Collected Poems of Henry Derozio: Preface by Manu Samriti Chander; Edited by Amardeep Singh

Resource for Teachers

[A downloadable PDF version of this selection of poems can be found here.] 

There could be many ways to approach Henry Derozio's works in the classroom. One strategy for introducing him to students in general literature survey courses might entail exploring the many poems that directly allude to British Romanticism

Another angle could focus on representations of liberty and bondage in Derozio's poetry. Though Derozio was of mixed English, Indian, and Portuguese descent, he was raised entirely in India and identified strongly -- and solely -- as an Indian, and many of his poems have a clear nationalist bent. Poems like "Freedom to the slave" both seem to thematize British colonialism and gesture towards discussions of slavery in contemporaneous English poetry. In some of Derozio's poems depicting Ancient and Modern Greece what are described as foreign invasions of the Greek isles (by Ancient Persians or modern Ottomans) may be interpreted as a metaphor for British colonization in India. 

Courses more focused on Derozio's important status as the first Indian poet to write in English might want to foreground his influence over the Young Bengal movement that emerged in Calcutta in the years following his death. 

Below is a short sampling of some of Derozio's most provocative and accessible poems touching on several of the themes mentioned above; this grouping could make for a lively single-day unit in any number of literature courses, including specialized courses on Romanticism, Literature of Empire, Indian literature, as well as general survey courses. 

--Amardeep Singh, Lehigh University

Contents of this path: