Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Statue of Liberty (V)

Location:   New York Harbor
Year:   1886

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!"

"The New Colossus" was written as part of a Statue of Liberty fundraiser in 1883 by poet and playwright Emma Lazarus, a Jewish-American of Sephardic descent. Lazarus was a cousin of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Benjamin Cardozo. A product of the Progressive Era, Lazarus' works often concerned social justice for the poor and for the newly-arrived to these shores.

Lazarus died at age 38, probably from Hodgkin's Lymphoma, in 1887.  Although "The New Colossus" was associated with the Statue of Liberty even before her death, it was not until 1903 that friends of Lazarus convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to formally declare "The New Colossus" to be the official verse of Lady Liberty. Lazarus' poem, engraved on a bronze plaque, is now mounted on the pedestal.  


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