Legendary Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, Patriotism, Romanticism & Features of His Poetry

Updated October 10, 2022

The history of Anglo-Indian poetry starts with Henry Louis Vivian Derozio [H.L.V. Derozio] having influence of Romanticism. Derozio was mixed descent of Portuguese, Indian, and English but took pride in calling himself an Indian.

His name is also synonymous with Young Bengal Movement [Bengal Renaissance], a social cultural movement. Vivian Derozio was possibly the first national poet of modern India.

Vivian Derozio started writing poetry at a very young age and became radical thinker. His free thoughts and ideas inspired many young boys and men, giving rise to the social movement called “Bengal Renaissance”. As a poet, he was influenced by the Romantics but the themes of his poetry were wholly Indian.

Henry Derozio loved the country, the people and its tradition and made them subject matter of his poetry. Derozio, who died at an early age of 22 with renown yet to claim.

HLV lived a simple and a courageous life and after death, found a resting place in India, which makes one think that he wrote the poem “The Poet’s Grave” with himself in his mind.

Short Biography of H.L.V Derozio

Henry Louis Derozio was born on April 18, 1809 at Entally- Padmapukur in Kolkata. His father was an Indo Portuguese, an illustrious member in his community and his mother was an Englishwoman. He was considered an Anglo-Indian poet, being mixed of Portuguese, Indian and English descent.

Education & Poetic Faculty

Derozio earned his education from the best school of the country (David Drummond Dharmatala Academy). It is said that he won many awards during his schooling and was even printed in the local newspapers of the time, like ‘Calcutta Journal’ and ‘India Gazette’.

Derozio started writing poetry at a very young age. He was inspired by the beauty of the river Ganga, and since then he started to compose poetry.  The poems of Derozia that are prescribed in the text are “the Harp of India”, “poetry”, “Song of the Hindustani Minstrel”, “Song and Sonnet to the Moon”, and “To India – My Native Land”.

Social Influence

Importantly, Derozio inspired many educated young minds who were gaining education at the local colleges. He had become a free thinker by then and openly spoke about his ideas. He led his followers to question everything in society and think in a free manner.  His modern thoughts and ideas gave rise to the ‘Young Bengal’ movement, that was the start of the intellectual renaissance in Bengal.

Derozio’s  followers soon began to be called ‘Derozians’. His followers criticized the orthodox religious beliefs and wrong practices of the society. Simultaneously, he became the headmaster of English literature and History at the newly established ‘Hindu College’. But in 1931, he was expelled from the college due to his unorthodox views on society, culture and religion. Derozio passed away in the same year due to cholera.

Literary Works That Inspire

Notable works of H.L. include some poems and poetry collections in high regard. The Harp of India, Song of the Hindoostani Minstrel, The Fakeer of Jungheera, To India – My Native Land and ‘To the Pupils of the Hindu College’ are notable poems. Usually, he wrote mostly lyrics and sonnets, but “The Fakir of Jungheera” is a long narrative poem.

His poems, possibly are the earliest examples, with the fervour of nationalism. The historians claim that ‘To India – My Native Land’ is among first written literary piece of Indian nationalism that radiates patriotism and love for freedom.

The Essential Features of Derozio’s Poetry  

Although Derozio was of mixed descent, he was very patriotic and always considered himself to be a Bengali and an Indian. His works very prominently reflect his state of mind and inclinations. “The Harp of India” and To India- My Native Land presents the picture of India.

Interestingly, you would see influence of Romantic poets in the poetry of the Derozio. Much like the Romantic poets of English literature, he was ardently into the passionate love for Nature, nostalgic attachment to traditions & customs, the dream & imagination etc.

Romantic Influence in Derozio Poetry

As a poet, Derozia was greatly influenced by the Romantic poets- Byron, Scott, Moor, Percy Shelley and Keats. His work “The Fakir of Jungheera” has a Byronic touch. His poetry is sensuous and passionate and there is a command of metre and ears are trained for sound that immediately bring to mind Keats’ poetry. He uses their musical strains in his verse with complete control.

In Busrah there is many a rose
Which many a maid may seek,
But who shall find a flower which blows
Like that upon thy cheek?

The lyrical richness of Derozio is in abundance. But he observes meter very religiously. He was particularly fond of sonnet form. He wrote a series of five sonnets. “The Harp of India” and “Sonnet to the Moon” are also written in the same form. Each of these poems is the poetic proof of Derozia’s lyrical abilities.

Patriotic poems

As a Poet, he was greatly influenced by the Romantics but the themes of his poetry were wholly Indian. He loved the country, the people and its tradition and made them subject matter of his poetry. He began publishing patriotic verse when he was just 17. Vivian’s poems are regarded as the landmark in the history of patriotic poetry in India.

“The Harp of India” is one such a great patriotic poem. It deals with the loss of India’s freedom and glory under the British rule. “To India – My Native Land” and ‘The Fakeer of Jungheera’ are also the patriotic poems. The poet wants the country to touch the heights and play the music of eternity in the whole world.

“Those hands are cold but if any notes thy notes divine
May be mortal weakened once again
Harp of my country, let me strike the strain”

Melancholic Mood

“Sonnet to the Moon” is a nature poem mixing individual melancholy with a pristine beauty of night sky. Derozio uses the Moon as his mouthpiece and tries to define the different faces of sadness. There is a latent patriotic in it too as he sees humanity suffering from misfortune. He made some unusual experiment in his sonnet which definitely enhances their beauty.

Sensorial Images in Derozio Works

Derozio had an eye for nature in its twin aspects of beauty as well as sadness. If “Sonnet to the Moon” speaks of general melancholy, “song” is about the wonderful beauty of the sea and the sky.

I’ve risen for thee, and left my green chamber
For down in the sea…”

Nature appears in the full force everywhere in his poems. The images are taken directly from the natural world. A unique characteristic of his poetry is that he never uses these images as symbol. They are direct and sensorial. His passion is vehement whether he is speaking of ‘Dildar’ or about India. It appears that he wished to breathe his last in defence and praise of his motherland.

Conventional Description in Derozio Poetry

Derozio’s poems are always sensual and finely articulated. His poems may seem imitative of Romantic poetry but they are brightened by flashes of originality. His description is conventional but his verse is full of energy. The bright streak of optimism is always present in his writing.

On the whole, it can be said without doubt that Derozio gave proper form and direction to Indo- Anglican poetry in the very beginning years of its existence.

Beyond Derozio H.L.V. & His Works, Under Literature

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