SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE NEW COLOSSUS

Yours faithful editor, with 14-month-old son in tow, visiting “The New Colossus” at the Statue of Liberty Museum, Liberty Island, NY


THE NEW COLOSSUS
By Emma Lazarus

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!”


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


The New Colossus: “In 1883, a young writer, Emma Lazarus, donated a poem to an auction raising funds for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. ‘The New Colossus’ vividly depicted the Statue of Liberty as offering refuge from the miseries of Europe. The sonnet received little attention at the time, but in 1903 was engraved on a bronze plaque and affixed to the base of the Statue. Still, it was only in the late 1930’s, when millions fled fascism, that the poem became fully identified with the Statue.

“Between 1886 and 1924, 14 million immigrants entered America through New York. The Statue of Liberty was a reassuring sign that they had arrived in the land of their dreams. To these anxious newcomers, the Statue’s uplifted torch did not suggest ‘enlightenment,’ as her creators intended, but rather, ‘welcome.’ Over time, the Statue of Liberty emerged as Emma Lazarus’ ‘Mother of Exiles,’ a symbol of hope to generations of immigrants.”

— “Mother of Exiles” historical marker, Statute of Liberty Museum, Liberty Island, NY

Editor’s Note: Forget the wall. Lift the ban. Let Lady Liberty’s torch, once again, be a beacon of welcome. You want to make America great again?

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EMMA LAZARUS


Emma_Lazarus


1492
By Emma Lazarus

Thou two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate,
Didst weep when Spain cast forth with flaming sword,
The children of the prophets of the Lord,
Prince, priest, and people, spurned by zealot hate.
Hounded from sea to sea, from state to state,
The West refused them, and the East abhorred.
No anchorage the known world could afford,
Close-locked was every port, barred every gate.
Then smiling, thou unveil’dst, O two-faced year,
A virgin world where doors of sunset part,
Saying, “Ho, all who weary, enter here!
There falls each ancient barrier that the art
Of race or creed or rank devised, to rear
Grim bulwarked hatred between heart and heart!”


Today poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here accordingly.


Emma Lazarus (1849 – 1887): A descendant of Sephardic Jews who immigrated to the United States from Portugal around the time of the American Revolution, Emma Lazarus was born in New York City on July 22, 1849. Before Lazarus, the only Jewish poets published in the United States were humor and hymnal writers. Her book Songs of a Semite was the first collection of poetry to explore Jewish-American identity while struggling with the problems of modern poetics. (Annotated biography courtesy of The Academy of American Poets.)


Editor’s Note: I wanted to share with you today a poem for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of newness, ushered in by sweet wishes of the year to come. But we spend the days that follow in contemplation of those regrets we have from the year past, in asking for forgiveness, and in letting go. When I came across today’s poem I thought of the Syrian refugees, of how the plight of exile has plagued my own people in the past, and how others are suffering from it today.

5776, the Jewish year that begins at sundown on Sunday September 13th, will be a “two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate” for countless Syrian refugees. That fate that my own people have suffered in the past is today their reality: “The West refused them, and the East abhorred. / No anchorage the known world could afford, / Close-locked was every port, barred every gate.”

Emma Lazarus is most famous for penning the words that appear at the base of the Statue of Liberty, wherein the “Mother of Exiles” declares, “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-tossed to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” As we celebrate a new year, may the words of the Mother of Exiles find their way into the hearts and minds of ports and borders across Europe and throughout the world, “Saying, ‘Ho, all who weary, enter here!'”


Want to read more by and about Emma Lazarus?
The Academy of American Poets
Jewish Women’s Archive
The Poetry Foundation