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!"
This poem is in the public domain.
Emma Lazarus (1849 - 1887) was a poet, essayist, translator, novelist, and playwright. Born in New York City, she is best known for this sonnet, which she wrote to help raise money for a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. The poem was ultimately engraved on a plaque on that pedestal and its petition to "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearing to breathe free" has become a comforting mantra to millions of refugees coming to America in search of freedom and fulfillment. Emma's father, a prosperous sugar merchant, paid to have her first collection of poetry published when she was seventeen. Ralph Waldo Emerson happened upon the book, expressed his admiration for her work, and the two became lifelong friends. Emma worked tirelessly to educate and assimilate Jewish immigrants arriving in America and is acknowledged today as much for her activism as for her writing.
Posted 07/04/2011 12:28 PM