12 May 2012

Emma Lazarus

At work the other day, someone walked up to me and asked if I knew about Emma Lazarus. Unfortunately I had to hang my head in shame and say that I'd never heard of her. So I looked her up (naturally on Wikipedia, though I think that as a librarian I'm not supposed to admit that). And then I felt a little bit stupid for having never heard of her, because I definitely am familiar with her work. She is an American poet from New York. And she is best known for her sonnet "The New Colossus" which appears on a bronze plaque on the Statue of Liberty. When I got that far in the Wikipedia article I went: "Oh. I know that poem. Unless there's more than one poem on the Statue of Liberty..."

"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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
(written in 1883)

She seems like a pretty cool person. And now, when someone asks you who Emma Lazarus is you'll know that she wrote the poem on the Statue of Liberty (as well as doing several other cool things).

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