Derozio tried to do the same. He presents the glorious period of India and tries to make the readers aware of India’s past.
Summary of To India – My Native Land
‘To India – My Native Land’ by Derozio presents India as a deity. In ancient times, she was as beautiful as a goddess. The poet says, “A beauteous halo circled round thy brow”. When the poet was writing this poem, India was suffering from British domination. The poet could neither visualize the “glory” of her past nor her “reverence”. Like a chained eagle, she was grounded. In such a condition, the poet tried to compose this verse as a piece of consolation to her groveling motherland. He wished to recollect her lost glory and celebrate it through his poem.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure and Form
‘To India – My Native Land’ by Henry Derozio is a Petrarchan Sonnet. The poem contains two sections. The first section is an octave or octet. The following section is a sestet. In the octave, containing eight lines, the poet presents a problem which is the condition of his motherland under British rule. The sestet, having six lines, voices the poet’s resolution. The rhyme scheme of the first eight lines is ABABABCC and the next six lines are DEDEFF.
The poem is composed in iambic pentameter. Each line in the poem contains five feet. The stress falls on the second syllable of each foot. There is only one variation in the first line of the poem. It is in iambic tetrameter. The metrical composition of the poem suggests its inclination to the conventions of the European Renaissance in arts. It is also suggestive of the poet’s intention at the time of writing this poem.
‘To India – My Native Land’ by Derozio is rich in the use of literary devices. It being a sonnet encompasses several figurative techniques to make the poet’s idea compelling to contemporary readers. Likewise, in the first line of the poem, Derozio uses an apostrophe as he invokes the spirit of his motherland in the poem. The poet uses “brow” to signify the head of the deity which is in the poem, his motherland. It is the use of synecdoche. It also makes another point clear. The poet uses personification to compare India to a goddess. Likewise, in the third line, there is an inversion. In the fourth line, the poet asks a rhetorical question.
The poet resorts to the metaphor of “eagle”. He compares India to an eagle, chained down by the colonial rulers. There is another metaphor of the sea in the phrase, “depths of time”. “Small fragments” of the “wrecks” is another instance where Derozio uses a metaphor. In the last line, the poet again uses an apostrophe.
Analysis of To India – My Native Land
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?
‘To India – My Native Land’ by Derozio, presents India, the poet’s motherland, as a deity. Derozio looks back to ancient history when India was glorious in every field, be it arts, science, or architecture. It was a period when India was famous for advanced civilizations and rich cultural traditions. Learned men from all over the world visited India to enrich themselves and also their own cultures. The poet refers to that time when India was worshipped worldwide like a goddess.
When the poet was writing this poem, India was under British rule. English East India Company and the British government ransacked India for their country’s benefits. Hence the condition of India worsened day by day. At the time of Derozio, her state of affairs was so poor that he couldn’t find anything plausible in her. It made the poet sad. So he asks himself, “Where is that glory, where that 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!
In the second section of the octave, the poet sees India as an eagle, the monarch of the birds. In the previous section, he has compared it to a goddess, having a beautiful halo or aura circling her forehead. Such a shift in comparison signifies that the poet is now focusing on the worldly aspects of his country. The poet visualizes that the country’s wings are clipped. That’s why it is grovelling in the dust. It signifies that the British rulers had closed all the channels of improvement in India.
By “Thy minstrel”, the poet refers to himself. He says that he has no flowers to weave a “wreath” or garland for her motherland. It is a reference to the scarcity of resources in his country due to the “drainage of wealth”. He has only the “sad story” of his motherland to compose an elegy in condolence.
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!
In the sestet, Derozio voices his resolution to save the country from all kinds of deprivation and deterioration. He wants to dive into the depths of history. There he can find the long-lost history of the country. The glorious past of the country contains the materials for future improvement. The British rulers tried to demean it for colonizing the minds of the Indians. Destroying confidence in native culture and history, colonizers can control the colonized for a long time. The poet stands strongly against that.
Through this poem, Derozio expresses his aim to spread historical consciousness among Indians. He resorts to his motherland to wish him luck. If he succeeds, he wants nothing in return from his country.
‘To India – My Native Land’ by Derozio was published in 1838. It appeared in his poetry collection, “The Fakeer of Jungheera: A Metrical Tale and Other Poems”. Henry Louis Vivian Derozio was the fountainhead of the “Young Bengal” movement in Bengal, a part of undivided India. The members of that group aimed to trigger the youth. The youths at that time were the future catalysts of the freedom struggle. Hence, the poet thought to first educate the younger generation and they would spread the message to others. This poem might have been written for them to alert them of the need of the hour. Apart from that, it also touched the hearts of intellectual gentlemen in India.
This poem reflects Derozio’s radical thinking and his inclination towards Western ideas. He tried to use those materials available in the Western world for the benefit of his country. At that stage, the essence of nationalism was in a nascent stage. The contribution of Derozio like others was commendable at that time when India was struggling under the colonizer’s selfish policies.
In ‘To India – My Native Land’ Derozio presents his patriotism and sympathy for his country. The essence of this poem can be visible in the following poems. In the following list of poems, some works are not Indian in origin. These poems will help to understand the perspective of Derozio better.
- Mother, I bow to thee! by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay – In this poem, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, a gem of Bengal, presents his devotion to his motherland, India.
- The Gift of India by Sarojini Naidu – The poet, Sarojini Naidu tributes the Indian soldiers, on the British side, for their contribution to World War I. Like Derozio, this poem implicitly tries to alert the Indians who were being exploited by the British colonizers.
- Passage to India by Walt Whitman – From the postcolonial point-of-view, this poem by Walt Whitman is important to understand the thinking of Western minds about India and her people.
- The Patriot by Robert Browning – Through this poem, Robert Browning portrays a person’s unconditional love for his country like Derozio.
You can read about the Top 10 Poems About Freedom and Confinement here.