The Poetry of Henry Derozio-Chief Features


The Poetry of Henry Derozio-Chief Features

The Poetry of Henry Derozio-Chief Features

The Poetry of Henry Derozio-Chief Features

The Poetry of Henry Derozio-Chief Features

Indo-Anglian Poetry (Indian Poetry in English) has already established as an independent world of literature as independent as American literature, British Literature, Australian Literature etc. and it has been being prescribed in the syllabi of many universities in India and abroad. But its history is not so long. It took birth in the third decade of the nineteenth century in the hand of an Indian young poet whose name was Henry Louis Vivian Derozio. He was born in 1809 in Calcutta of mixed Portuguese and Indian descent. He began to write poetry in English under the influence of English poets at an early age and he published his first poetry book entitled ‘The Fakir of Jungheera’ in 1828 at the age of nineteen.  And with the publication of the book the era of Indo- Anglian poetry began. But unfortunately, this first Indo- Anglian poet met a premature death at the age of twenty-two in 1831. 

While he began to write poetry the tradition of English Romanticism was in full swing and it influenced him considerably. But the matter of his poetry is Indian, the only manner (style and technique) is English. He wrote on a variety of themes as- as Indian heritage, social blind faith, love, and  nature. Most of his poems suffer from melancholic and lonely moods. There is a ray of optimism also in his poetry. He wrote in a simple rhythmic language like the English Romantic poets.

As a poet, Derozio is a patriotic one. He loves India very much along with its heritage. He noticed that the heritage of India had been waning day by day for which he lamented and wrote the poem ‘The Harp of India’. In the poem, the ‘harp’ symbolizes Indian heritage. But with the beginning of Western education, this heritage began to break down. In Indian rural areas, there were bards and minstrels who composed songs and sang with the accompaniment of a harp. But with the passing of time, this heritage was seen no more. Derozio wrote in an elegiac tone:

”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.”

The Poetry of Henry Derozio

The second Indian element that is visible in his poetry is the social scene, especially the traditional religious faith, most of which are blind faiths or prejudices. ‘The Chorus of Brahmins’ is such a poem where he portrays the religious acts of the Brahmins and their beliefs in gods and goddesses. Image worship is much practised in India. The Hindus from time immemorial Practised the ritual of offering human beings in the alters of god or goddess. During the days of Derozio, this practice was alive. Now it has come almost to an end. Derozio had wink eyes toward this religious practice. So he wrote in plain irony:

”High ascending it may please

Him who guides our destinies

Bring the pearl of purest white.


Branches of the sandal tree

Which their fragrance still impart

Like the good man’s injured heart.

This its triumph, this its boast

Sweetest ‘tis when wounded most.”

Thirdly, the theme of love appears very vividly and elegantly in his poetry. His love poems are purely romantic. His attitude toward love, in some of his love poems, is like the English metaphysical love poets of the seventeenth century. His love poems are full of vivid imageries comprise of hyperbole, metaphor, oxymoron and conceits. The poems entitled ‘Song ‘and ‘The Song of Hindustanee Minstrel’ are absolutely romantic love poems from head to foot. In both the poems, the poet desires to escape from human society along with his beloved and wants to live in a solitary place amid joy, happiness and extreme comforts. In ‘Song’ he writes:

”To the depth of the ocean

Come swiftly to me,

I’ll give thee the treasures

No moral can see.” 

The Poetry of Henry Derozio 

In ‘The Song of the Hindustanee Minstrel’ he again writes in the same attitude, as-

”Around us now there is but the night, 

The heaven alone above

But soon we’ll dwell in cities bright

Then cheer thee, cheer thee, love!”

The Poetry of Henry Derozio

The description of the physical beauty of his beloved is also highly romantic. In the same poem he writes:

”Dildar! There is many a valued pearl

In richest Oman’s sea;

But my fair cashmarian girl!

O! none can rival thee.”

The Poetry of Henry Derozio

Fourthly, Nature stands in a prominent place in his poetry. His nature poems are also romantic but his attitude towards nature is a deviation from the traditional romantic nature poems. In all his nature poems, nature does not stand as a source of joy, peace and happiness but as a parallel to human plight in society. In his nature poems, nature symbolizes and represents the sorrows and sufferance of human beings on the earth. ‘Sonnet to the Moon’ is such a nature poem. He writes in this poem that nature shares our misfortune and sympathizes with us. He writes:

”And ceaseless gazing on the thousand showers

Of ill that inundate this world of ours

Has touched thy heart, and bid thine aspect be

For our misfortunes, pale with sympathy.”

The Poetry of Henry Derozio

In addition to all these above-discussed themes, he wrote a few poems on adolescent minds and their inner workings which are introspective and psychological in nature. The poem entitled ‘Poetry’ is such a poem where he has expressed the colourful, fanciful, optimistic imagination of adolescent life. Generally, youthhood is full of fantasy.  A boy or girl in his youthhood desires to do everything adventurous which, in practical life, is impossible to bring into force. He writes in Poetry:

”Sweet madness! – when youthful brain is seized

With that delicious frenzy which it loves

It raving reels, to very rapture pleased,-

And then through all creation wildly roves.”

The Poetry of Henry Derozio

Linguistically and stylistically his poems are simple. He has the simplicity of Wordsworth, Blake and Byron in him. His imageries are more akin to the English metaphysical poets. Though there is not Shelley in him yet he is lyrical to the root. He, as the first Indian poet to write in English, could not be purely Indian.- his matters and themes are Indian but his poetic feeling and style are English.

His span of literary career is very brief. He died at an early age while he only began to pave his way to poetry, so his poetic career could not bloom fully. There, in him was much probability of a glorious future. His place in the history of Indian English Poetry may not be high, yet his name would be pronounced with great honour as the great exponent of Indian English poetry. 0 0 0

The Poetry of Henry Derozio

N.B.  The article ‘The Poetry of Henry Derozio-Chief Features’ originally belongs to the book ‘Indian English Poets and Poetry-Chief Features‘ by Menonim Menonimus. The Poetry of Henry Derozio-Chief Features

Books of Composition by M. Menonimus:

  1. Advertisement Writing
  2. Amplification Writing
  3. Note Making
  4. Paragraph Writing
  5. Notice Writing
  6. Passage Comprehension
  7. The Art of Poster Writing
  8. The Art of Letter Writing
  9. Report Writing
  10. Story Writing
  11. Substance Writing
  12. School Essays Part-I
  13. School Essays Part-II
  14. School English Grammar Part-I
  15. School English Grammar Part-II..

Books on Linguistics by M. Menonimus:

  1. A Brief History of the English Language
  2. Essays on Linguistics
  3. My Imageries
  4. Felicitous Expression: Some Examples
  5. Learners’ English Dictionary
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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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