Emma is most famous for her poem "The New Colossus". This poem was written for an auction in order to raise funds to build the pedestal for the new Statue of Liberty. I'm sure you recognize the famous line, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Sadly, she didn't live to see the poem placed at the base of the statue. Nor could she have foreseen how it became inextricably linked to the Mother of Exiles.
She was ahead of her time. As a Jewish-American woman author, she gave a voice to the persecuted Jews in Eastern Europe with her passionate poetry and pleas for help. Her poetry is fascinating to me, albeit difficult as her pre-Zionist ideas and views of her race and religion predominate her writing. That said, I found this wonderfully inspiring children's book on her life which I highly recommend - Liberty's Voice by Erica Silverman. The first lines read, "Emma Lazarus loved to learn. She had a passion for words and a hunger for knowledge." After reading this book, LizzieBee (dd 9) immediately sat down to write a poem she titled "Emma's Colossus".
I am personally reading a book by Esther Schor titled Emma Lazarus which is part of the Jewish Encounters series. Her life intertwined with Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Singer Sargent, Matthew Arnold, William Morris and George Elliot, to name just a few. The book also recounts little-known anti-Semitic events that took place in the U.S. during the late 1870s. A worthwhile radio interview with Schor can be heard here.
Here is the complete poem for you to enjoy!
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!”