Royal Harp

By Maura Stanton

Made by Egan, in Dublin ca. 1804–1841

Big golden harps make me think of angels,
But here’s one, only as tall as my knee.

I kneel down to peer at its pedigree
Typed on a card. It doesn’t have pedals

But ivory levers along the column.
The gilt is fading, and the base looks frail.

Is this a lyre? Did Greek poets wail
Iambic verses as they plucked and strummed?

No, Thomas Moore once owned this instrument.
The harp that once through Tara’s halls, I hum

Like my father, who loved old Irish songs.
On a small harp like this you could invent

Your own world, the way a sonnet becomes
A frame of strings we yearn to play along.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/10/royal-harp/306987/