Sunday, July 27, 2014

Poetry Sunday: The New Colossus

Statue of Liberty 7.jpg
Statue of Liberty 

The colossal neoclassical sculpture that is known to us as the Statue of Liberty, located on Liberty Island in the middle of New York Harbor in Manhattan, was originally called "Liberty Enlightening the World." It was designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and was a gift to the United States from the people of France. Dedicated on October 28, 1886, it has become one of the iconic sights of New York and, indeed, of the country.

The statue features a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. She bears a torch and a tablet upon which is inscribed the date of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. A broken chain lies at her feet. This symbol of freedom is a welcoming signal to immigrants and visitors arriving from abroad.

American poet Emma Lazarus (1849 - 1887) wrote a poem called "The New Colossus" that was a donation to an auction that was conducted to help raise money to construct a pedestal for the statue. The poem played no role in the actual opening of the statue in 1886, but later, after her untimely death, friends began an effort to memorialize the poet and her poem. Success came in 1903 when a plaque bearing the text of the poem was mounted on the inner wall of the pedestal, where it remains today, a reminder to us from this "Mother of Exiles" that we are a nation of immigrants. Lest we forget...

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!"

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