The Poets

July 23, 2010

Mother of Exiles

The New Colossus

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!"

Of the Poem (Poetic Parameters and Notes)


Stanza: Sonnet
Meter: Iambic Pentameter (i.e. 10 syllables per line)
Rhyme Scheme: abba abba cdc dcd (in the tradition of an Italian sonnet)


When Emma Lazarus wrote "Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame" she was referring to the Colossus of Rhodes, a statue of the Greek god Helios that was so massive in size that it's revered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. When she entitled her poem, The New Colossus, she quite blatantly refers to the Statue of Liberty, drawing a nobly audacious comparison of her with that titan statue of old.

Initially intended as a dedication to raise funds for the statue's pedestal, the poem found its way to a vault where it lay invisible to the world until shortly after her death in 1887. When it was brought back into the hands of a minute public an endeavor was made to honor her- and the Statue- by inscribing the poem on a commemorative plaque and placing it with Lady Liberty as an invitation to all people around the world who would desire to live in a land that would secure their God-given right to live as free souls (and what a wonderful land it is).

Along with the previous post, this post is a sort of "thank you" to this poet whose birthday it was yesterday, to commemorate her and reflect on the invitation to freedom this particular poem endorses. Thank you for your heart and your life and your poetry, Emma Lazarus- world without end.

1 comment:

cheryl said...

This is one of favorite poems of all time.

Thanks for sharing!

As of April 9th, 2010