“Poems are where voices can join together and sing in a voice more powerful than one. Poems mark a trail of identities; poems laid end to end are a map of the human voice.”
— Elizabeth Alexander
Most of us are familiar with the phrase “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. But how many of us know the whole sonnet or even who wrote those iconic words? The New Colossus is one of the most famous American poems and has come to define the American vision of liberty. As a poet and refugee advocate, Emma Lazarus, wrote the sonnet to be auctioned off at a fundraising event for the Statue of Liberty. Her spirited words are just as poignant today as they were then.
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!”