Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
""The New Colossus" is a sonnet that American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–1887) wrote in 1883 to raise money for the construction of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal's lower level." (Wikipedia) Lazarus herself was a descendant of Sephardic Jews who had immigrated to the U.S. from Portugal (Poets).
""The New Colossus" was the first entry read at the exhibit's opening, but was forgotten and played no role at the opening of the statue in 1886. In 1901, Lazarus's friend Georgina Schuyler began an effort to memorialize Lazarus and her poem, which succeeded in 1903 when a plaque bearing the text of the poem was put on the inner wall of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty." (Wikipedia)
"The title of the poem and the first two lines refer to the Colossus of Rhodes, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The poem talks about the millions of immigrants who came to the United States (many of them through Ellis Island at the port of New York).
The "air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame" refers to New York City and Brooklyn, which were consolidated into one unit in 1898, 15 years after the poem was written." (Wikipedia)
"The "huddled masses" image is unforgettably visual and narrative. It reminds us the refugees lived in slums or ghettos, in overcrowded conditions that would have been repeated at sea for the majority who travelled steerage. Their "yearning to breathe free" was not, therefore, only metaphorical. In the next line, "refuse" is a shocking and unexpected noun. English equates refuse with rubbish. We're forced to see the exiles as they were seen by the regimes that despised and dehumanised them. For contemporary readers, additional images of homelessness and genocide will inhabit these lines." (The Guardian)
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Photograph via Business Insider