Sunday, August 6, 2017

Poetry Sunday: The New Colossus

I've featured it here before, but this poem has been in the news over the past week, the controversy over its meaning exposing a particularly nasty and hate-filled attitude toward immigrants that is red meat to a certain segment of right-wing America. 

Emma Lazarus wrote her poem as a contribution to the fund-raising effort for construction of a base for the Statue of Liberty. She wrote the poem on November 2, 1883. The statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886 and Lazarus' poem was later engraved on its base. For generations of Americans since, the two have been symbolic of the country's status as a nation of immigrants and of a welcoming attitude toward those immigrants. This is not a popular concept with our current president and his administration and his avid followers.

Just to remind us about what all the fuss is about, here is the simple sonnet that causes such apoplexy among some of our fellow citizens. 

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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