The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,The twin cities she refers to may be New York and Brooklyn, which was a separate city until 1899, or it may be New York and Jersey City, which is actually much closer to Liberty Island than New York. Lazarus wrote and donated this poem for an auction to raise funds to construct a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. It was only later, after the statue was in place, that it was decided to place a plaque bearing the poem on the pedestal:
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!"
I would take this poem along especially because it reminds me of where I come from in a number of different ways, and that is something I would not ever want to forget. And one of the most ancient functions of poetry is, in fact, to help us to remember. Poetry lets us "think memorable thoughts," as Walter Ong put it.
And that's all for this installment of Desert Island Poems, stay tuned for Part Five, coming soon to a Blog Time Passing near you!